Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

School-Based Interventions to Enhance the Resilience of Students

Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

School-Based Interventions to Enhance the Resilience of Students

Article excerpt


A scoping review of programs targeting middle school students suggests that resilience is seldom the result of interventions within schools alone, or any other single system that provides services to students. Instead, resilience is shown to be a multidimensional construct, involving both exposure to risk and access to multiple internal and external resources. Based on a scoping review of outcomes from 36 interventions, we highlight the elements of successful programs with vulnerable students and reasons for why some programs appear to be less effective or have a negative impact. Less successful programs tended to be those that did not include a cultural component or show sensitivity to contextual variations among students like the size of their community, access to other services and supports, or the economic status of the child's family. The biases of funders, researchers and educators also influence the choice of resilience-promoting intervention made available in a school rather than the specific needs of the targeted student population. We conclude with several recommendations for more effective interventions with students and the implications of our findings to the evaluation of program outcomes.

Keywords: resilience, students, adolescents, successful interventions, culture

1. Introduction

Students face a wide array of barriers in their lives that not only jeopardize their performance in, and completion of, school but also jeopardize their physical health and psychological wellbeing in ways that can follow them into their adult lives (Mallin, Walker, & Levin, 2013). There is, fortunately, emerging evidence that schools have the potential to influence positively children's biopsychosocial growth and development though much more work needs to be done to identify which protective factors are most likely to be affected by school-based interventions, the role schools can play in collaboration with children's families, communities, and other service providers, and to what extent interventions need to focus on changing children's school environments rather than changing children themselves (France, Bottrell, & Armstrong, 2012; Ungar & Liebenberg, 2013).

2. Method

To investigate the potential for school-based interventions to protect and promote children's wellbeing, we conducted a purposeful search of the literature (a scoping review) using a number of search terms to sort published journal articles and books that had been indexed as well as identify nonacademic reports on programs that had been described online. Using the search capacity of WorldCat, we were able to conduct a simultaneous search of all major indices in the fields of Psychology, Sociology and Education. We also included searches of Google Scholar and Google to identify examples of programs that were not published in the formal literature (e.g., reports from government departments, school boards, and non-governmental organizations). Search terms included "resilience and schools", "school resilience" and "student resilience", among others. Articles, books, and reports were selected if they referred to a specific program or intervention that was intended to enhance the resilience of students while they attended school.

To narrow our focus and maintain some degree of homogeneity in our target population, we began by looking exclusively at reports on programs serving Canadian students ages 10-14. We found, however, that there was a limited number of interventions for this population and therefore expanded the scope of our search to include international program evaluations with students of different ages. Our intention was not to provide a comprehensive survey of the literature, but to search for exemplars of best practices and programs that had an evidence base. When our search results showed repetition in the types of programs identified, or outcomes were consistently positive or negative (or indeterminate), we proceeded with a search for exemplars of another type of intervention to see if the same pattern in the results could be identified. …

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