A group of four secondary school students using a globe.

Teaching Approaches for Building Pupils’ Resilience to Extremist Narratives

As teachers, we understand that during their teenage years our pupils will be searching for answers to questions about identity, faith and belonging, as well as looking for adventure and excitement.

This can mean that they are particularly vulnerable to extremist groups, online and via social media, who may claim to offer answers to such questions.

It is vital, therefore, that we help young people build resilience to harmful influencers and ensure our pupils develop self-confidence, self-worth and the ability to think critically.

Here, we explore ways in which to encourage personal resilience and a positive sense of identity amongst our pupils.

Much of this is based on general good practice and effective teaching however, there are some key aspects to our teaching approach which can further help our pupils form the skills and traits they need to be resilient to extremist narratives.


1. Personal Resilience

Personal resilience in this context relates to the capacity of young people to control their own emotions and feelings, to engender feelings of positive well-being and to exercise control over their lives and the challenges with which they are presented.

One way in which this can be fostered is through the use of scenario-led theoretical frameworks such as ‘ABC’, which has been designed help pupils to deconstruct emotionally challenging situations by encouraging them to break down a problematic situation into:

A – an Activating event, Action or Adversity

B – a Belief which either motivated the activating event or was formed as a result of the activating event

C – Consequence.

By breaking down a range of problematic situations into these three components, pupils are encouraged to reflect on thoughts and beliefs following an activating event (such as a terrorist attack or exposure to extreme narratives), and examine how far it was grounded in real evidence vs. assumptions or faulty thinking.

Asking pupils to question the veracity of their response to destabilising events empowers them to challenge their fears and, in turn, helps curtail the influence of harmful narratives and behaviors which may potentially arise as a result.

Educate Against Hate hosts a number of ready-to-use resources which follow the guiding principles of ABC, including the PSHE association’s framework for schools to use to facilitate classroom discussions in the event of a terrorist attack, and the ‘Essentials of Dialogue’ guide, which provides teaching materials to empower teachers to overcome some of the difficulties of talking about religious extremism with students who may be misinformed or upset.


2. Positive Sense of Identity

Positive sense of identity relates to how we encourage pupils be aware of, and feel positive about who they are, thereby equipping them with a defence against reductive or dangerous interpretations of identity. This is often used by extremists, which may invite young people to abandon parts of their identity (e.g. their role as a son or daughter, or a citizen of a democratic country, etc), and over-simplify and exaggerate other aspects (e.g. ‘I’m pure white English’).

This can be achieved through simply asking pupils to reflect on their identity, topics you could explore with pupils include:

  • what they think builds an identity for them as individuals
  • what they like about your local area: asking them to consider the local demographic profile, the extent to which the community is cohesive, and what changes they would make locally to help ensure that Britain is a more tolerant community?
  • what it means to be British and what makes diversity valuable and what it might feel like to be stereotyped

The Deliberative Classroom guide has been developed in conjunction with Department for Education to support teachers in leading knowledge-based discussions on topical issues relating to fundamental British values, citizenship and equality, and may prove particularly useful for fostering a positive sense of personal identity in the classroom.


For more information and resources visit Teachers’ hub on our website.

Popular Resources

Debating can enable young people to engage with a broad range of social, scientific and ethical issues facing society today. It can provide students with the opportunity to learn how to argue and defend points of view. Debating Matters provides guides and resources for setting up debate clubs in schools, together with details on the Institute of Ideas’ National Debating Matters Competition.

A 15-hour programme of creative activities for young people to develop awareness, skills and knowledge related to democracy and voting, thereby supporting the promotion of British values. It is likely to be most effective when used with young people whose engagement with politics and the democratic process is relatively low, but who have some interest in social and community issues and who care about making a positive change in their communities and beyond. The programme helps to make ideas about democracy accessible. Information and activities can be adapted so they are relevant and appropriate for each group of young people.

Through a series of hard-hitting films of real people affected by radicalisation, Extreme Dialogue enables teachers to show young people all the faces of extremism. It equips young people to challenge extremism, helping them navigate core themes and questions using films, educational resources and training. Videos are accompanied by interactive presentations (Prezis). The downloadable resources are all modular and are informed by more than 20 years of research and experience in managing global and community conflict. The seven true stories include a mother whose son died fighting in Syria and a former member of a far-right terrorist group. You will need to give your email address to Extreme Dialogue when downloading the below resources.

Magistrates visit schools, colleges and community groups to discuss how our justice system works, including how verdicts and sentences are decided. Teams of magistrates give a presentation and discuss a range of topics, including how magistrates are appointed, what kind of cases they deal with, how guilt or innocence is decided and sentencing when guilt is established. The presentations are tailored to suit different audiences and requirements. These visits can support schools in promoting fundamental British values by giving students the opportunity to learn about and engage with the rule of law.