Growing academic resilience in students of science through mimicry of forest resilience
Rapone, Marcia G.
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For this education-based classroom research project, inspiration was drawn from the mechanisms used to transmit nutrients and information between individual organisms in a forest through the mycorrhizal network. Whereas forest resilience is based on speed of recovery and ability to regenerate biomass, academic resilience is based on the student's ability to recover from a setback and remain engaged in the learning process. The goal of the project was to mimic the communication network observed in forest mycelium and thus transmit information and receive feedback from students continuously in an effort to support the growth of academic resilience. The hypothesis of this project was that in fostering communication between students and creating opportunities for communication between individual students in the classroom, overall student academic resilience, grit, and content understanding would increase. During the 9-week study, students communicated their level of confidence in understanding content, provided insight into misconceptions they may have been developing, and gave advice to other students to enhance understanding of the material being taught. A culminating whole-class inquiry project was used to require students to work together on finding the solution to a problem. While not statistically significant, positive growth in resilience was observed in 57% of project participants, (N=83), but honors-level students reported higher levels of resilience at the start of the project than those of their general-level counterparts. A statistically significant growth in grit and content understanding was observed in honors-level students. Growth by at least 20% in content understanding over the course of the project was observed in 91% of all student participants. No singular data point was determined to be a predictor of student capacity for resilience, but development and use of a regular survey process provided insight into student mindset and opinion. Due to student inability or unwillingness to give themselves credit, development of a resilience recognition program is recommended as part of the next phase of research to foster awareness in the classroom of actions that exemplify resilience.