Not Giving Up
: Academic Perseverance In Adolescents

  • Pouneh Roney

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The role of academic perseverance for predicting academic achievement and other life outcomes is widely agreed upon. Yet, there is little agreement amongst researchers on how academic perseverance is conceptualised and operationalised. The overarching aim of this research was to gain a deeper understanding of this complex phenomenon, its domain-specificity and its underlying mechanisms. More specifically, this research examined whether perseverance in mathematics can be enhanced amongst adolescents.

The research aim was addressed using two quantitative surveys (N = 100 and N = 1448) and a randomised field experiment (N = 152) amongst adolescents attending schools in England. Results showed that grit and self-control, as trait-level manifestations of academic perseverance, made negligible contributions explaining the variance in academic achievement (Study 1), while academic self-efficacy and mindset about intelligence positively contributed to the explanation of the variance in academic achievement (Study 2a). Mathematics-specific measures of perseverance were found superior to school-specific measures of perseverance for explaining the variance in achievement in mathematics (Studies 2b and 2c). Moreover, mastery experience in mathematics was successfully manipulated (Study 3), demonstrating impact upon self-efficacy in mathematics (with moderate effect size), effort regulation in mathematics (with moderate effect size) and performance requiring perseverant effort in a mathematics task (with large effect size), with significant mean differences between the challenge experimental condition and both the success condition and the active control group. More importantly, the findings from Study 3 demonstrated that using a social-psychological intervention, it was possible to generalise the participants’ mastery experience in a mathematics-related task to mathematics as a subject.

This research is novel in its focus on perseverance in mathematics, and in manipulating self-efficacy in order to enhance perseverance, offering support for domain-specificity of academic perseverance amongst adolescents. Findings have the potential to provide guidance for the development of educational interventions that cultivate academic perseverance amongst adolescents and to inform practice in the classroom.
Date of Award1 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJo Rose (Supervisor) & Shelley McKeown Jones (Supervisor)


  • Self-efficacy
  • academic perseverance
  • intervention study
  • mathematics
  • adolescents

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