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Perfectionism and its costs among our more able and talented pupils   

Published: 07 April 2021

  •   Featured
Colouring pencils lined up in rainbow order with corresponding rainbow coloured sharpeners

York St John University is collaborating on research and resources to help schools support students with higher levels of perfectionism.   

Researchers from York St John’s School of Science, Technology & Health have examined two decades’ worth of research into perfectionism and more able learners. The review looks into research examining perfectionism in more able and talented (MAT) students around the world. Done in collaboration with the National Association for Able Children in Education (NACE), it is the first published study of its kind and will take these global insights to inform resources for schools.   

The research was drawn from across the world, but predominantly from the USA and China. Studies included in the review typically utilised questionnaires to measure perfectionism and a range of different outcomes such as academic performance, problem-solving, creativity, self-esteem, motivation, wellbeing, happiness, depression and life satisfaction.    

Lead author Michael Grugan from York St John University's School of Science, Technology & Health says it’s not just about spotting the potential problems, it’s about supporting young people to overcome them: “While we know a great deal about what perfectionism is related to in this group, we found only one study that tried to help MAT learners manage perfectionism. Better understanding how we can support this group with perfectionism is a priority for researchers and practitioners in this area.”    

Andrew P. Hill, Professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology at York St John University says that addressing the issues early can help avoid harm in later life: “Perfectionism appears to be an important characteristic when seeking to understand the experiences of more able and talented students. If left unchecked, doubts, concerns, and criticism associated with perfectionism are likely to be extremely harmful for this group of young people.”    

NACE CEO Sue Riley said: “NACE’s ongoing work with York St John University seeks to establish a wider understanding of this important issue within schools, for both teachers and students alike. As part of this, we have collaborated on resources that are being used in PSHE lessons at Haybridge High School, one of NACE’s R&D Hubs. These resources will be made available to more schools next academic year.”  

The study published today, 7 April 2021, in the Educational Psychology Review   

Read more about the team’s work on perfectionism here: 

Excerpts from Professor Andrew P. Hill’s keynote at the NACE Leadership Conference Perfectionism and more able learners | NACE.

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