Developing student mental toughness: the potential impact of autonomy support from teachers
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Developing Student Mental Toughness: The Potential Impact of Autonomy Support from Teachers Harte, E., Brophy, T., & Perry, J. (2020) Background: Mental toughness (MT) is a personality trait which supports an individual to overcome obstacles and perform in challenging situations. As a construct, MT shares similarities with resilience and psychological hardiness. In an educational context, benefits associated with high perceptions of MT include increased engagement, better attainments, improved attendance and fewer incidences of disruptive behaviour. Aim: The study investigated the impact of increased autonomy support (AS) from teachers, through participation in an Autonomy-Supportive Intervention Programme (ASIP), on teachers’ and students’ perceptions of AS along with students’ perceptions of their MT. Method: There were two parts to the study. Part one related to the participation of teachers (n = 15), assigned to either an intervention or waitlist control group, in an ASIP focused on how to support students’ autonomy, in line with self-determination theory. The ASIP was delivered over ten weeks using a workshop format. Employing selfreport measures and classroom observations, teachers’ use of autonomy-supportive instructional behaviours in their practice was recorded. In measuring perceptions of AS pre- and post-intervention, teachers completed an adapted version of the Learning Climate Questionnaire (LCQ) teacher scale. Qualitative data related to teachers’ experiences of the ASIP was also collected and analysed as a feasibility study. Part two related to students’ perceptions of AS and MT. Pre- and post-intervention, students (n = 301) completed an adapted version of the LCQ student scale to assess their perceived level of AS in school while their perceptions of MT were measured using the MTQPlus. Results: A Wilcoxon Signed-Rank Test and ANCOVAs were conducted on the data collected from the teachers and students. Results showed that there was no significant increase in perceptions of AS for teachers in the intervention group. When accounting for gender and school type, statistically significant interaction effects for students’ perceptions of AS were evident. There were no significant changes in students’ perceptions of MT. Conclusions: Results indicated a deceleration of decline in perceptions of AS in female students and students attending school in a rural setting following teachers’ participation in the ASIP when compared to the control group. Results did not support the use of the intervention in developing student MT. Implications for teachers, psychologists and allied professionals are considered. Keywords: Autonomy, autonomy-supportive intervention programme (ASIP), mental toughness, mental toughness development, self-determination theory.
Autonomy-supportive intervention programme (ASIP)
Mental toughness development