Alliance grant supports research investigating academic buoyancy in girls

Article by Jan Richardson
Alliance of Girls' Schools Australasia / 17 May 2021

The Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia is delighted to announce that it is supporting a three-year study investigating academic buoyancy in girls, with the 2021 Alliance Research Grant awarded to Assoc Prof Rebecca Collie and Prof Andrew Martin of the University of New South Wales.

First discovered by Australian academics Andrew Martin and Herbert W. March in 2008, academic buoyancy refers to the ability of students to successfully deal with the everyday academic stresses and setbacks of school, including challenging school work, poor test results, difficult exams, juggling multiple assignment deadlines, oral presentations, performances, and fluctuating levels of confidence and motivation.

Students who are academically buoyant demonstrate higher levels of motivation, engagement, wellbeing and achievement. They are able to successfully handle the normal day-to-day academic challenges, difficulties and setbacks.

However, recent studies undertaken by Collie, Martin and others have confirmed a concerning finding — that female school students are significantly less academically buoyant than male students. In fact, this is one of the relatively few areas in which gender differences at school are not in favour of girls.

Students who are unable to overcome the day-to-day stresses and adversities of school life may experience underachievement and disengagement, sometimes leaving school altogether, resulting in a failure to reach their full potential.

For this reason, Collie and Martin’s new study, supported by the Alliance and involving female students from single-sex and co-educational schools in Australia and New Zealand, will be the first to examine academic buoyancy specifically in girls, including the role that teachers’ instructional practices in play in supporting girls’ academic buoyancy.

Collie and Martin believe that investigating instructional practices holds great potential for boosting low levels of academic buoyancy among girls as teaching practices are highly modifiable. However, little is currently known about exactly which instructional practices lay the foundations of academic buoyancy, how these might differ across school types and contexts, and how they impact girls compared with boys.

Collie and Martin’s study will also be the first to investigate the long-term outcomes of female academic buoyancy on educational and career outcomes up to the age of 25, and the first to examine the effect of female academic buoyancy in a COVID-adjusted world.

“It is vital that we understand how to boost academic buoyancy among girls,” state Collie and Martin. “Failure to do so risks leaving girls’ potential unfulfilled in relation to both short- and long-term educational and occupational outcomes”.

Extending the study to examine academic buoyancy in young women up to the age of 25 will assist in evaluating the impact of girls’ buoyancy levels on their post-school choices of university and work pathways. Indeed, boosting academic buoyancy may help girls and young women to overcome some of the barriers faced by females after leaving school, including gender gaps in STEM fields and gender biases in appointment to leadership roles.

“Today more than ever, academic buoyancy is an essential capacity due to the heightened academic adversity brought on by COVID-19,” argue Collie and Martin. “With the focus on modifiable instructional practices, the project’s findings will yield highly practical implications for helping female students navigate new experiences of adversity and a changed job outlook.”

The Grant Recipients

Rebecca Collie, PhD, is a Scientia Associate Professor of Educational Psychology in the School of Education at the University of New South Wales. Rebecca’s research interests focus on motivation, wellbeing, and social-emotional development using quantitative research methods. Her research also encompasses related factors such as adaptability, buoyancy, goal setting, and interpersonal relationships. She examines personal, classroom, and school factors that support positive outcomes among both students and teachers. Rebecca has published over 60 peer-reviewed book chapters and journal articles.

Andrew Martin, PhD, is Scientia Professor, Professor of Educational Psychology, and Co-Chair of the Educational Psychology Research Group in the School of Education at the University of New South Wales. He specialises in motivation, engagement, instruction, students with special needs, and quantitative research methods. He has written over 250 peer reviewed journal articles, over 80 peer-reviewed chapters, three books for parents and teachers (published in five languages), and two edited handbooks.

The Alliance Research Grant

The Alliance offers a variety of grants, fellowships, awards and other opportunities to assist members in learning about, conducting and publishing research related to the education and wellbeing of girls. The Alliance Research Grant is a grant of up to $15,000 (AUD) per year to assist academic or professional researchers to undertake research specifically relevant to the education or wellbeing of girls at single-sex schools in Australia and/or New Zealand.