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What does the research say?

Research using the mental toughness model and the MTQ48 in education is relatively new. St Clair-Thompson, Bugler, Robinson, Clough, McGeown and Perry (2014) carried out three studies examining the relationship between mental toughness and different aspects of educational performance in adolescents aged 11–16.  These focussed on academic attainment, school attendance, peer relationships and classroom behaviour. The findings revealed significant associations between several aspects of mental toughness, academic attainment and attendance, mental toughness and counterproductive classroom behaviour, and finally, mental toughness and peer relationships.

Can Mental Toughness be developed in students? The answer is yes. Whilst most of the approaches that have been developed are experimental in nature, there is a growing focus on measuring the impact of the tools that can be used to develop students. Students can be taught techniques and strategies which enable them to develop commitment, respond more positively to challenges, manage their emotions and ultimately become more confident individuals. The intervention tools generally fall into five broad groupings:

  1. Positive thinking – affirmations, self-talk, turning negatives into positives etc.
  2. Visualisation – Guided imagery.
  3. Anxiety control – relaxation techniques, mindfulness etc.
  4. Attentional control – Dealing with interruptions, focus etc.
  5. Goal setting – Using SMART goals to develop commitment.

Is mental toughness useful in the world of education?

I would argue that it is.  It offers a broad and unifying perspective that brings many of the ‘non-cognitive’ factors under one roof.  It is measurable and is open to development.  It is the author’s view that understanding Mental Toughness is a way of allowing young people to reach their full potential and provides an adequate framework for supporting character development in schools. In the next blog we will look at the link between Mental Toughness and transition. It might be more significant than you realise!

Connect with Steve Oakes the author of this piece and our Head of Education at AQR International.