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The University of Texas at Austin Division of Student Affairs

Texas Well-being


Resilience is the ability to recover from stress despite challenging life events that otherwise would overwhelm a person’s normal ability to cope with that stress (Smith et al., 2008). Students with more resilience tend to have better mental health and wellness and academic outcomes (Johnson, Taasoobshirazi, Kestler, & Cordova, 2014). Being able to bounce back from difficult experiences can mean coping after a bad grade or recovering from a stressful life event like the loss of a loved one. Fortunately, resilience seems to be a malleable psychological factor that, with work and time, can be strengthened. Studies have shown resilience is linked to mindfulness, a sense of purpose in life, an optimistic outlook and active coping styles (Smith, Epstein, Ortiz, Christopher, & Tooley, 2013).

  • Talk about times that you’ve failed and how you worked through those failures.
  • Teach students how to use mistakes/failures to their advantage.
  • Use exams and other assignments as teaching tools, rather than the end of learning. Examples include:
    • Instead of simply giving students their grades, go over the exam or assignment and discuss areas of common struggle, what these mistakes mean for thinking and learning, and how they connect to new learning.
    • Allow students to correct mistakes and redo assignments to demonstrate continued mastery and learning.
    • Provide students with individual feedback on assignments, and model how to use this feedback to improve on future assignments.
  • Explicitly teach strategies you use to overcome failure.
  • Teach students how to self-assess accurately by modeling your own self-assessing behavior.
  • Focus less on competition and performance and more on learning and mastery.
  • Be optimistic about how students are doing in your class.

Professor and students working in class
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In Fall 2017, I had taught a required second-year undergraduate course for the eighth time, and I took a very different approach. I mentioned to the students that I had struggled with specific topics in that same course when I was an undergraduate student. I told them that I had reordered the traditional presentation of the topics in the class to make it easier to grasp the more difficult concepts. I received several thank-yous during the semester from students who were repeating the course and had been overwhelmed by one of the more difficult topics due to the traditional order of topics.
—Brian Evans
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

The whole student