Pedagogical approaches to support student resilience in higher-education settings: A systematic literature review

Adrian Buttazzoni


In recent years, Higher education (HE) students have continued to report rising rates of anxiety, depression and stress. One strategy employed to address these developments has been providing educational and administrative services that help to support and promote student resilience. Efforts to improve student resilience in HE may be bolstered by programs and strategies that go beyond traditional healthcare service delivery: for instance, initiatives such as in-course pedagogical approaches which target enhancing student resilience awareness and understanding. This systematic review aimed to identify, analyze, and synthesize the essential characteristics and programmatic features (e.g., methods) of pedagogical approaches (i.e., teaching strategies, curricula or other features) designed to support resilience among students in HE contexts. Searches were carried out in ERIC, PsychINFO, and SCOPUS and returned 1,545 results. Ultimately, thirty-five articles were included in the final synthesis. A three-level thematic analysis of the included thirty-five articles was conducted, in order to develop rigorous and consistent analytical themes. The five analytical themes that were subsequently developed included: 1) resilience education: reflection, understanding, awareness; 2) individual strategies: personal skill development; 3) institution- or department-level: structural, curricular opportunities; 4) interpersonal strategies: relational skill development; and 5) learning community: cohesion, integration, resource awareness. The implications and effectiveness of these themes for HE instructors are discussed.


higher education, mental health; pedagogy; resilience; review

Full Text:



Allan, J.F., McKenna, J. and Dominey, S. (2014) ‘Degrees of resilience: Profiling psychological resilience and prospective academic achievement in university inductees.’ British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 42(1), 9-25. Available at: (Accessed: 3 June 2021).

American College Health Association (2016) National College Health Assessment II: Canadian Reference Group Data Report Spring 2016. American College Health Association. Available at: (Accessed: 3 June 2021).

American College Health Association. (2018) National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Fall 2018. American College Health Association. Available at: (Accessed: 3 June 2021).

Anthoney, J., Stead, R. and Turney, K. (2017) ‘Making connections and building resilience: Developing workshops with undergraduates.’ Knowledge Management & E-Learning: An International Journal, 9(3), 404-418. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2021).

Bamber, M.D. and Kraenzle Schneider, J. (2016) ‘Mindfulness-based meditation to decrease stress and anxiety in college students: A narrative synthesis of the research.’ Educational Research Review, 18, 1-32. Available at: (Accessed: 2 June 2021).

Beiter, R., Nash, R., McCrady, M., Rhoades, D., Linscomb, M., Clarahan, M. and Sammut, S. (2015) ‘The prevalence and correlates of depression, anxiety, and stress in a sample of college students.’ Journal of Affective Disorders, 173, 90-96. Available at: (Accessed: 4 June 2021).

Bingham, T.J., Wirjapranata, J. and Bartley, A. (2017) ‘Building resilience and resourcefulness: The evolution of an academic and information literacy strategy for first year social work students.’ Information and Learning Science. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2021).

Bird, A., Tomescu, O., Oyola, S., Houpy, J., Anderson, I. and Pincavage, A. (2020) ‘A Curriculum to Teach Resilience Skills to Medical Students During Clinical Training.’ MedEdPORTAL, 16, 10975. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2021).

Bland, H.W., Melton, B.F., Welle, P. and Bigham, L. (2012) ‘Stress tolerance: New challenges for millennial college students.’ College Student Journal, 46(2), 362-376. Available at: (Accessed: 1 June 2021).

Brewer, M.L., Kessel, G. van, Sanderson, B., Naumann, F., Lane, M., Reubenson, A. and Carter, A. (2019) ‘Resilience in higher education students: A scoping review.’ Higher Education Research & Development, 38(6), 1105–1120. Available at: (Accessed: 17 May 2021).

Bynum IV, W.E., Uijtdehaage, S., Artino Jr, A.R. and Fox, J. W. (2020) ‘The Psychology of Shame: A Resilience Seminar for Medical Students.’ MedEdPORTAL, 16, 11052. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2021).

Center for Collegiate Mental Health. (2017) 2016 Annual Report (Publication No. STA 17-74). Available at: FINAL_2016_01_09-1gc2hj6.pdf (Accessed: 5 June 2021).

Chaukos, D., Chad-Friedman, E., Mehta, D.H., Byerly, L., Celik, A., McCoy, T.H. and Denninger, J.W. (2018) ‘SMART-R: A prospective cohort study of a resilience curriculum for residents by residents.’ Academic Psychiatry, 42(1), 78-83. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2021).

Conley, C.S., Durlak, J.A. and Dickson, D.A. (2013) ‘An Evaluative Review of Outcome Research on Universal Mental Health Promotion and Prevention Programs for Higher Education Students.’ Journal of American College Health, 61(5), 286-301. Available at: (Accessed: 13 June 2021).

Daniels, K.N., Billingsley, K.Y., Billingsley, J., Long, Y. and Young, D. (2015) ‘Impacting resilience and persistence in underrepresented populations through service-learning.’ Journal for Multicultural Education. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Dattilio, F.M. (2000) ‘Cognitive-behavioral strategies.’ Brief Therapy with Individuals and Couples, 33-70. Available at: (Accessed: 12 June 2021).

Delany, C., Miller, K.J., El-Ansary, D., Remedios, L., Hosseini, A. and McLeod, S. (2015) ‘Replacing stressful challenges with positive coping strategies: A resilience program for clinical placement learning.’ Advances in Health Sciences Education, 20(5), 1303-1324. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Dolbier, C.L., Jaggars, S.S. and Steinhardt, M.A. (2010) ‘Stress-related growth: Pre-intervention correlates and change following a resilience intervention.’ Stress and Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress, 26(2), 135-147. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Donovan, C. and Erskine-Shaw, M. (2020) ‘ “Maybe I can do this. Maybe I should be here”: Evaluating an academic literacy, resilience and confidence programme.’ Journal of Further and Higher Education, 44(3), 326-340. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Dresen, C.K., Wilmes, M.L., Sullivan, K.R. and Waterbury, T. A. (2019) ‘Building resilience through strengths-based learning during graduate study abroad: An exploratory study.’ Journal of Experiential Education, 42(3), 297-310. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2021).

Dvořáková, K., Kishida, M., Li, J., Elavsky, S., Broderick, P.C., Agrusti, M.R. and Greenberg, M. T. (2017) ‘Promoting healthy transition to college through mindfulness training with first-year college students: Pilot randomized controlled trial.’ Journal of American College Health, 65(4), 259-267. Available at: (Accessed: 14 June 2021).

Elmi, C. (2020) ‘Integrating Social Emotional Learning Strategies in Higher Education.’ European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology and Education, 10(3), 848-858. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Ewert, A. and Yoshino, A. (2011) ‘The influence of short-term adventure-based experiences on levels of resilience.’ Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 11(1), 35-50. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Friborg, O., Hjemdal, O., Martinussen, M. and Rosenvinge, J.H. (2009) ‘Empirical support for resilience as more than the counterpart and absence of vulnerability and symptoms of mental disorder.’ Journal of Individual Differences, 30(3), 138-151. Available at: (Accessed: 3 June 2021).

Fried, R.R., Atkins, M.-A.P. and Irwin, J.D. (2019) ‘Breaking grad: Building resilience among a sample of graduate students struggling with stress and anxiety via a peer coaching model–an 8-Month pilot study.’ International Journal, 17, 2. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Fried, R.R., Karmali, S., Irwin, J.D., Gable, F.L. and Salmoni, A. (2018) ‘Making the grade: Mentors’ perspectives of a course-based, smart, healthy campus pilot project for building mental health resiliency through mentorship and physical activity.’ International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 16(2), 84-98. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Galante, J., Dufour, G., Vainre, M., Wagner, A.P., Stochl, J., Benton, A., Lathia, N., Howarth, E. and Jones, P.B. (2018) ‘A mindfulness-based intervention to increase resilience to stress in university students (the Mindful Student Study): A pragmatic randomised controlled trial.’ The Lancet Public Health, 3(2), e72-e81. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2021).

Gerson, M.W. and Fernandez, N. (2013) ‘PATH: A program to build resilience and thriving in undergraduates.’ Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(11), 2169-2184. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2021).

Ghisi, M., Bottesi, G., Re, A.M., Cerea, S. and Mammarella, I.C. (2016) ‘Socioemotional Features and Resilience in Italian University Students with and without Dyslexia.’ Frontiers in Psychology, 7. Available at: (Accessed: 3 June 2021).

Gilmore, G., Welsh, S. and Loton, D. (2019) ‘An Australian case for relational resilience. Building academic pathways in first year, preservice teacher education.’ Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 27(3), 441-461. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Goertzen, B.J. and Whitaker, B.L. (2015) ‘Development of psychological capital in an academic-based leadership education program.’ Journal of Management Development. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Grant, L. and Kinman, G. (2012) ‘Enhancing Wellbeing in Social Work Students: Building Resilience in the Next Generation.’ Social Work Education, 31(5), 605-621. Available at: (Accessed: 5 June 2021).

Hensley, L., Sayers, R., Brady, A. and Cutshall, J. (2021) ‘Supporting Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness in a Learning-to-Learn Course: College Students’ Insights Into Effective Instruction.’ Teaching of Psychology, 48(3), 236-247. Available at: (Accessed: 14 June 2021).

Holdsworth, S., Turner, M. and Scott-Young, C.M. (2018) ‘… Not drowning, waving. Resilience and university: A student perspective.’ Studies in Higher Education, 43(11), 1837-1853. Available at: (Accessed: 14 June 2021).

Houston, J.B., First, J., Spialek, M.L., Sorenson, M.E., Mills-Sandoval, T., Lockett, M., First, N.L., Nitiéma, P., Allen, S.F. and Pfefferbaum, B. (2017) ‘Randomized controlled trial of the Resilience and Coping Intervention (RCI) with undergraduate university students.’ Journal of American College Health, 65(1), 1-9. Available at: (Accessed: 1 June 2021).

Kwon, P., Pattinson, M.C., Faust, E., Hobaica, S., Tse, J., Sainz, R., Castañeda, C., Graham, B.S. and Keiser, G.H. (2020) ‘A Resilience Intervention to Increase Academic Persistence Among Undocumented Students in Higher Education.’ Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 19(4), 452-471. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2021).

Lake, F.R. and Ryan, G. (2005) ‘Teaching on the run tips 11: The junior doctor in difficulty.’ Medical Journal of Australia, 183(9), 475. Available at: (Accessed: 5 June 2021).

Leary, K.A. and DeRosier, M.E. (2012) ‘Factors Promoting Positive Adaptation and Resilience during the Transition to College.’ Psychology, 03(12), 1215. Available at: (Accessed: 3 June 2021).

Lee, S. and Mason, M. (2019) ‘Effectiveness of brief DBT-informed group therapy on psychological resilience: A preliminary naturalistic study.’ Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 33(1), 25-37. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

London, B., Rosenthal, L., Levy, S.R. and Lobel, M. (2011) ‘The influences of perceived identity compatibility and social support on women in nontraditional fields during the college transition.’ Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 33(4), 304-321. Available at: (Accessed: 4 June 2021).

Macklem, G.L. (2010) Evidence-Based School Mental Health Services: Affect Education, Emotion Regulation Training, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. New York: Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN: 978-1-4419-7907-0

Maddi, S.R., Harvey, R.H., Khoshaba, D.M., Fazel, M. and Resurreccion, N. (2009) ‘Hardiness training facilitates performance in college.’ The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(6), 566-577. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

McAllister, M. and McKinnon, J. (2009) ‘The importance of teaching and learning resilience in the health disciplines: A critical review of the literature. ‘Nurse Education Today, 29(4), 371-379. Available at: (Accessed: 4 June 2021).

Monteverde, S. (2014) ‘Undergraduate healthcare ethics education, moral resilience, and the role of ethical theories.’ Nursing Ethics, 21(4), 385-401. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2021).

Neill, J.T. and Dias, K.L. (2001) ‘Adventure education and resilience: The double-edged sword.’ Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 1(2), 35-42. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2021).

Petticrew, M. and Roberts, H. (2006) Systematic reviews in the social sciences: A practical guide. Malden: Blackwell. ISBN: 1405150149

Pines, E.W., Rauschhuber, M.L., Cook, J.D., Norgan, G.H., Canchola, L., Richardson, C. and Jones, M.E. (2014) ‘Enhancing resilience, empowerment, and conflict management among baccalaureate students: Outcomes of a pilot study.’ Nurse Educator, 39(2), 85-90. Available at:,_Empowerment,_and_Conflict.8.aspx?casa_token=MS2Af7hZPP8AAAAA:ujgBjcDvVMJ8-Abvy-DsQsCJs_1kXpZ-RgiOTvP9cwKsxbzMT6TE03zYZgyfUsIZzFa9wT__eFyYM9i6tTbWb54rdIRBaw (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Regehr, C., Glancy, D. and Pitts, A. (2013) ‘Interventions to reduce stress in university students: A review and meta-analysis.’ Journal of Affective Disorders, 148(1), 1-11. Available at: (Accessed: 3 June 2021).

Reyes, A.T., Andrusyszyn, M.-A., Iwasiw, C., Forchuk, C. and Babenko-Mould, Y. (2015) ‘Resilience in nursing education: An integrative review.’ Journal of Nursing Education, 54(8), 438-444. Available at: (Accessed: 3 June 2021).

Robinson, O.C., Sebah, I., McNay, I., Field, J., Wragg, J., Stevenson, M. and Newton, P. (2021) ‘Evaluating the REP-S brief resilience intervention for students in higher education: A multi-study mixed-methods programme of research.’ British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 1-17. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Rose, R.D., Buckey Jr, J.C., Zbozinek, T.D., Motivala, S.J., Glenn, D.E., Cartreine, J.A. and Craske, M.G. (2013) ‘A randomized controlled trial of a self-guided, multimedia, stress management and resilience training program.’ Behaviour Research and Therapy, 51(2), 106-112. Available at: (Accessed: 1 June 2021).

Sanderson, B. and Brewer, M. (2017) ‘What do we know about student resilience in health professional education? A scoping review of the literature.’ Nurse Education Today, 58, 65-71. Available at: (Accessed: 3 June 2021).

Shillington, K.J., Johnson, A.M., Mantler, T., Burke, S.M. and Irwin, J.D. (2021) ‘Kindness as an Intervention for Student Social Interaction Anxiety, Resilience, Affect, and Mood: The KISS of Kindness Study II.’ Journal of Happiness Studies, 1-31. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Slavin, S.J., Schindler, D.L. and Chibnall, J.T. (2014) ‘Medical student mental health 3.0: Improving student wellness through curricular changes.’ Academic Medicine, 89(4), 573. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Stallman, H.M. (2010) ‘Psychological distress in university students: A comparison with general population data.’ Australian Psychologist, 45(4), 249-257. Available at: (Accessed: 2 June 2021).

Steinhardt, M. and Dolbier, C. (2008) ‘Evaluation of a resilience intervention to enhance coping strategies and protective factors and decrease symptomatology.’ Journal of American College Health, 56(4), 445-453. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Stephens, T.M. and Gunther, M.E. (2016) ‘Twitter, millennials, and nursing education research.’ Nursing Education Perspectives, 37(1), 23-27. Available at:,_Millennials,_and_Nursing_Education.6.aspx (Accessed: 31 May 2021).

The Insight Network. (2019) University Student Mental Health Survey 2018. The Insight Network. Available at: (Accessed: 3 June 2021).

Thomas, J. and Harden, A. (2008) ‘Methods for the thematic synthesis of qualitative research in systematic reviews.’ BMC Medical Research Methodology, 8(1), 45. Available at: (Accessed: 2 June 2021).

Van der Riet, P., Rossiter, R., Kirby, D., Dluzewska, T. and Harmon, C. (2015) ‘Piloting a stress management and mindfulness program for undergraduate nursing students: Student feedback and lessons learned.’ Nurse Education Today, 35(1), 44-49. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Wade, J.C., Marks, L.I., and Hetzel, R.D. (2015) Positive Psychology on the College Campus. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 978-0-19-989273-0

Wang, D., Nan, J.K. and Zhang, R. (2017) ‘Structured group sandplay to improve the resilience of college students: A pilot study.’ The Arts in Psychotherapy, 55, 186-194. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Windle, G. (2011) ‘What is resilience? A review and concept analysis. Reviews in Clinical Gerontology, 21(2), 152. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Yusufov, M., Nicoloro-SantaBarbara, J., Grey, N.E., Moyer, A. and Lobel, M. (2019) ‘Meta-analytic evaluation of stress reduction interventions for undergraduate and graduate students’. International Journal of Stress Management, 26(2), 132. Available at: (Accessed: 28 May 2021).



  • There are currently no refbacks.