Home | In The Classroom | Basics to brilliance, part 2: resilience

Basics to brilliance, part 2: resilience

It is important to know, and accept, that resilience is not a DNA imperative and resilience cannot be developed as readily if students (or anyone for that matter) only tend to engage in easy goals and only wish to continually experience easy outcomes. Easy goals that result in little effort, and achieve quick and undemanding results, will only tend to lead to later discouragement, and an inevitable lowering of resilience, and self-belief, especially when – not if – circumstances do become more difficult.

Success typically requires ongoing effort

Developing resilience requires experiences in overcoming obstacles through effort and perseverance. Setbacks and difficulties in human pursuits can often serve a useful purpose in teaching that success typically requires a sustained and ongoing effort. When students learn to work hard at achieving their goals, they then learn that they actually do have ‘what it takes’ to succeed, i.e., personal application, resilience, self-belief, discipline, determination, dedication and perseverance.

The student will grow in their knowledge

By working hard, by persevering, the student will grow in their knowledge and they will also develop what is referred to as mental and emotional toughness. Through the act of perseverance, through the act of resilience, the individual will emerge intrinsically, and, extrinsically stronger, from the adversity that has been faced. From this ongoing and continuous effort, resilience and an enhanced self-belief will be the inevitable positive outcome of the struggle to then set out to achieve harder goals. This type of thinking will then tend to become a life marker for all future brain, body and social endeavours.

Intelligence in the flesh

Brain and body research have been explored in the book, Intelligence in the flesh: why your mind needs your body much more than it thinks, by Guy Claxton, who is Emeritus Professor of the Learning Sciences at the University of Winchester. Claxton points out that the brain and body is one holistic massive, seething, streaming collection of interconnected communication systems that bind the muscles, the stomach, the heart, the senses and the brain so tightly together that no part – especially the brain – can be seen as functionally separate from, or senior to, any other part.

The brain and body is designed to blend all

According to Claxton, the body and brain “is designed to blend all” internal and external “influences together” in one seamless operating holistic entity. This means that all tissues, cells, transmitters, electrical transmissions, hormones, ions, molecules, organs and more – of the brain and body – play a role in the way our body moves, thinks and feels, and how we perceive and interact with our internal world and external world. Amazon presents the following important insight and review of Claxton’s book:

If you think that intelligence emanates from the mind and that reasoning necessitates the suppression of emotion, you’d better think again – or rather not “think” at all. In his provocative new book, Guy Claxton draws on the latest findings in neuroscience and psychology to reveal how our bodies – long dismissed as mere conveyances – actually constitute the core of our intelligent life. From the endocrinal means by which our organs communicate to the instantaneous decision-making prompted by external phenomena, our bodies are able to perform intelligent computations that we either overlook or wrongly attribute to our brains. Embodied intelligence is one of the most exciting areas in contemporary philosophy and neuropsychology."

All for one and one for all 

As such, in terms of ongoing brain and body (hólos) development, movement, play, testing and competition is the process that helps to develop and advance the universal human condition (in all of its immense complexities), of which consciousness, the sentient human being, and free will, are all part of an immutable holistic biological entwining and a fused ontological absolute.

Tests and competitions are and have been a forever part of the universal human condition

Tests are and have continually taken place in all manner of human life and disciplines. Any number of examples can be used here, sport, music, maths, the arts, the sciences and any other discipline one cares to mention. In fact, the list, such as it is almost infinite.


In sport, for example, the test is the weekly game between two teams. However, before any player is selected to play in these weekly games, i.e., the weekly test, each individual player must engage in the training and learning that takes place during the week prior to the game. To be selected for the team, each player must have the required competence, in terms of skills and knowledge. With these required skills and knowledge being present (in terms of presenting behaviours), there will still be some player(s) who will not be selected for this weekly game, i.e., the weekly test of competition. And if these non-selected players do not have the resilience to deal with this inevitable disappointment, it is very unlikely they will continue with their endeavours in that sport. There will however, be others who will have the required resilience, and these players will take their place.

The basics of reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic

The same principle is applicable in what is generally referred to as the basics of education, i.e., reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic. It is these basics upon which the entire education syllabi, with all of its academic, skill acquisitions and social complexities, is constructed and applied.

Basics to brilliance

Daniel Coyle writing in his book The Talent Code, reported on two educational psychologists, Ron Gallimore and Roland Tharp. Gallimore and Tharp wanted to advance the reading and literacy potential for children in Honolulu. Their desire for this led to the situation where they were provided with the resources to set up “an experimental reading program at a laboratory in a poor neighbourhood in Honolulu”.

Highly skilled and knowledgeable educational psychologists

As highly skilled and knowledgeable educational psychologists, Gallimore and Tharp applied the best pedagogical theories of the day; the aim of which, as noted, was to advance the reading and learning potential of each student that was in their program. However, after two years of applying these – ‘best pedagogical and linked reading theories’ of the day – much to their great surprise, and significant disappointment, Gallimore and Tharp found the reading and associated literacy achievements of the students they were teaching could only really be categorised as being unsatisfactory.

Part 3 will delve deeper into the work undertaken by Gallimore and Tharp. What surprised these two highly skilled educational psychologists was that their research and combined educational knowledge and associated teaching skills were not advancing the literacy skills of their students. This most unexpected and self-revelatory empirical evidence led Gallimore and Tharp to not only question their own abilities but led them to knowing and understanding that they needed advance their teaching skills and knowledge. This important, powerful and profound insight led Gallimore and Tharp to begin their quest to search for what they were now seeking: ‘the greatest’ teacher of ‘all time’.

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Dr Ragnar Purje is adjunct lecturer in the School of Education and the Arts at Central Queensland University. Under the supervision of Professor Ken Purnell, Purje’s doctoral dissertation focused on the success of his neurologically focused acquired brain injury rehabilitation therapy.

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