Academically Resilient Elementary Students in one Virginia school division: Identifying and Exploring Protective Factors

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Virginia Tech


The purpose of the study was to identify the internal and external protective factors found in family, school and community as perceived by rural elementary students who experienced poverty and demonstrated academic resilience in a Virginia school division. By identifying the common protective factors among the academically resilient elementary students, school leaders and educators can implement practices that foster a learning climate that cultivates and supports resilience in students who are at risk of academic failure.

A qualitative approach was used to analyze a purposefully selected group of academically resilient elementary school students living in rural poverty. The research questions were: 1. For students purposefully selected as meeting the criteria for academic resilience, what are their self-identified protective factors regarding academic achievement? 2. What are the similarities and differences in protective factors among these purposefully selected students? Ten fifth grade elementary students, a boy and girl from each of the elementary schools in the rural school division meeting the definition of academic resilience and living in poverty were eligible to participate in the study. Phenomenological interviews were conducted with twenty-one questions related to family, community and school environments.

The results of the study indicated that the support of extended family, specifically grandparents of the participants was perceived to have had the greatest impact on the academic success of the academically resilient students living in rural poverty. Other protective factors revealed were lack of mobility in the rural community, peer influences and relationships with school staff. The academically resilient elementary school participants, in the study, all possessed close relationships with their family to include extended family members and had at least one desired content area taught in school.



academic resilience, at-risk students, economically disadvantaged, protective factors, resiliency, risk factors, rural