There has been a trend in promoting students’ positive attitudes towards learning through utilizing various teaching methods. For instance, Project-Based Learning (PBL) is one of the many teaching methods that encourages self-motivation and problem-solving skills in students (Khandakar et. al, 2020). Academic failure tolerance is another approach that helps students develop sustainable learning (Kim, 2016). Although existing literature has identified ego function and its sub-factors affecting students’ failure tolerance, there is neither research on the differential effects of the various components of ego function on academic failure tolerance nor studies about the differences in these factors by different grade levels.


To address these questions, the authors recruited 872 students in grades 1-3 from two elementary schools in South Korea. The researchers had the students’ parents complete a questionnaire reporting their child’s behavior based on their observations. The survey measured the student’s ego function in four dimensions: competence (confidence to do well on his/her own), initiative (doing well in things he/she decides to do), resilience (being angry or upset for a long time), sociality (enjoying working or competing with friends). The survey also measured fear of negative evaluation (the extent to which children feel anxious about negative feedback from others), and academic failure tolerance (the degree to which children respond positively to failures in learning), as reported by their parents. The results revealed that initiative had the strongest positive effect on academic failure tolerance among the four dimensions of ego function. Specifically, students with high initiative were more likely to have a high tolerance for academic failure. Additionally, fears of negative evaluation negatively affected academic failure tolerance for students in all grades, and also mediated the relationship between resilience and academic failure tolerance. In other words, students with high resilience were more likely to have less fear of negative feedback and high tolerance to academic failure. The study found that the various dimensions of ego function had differential impacts on academic failure tolerance across grade levels. For instance, higher academic failure tolerance was associated with higher competence and lower fear of negative evaluation among students in grade 1. In grade 3, however, high academic failure tolerance was related to high sociality and reduced fear of negative evaluation instead.


Kim and Choi’s (2020) study indicates the trajectory of academic motivation development. It also paves the way for developmentally appropriate interventions that educators can develop with the goal of facilitating the sustainable academic motivation of students. The study has implications for several EPIC studies, including responses to negative feedback and anticipation and preparation for failures. 


If you want to learn more about Kim and Choi’s (2020) study, check it out at: 


This post was written by Jessica Wang. 



Khandakar, A., Chowdhury, M. E. H., Gonzales, A. J. S. P., Touati, F., Emadi, N. A., & Ayari, M. A. (2020). Case study to analyze the impact of multi-course project-based learning approach on education for sustainable development. Sustainability, 12(2), 480.

Kim, S. Y. (2016). The Effects of Ego Strength, Failure Tolerance, and Performance Anxiety on School-Age Children's School Class Adjustment: A Focus on Gender Differences. Korean Journal of Child Studies, 37(2), 13-25.

Kim, S., & Choi, N. (2020). The relationships between children’s ego function and fear of negative evaluation affecting academic failure tolerance in early school age: Analysis by grade level considering sustainability of academic motivation. Sustainability, 12(5), 1888.