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New study explores relationship between mental toughness and academic performance

Posted on 22 October 2015


Dr James Jackson

​Can mental toughness improve your academic performance? Your job prospects? And even your future salary?

For the first time, first year students at Leeds Trinity University are invited to take part in a study that will track the effect that their mental toughness has on their academic and graduate achievements.

Mental toughness is a personality trait which determines, in large part, how people respond to challenge, stress and pressure, irrespective of their circumstances. Published research and case studies from around the world show that mental toughness is a major factor in performance, positive behaviour, wellbeing and aspirations, and individuals that display higher levels of mental toughness are generally more engaged, more positive, more ambitious, more content and able to manage stress more effectively.

Given the positive benefits that mental toughness can have on academic performance, Leeds Trinity is inviting all first year students to take part in a study that will support them in becoming more mentally tough.

Funded by Leeds Trinity, the study is being conducted by the University's resident mental toughness experts, Dr James Jackson, Dr Jon Radcliffe and Catherine Rowlands, along with the University of Hull's Dr John Perry (formerly of Leeds Trinity University). All first year students are asked to complete MTQ48, a mental toughness questionnaire that is available in more than 40 countries around the world. It aims to be a strong longitudinal study, allowing the researchers to see how and if mental toughness develops, and the effects it has on eventual student success.

Building on recent research, but making use of a much larger sample population, it is one of few studies looking at the concept of mental toughness outside of the sporting settings and in the University environment. Dr James Jackson, Associate Principal Lecturer in Pscyhology, explains:

"The first year of university can be a difficult and challenging time. In addition, universities have a role to play in the retention and support of undergraduate students. In this day and age, it is not enough to expect students to plug away stoically without institutional support.

"​Student retention and student achievement are of real importance to Leeds Trinity University, and to other higher education establishments. The MTQ48 could be an easy, low-intensity and valid way of identifying students at risk of underperforming or dropping out of university altogether. Timely intervention and support by the University could enable such students to progress and achieve the worthwhile graduate career they seek."

On completing the questionnaire, students will receive a report that explains their scores and gives advice on what to do if their mental toughness is low, as well as what to watch out for if their mental toughness is too high.

James added:

"These reports normally cost £45 each. And if a student completes it twice, which this study will involve, this would be a cost of £90 for two reports, not to mention the additional fees that a consultant would charge. As such, first year students have the opportunity to receive £150's worth of psychometrics for FREE, as well as access to a 'Mental Toughness in Higher Education' Moodle page which will contain exercises and tasks which we hope will actually improve mental toughness and boost student resilience."

Are you a first year student at Leeds Trinity University? Intrigued? Here's what you need to do:

  1. Find the 'MTQ48 Questionnaire' email in your account
  2. Click the link to complete the MTQ48 online, which will take 5-8mins.
  3. Receive your free mental toughness report
  4. Wait to hear from the research team at the start of your second year.
Got any questions? Contact Dr James Jackson, Associate Principal Lecturer in Psychology, at ​