Five Principles of Academic Buoyancy

1. What is Academic Buoyancy?

Academic buoyancy is the ability to successfully deal with academic setbacks and challenges that are typical of the ordinary course of school life (e.g. poor grades, competing deadlines, exam pressure, difficult schoolwork)

2. It’s not (exactly) the same as resilience.

Resilience research has tended to investigate how people cope with extreme adversity. This has included children raised in poverty, growing up in families with a history of mental illness and families where one or both parents present other vulnerabilities such as alcohol or drug addiction.

Academic buoyancy research, on the other hand, tends to concentrate on everyday stressors or anxieties that arise during the normal course of the school day.

3. Predictors of Academic Buoyancy.

Research has identified 5 predictors of subsequent academic buoyancy. These are known as the 5Cs.

Confidence (or self-efficacy)

Coordination (the tendency to plan)


Composure (or low levels of anxiety)


4. Barriers to Academic Buoyancy

Negative, deactivating emotions

Emotions aren’t inherently positive or negative, but they can be activating and deactivating. Take anxiety, for example. Low levels of anxiety activate, that is, they prepare the human body for action. However, once levels of anxiety pass an optimum level, they began to have a negative impact.

Test anxiety

This is a situation-specific form of trait anxiety that can lead to a number of negative outcomes, including working memory impairment and reduced levels of personal wellbeing.


Students might hope to safeguard their feelings of self-esteem by actively sabotaging their own performance, a behaviour known as self-handicapping. Common strategies include feigning illness, informing others of their inability to perform well due to non-existent cognitive deficits (e.g. having a bad memory) or claiming not to have prepared for an exam. More extreme strategies can include refraining from eating or sleeping.

Fear of failure

Fear of failure is, in itself, multi-faceted and can result in lack of motivation and the triggering of self-handicapping strategies.

5. Nurturing Academic Buoyancy

Identify negative, deactivating emotions

Support growth goals over attainment goals

Match challenge with growth goals

Strategic use of praise and rewards

Nurture positive study habits

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