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Academic Resilience at University

Hands carrying stack of books"Academic resilience is defined as the ability to effectively deal with setback, stress or pressure in the academic setting" (Martin & Marsh, 2003, p. 1).

Martin and Marsh (2003) posits that there are four factors that impact on academic resilience - the 4 C's:

  1. Confidence (self belief)

  2. Control (a sense of control)

  3. Composure (low anxiety)

  4. Commitment (persistence)


We develop confidence as we experience success.  To develop confidence in your own ability to succeed, break down each of your big goals into smaller goals, then acknowledge each time you achieve one of the smaller goals you have set yourself.  Successfully completing the small goals will build towards the bigger goals, and each success you experience will build your confidence.  For instance, sticking to a study schedule for a week will help with completing an assignment on time, and achieving each of those goals will develop your confidence.

You can also use each success to actively challenge any internal doubts or negative thoughts you usually have about your ability to succeed.   Changing negative thinking is an important step in developing confidence.


A sense of control comes from knowing what you have to do to achieve your goals.  A sense of control can be developed by learning and using good study skills – you are already well on your way by reading these pages!  It can also be developed by using feedback on marked assignments – lecturers and tutors often provide quite a lot of guidance on how you can improve on what you did.  Reflect on that guidance and respond to it the next time you write an assignment. 

Finally, control comes from applying yourself consistently to your studies.  Good study strategies are essential to a sense of control.


​Anxiety is often associated with fear of failure.  You can reduce your fear of failure by working for success.  Specific strategies include:  developing good study habits; developing a good semester plan and breaking it down into a good weekly plan (exactly as you do with breaking down big goals); sticking to that plan; learning effective exam taking techniques and strategies for preparing for exams; making use of available practice exams and tests; and learning and practicing effective relaxation strategies such as focused breathing, exercising regularly and de-stressing with supportive friends and family.  


​Commitment is expressed in a number of ways: persistently pursuing a goal; overcoming obstacles by developing new skills to deal with them; converting a disappointment into success by learning to do better next time; and reviewing your progress, leveraging off your successes and learning from your mistakes.  Commitment is resilience and determination. 



Student Motivation Wheel

The Student Motivation Wheel “reflects the thoughts, feelings and behaviours underpinning academic engagement at school” (Martin & Marsh, 2003, p. 2). Boosters enhance motivation; guzzlers reduce motivation (Martin & Marsh, 2003).

Students benefit from motivation boosters in a number of ways:  they experience improved interest in and enjoyment of their studies; they have better self-awareness, improved attendance rates and better study patterns; and they enjoy increased levels of commitment, are more willing to participate in tutorials and develop better overall academic resilience.  As a result, the students experience increased levels of learning, better skill development and improved levels of academic ability (Martin, 2013).


Figure 1:  The Student Motivation and Engagement Wheel.  From “Academic Resilience and the Four Cs: Confidence, Control, Composure, and Commitment” by A. J. Martin and H.W. Marsh (2003).  Paper presented at the Joint Australian Association for Research in Education/New Zealand Association for Research in Education (AARE/NZARE) Conference. 

Reference List

Martin, A. J., & Marsh, H. W. (2003). Academic resilience and the four Cs: Confidence, control, composure, and commitment [PDF]. Paper presented at the Joint Australian Association for Research in Education/New Zealand Association for Research in Education (AARE/NZARE) Conference. Retrieved from

Martin, A. J. (2013). From will to skill: The psychology of motivation, instruction and learning in today’s classroom. Retrieved from