Researchers use lesson series to study resilience among 700 primary school pupils

Ben Wicks via

Over the past few months, children everywhere have experienced how the whole world can suddenly go topsy-turvy. Some kids find setbacks and stress easier to handle than others. So what is it that makes one child more resilient than the other? This is being researched by Dr Brian Godor and Dr Ruth Van der Hallen of Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) in a unique citizen science project.

The project consists of a series of lessons in which children use inquiry-based learning to develop their personal resilience. How can I handle difficult situations, and – if I don’t feel comfortable with something – how can I improve it or do it differently? The children learn to recognise their individual pitfalls and deal with them in a way that ‘works’ for them personally. During these lessons, the children will not only be performing research of their own but also helping Godor and Van der Hallen with their larger study into resilience in this age group. The two EUR researchers explain the study in further detail in this clip, which is also shown to the children during the lesson series.

Perform your own research – and contribute to a larger scientific study

Two birds with one stone. On the one hand, the project enables children to find out more about themselves and their own resilience. On the other hand, the children will also be contributing through their research to a larger-scale study into the personal resilience of children in Rotterdam. “These times actually show us how important it is that children and adolescents learn how to deal with setbacks and changes and show resilience in the process,” explains researcher Dr Ruth Van der Hallen.

Broad study into resilience

However, the scope of this study actually extends beyond children’s resilience during the current Covid crisis. The researchers also seek to determine which variables can predict who is specifically resilient and able to effectively deal with setbacks in general. Such disappointments can relate to major events like the death of a loved one, but also to smaller matters like getting a poor mark for a test.

Don’t wait with talking about resilience

For schools, this project forms a good occasion for doing something with this topic. “Our plan is to encourage discussion about this subject from an early age – both at home and at school – and ensure children develop their skills in this area. Because the sooner they learn to handle such issues, the stronger they will be when making their way in the world as adolescents,” explains Van der Hallen. “That’s also why we decided to research this subject in the form of a citizen science project. Besides: it’s important that children and young people gain experience in performing their own research.”

Assistant professor
Assistant professor
Dr Brian Godor
More information

This project comes out of a partnership between EUR Science Hub and Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Studies. Dr Brian Godor and Dr Ruth Van der Hallen expect to publish the results of their project in early 2021 and will be sharing their first findings with the participating schools during a webinar in January. 

Meral van Leeuwen, press officer EUR: 06-40264367 or

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