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An examination of predictors that increase educational aspiration to attend university: a longitudinal study of high school students from low socioeconomic backgrounds

Nicoll, Camilla (2018) An examination of predictors that increase educational aspiration to attend university: a longitudinal study of high school students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. PhD thesis, Deakin University.

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Abstract

Considerable resources have been funnelled into designing and implementing effective intervention programs aimed at reducing student attrition. However there is a lack of knowledge regarding the impacts of these programs. There are numerous studies on outreach programs designed to widen student participation; however, these have been criticised for failing to demonstrate independence and that they are limited to qualitative analysis and small sample sizes. Additionally, effective intervention programs that address socioeconomic deficits in educational attainment are inadequate. Moreover, the psychometrically- evaluated measures designed to assess high school student educational aspiration lack the appropriate rigour in relation to randomised designs utilising treatment and control groups. In response to these challenges, this thesis had four aims. Aim 1 was to design a survey to measure high school student educational aspiration and related student characteristics. Aim 2 was to assess the correlations between educational aspiration and relevant student characteristics (i.e., educational engagement, educational self-efficacy, achievement goal setting, perceptions of school quality, school friendships and life satisfaction). Aim 3 was to assess the effectiveness of differing university-high school partnership intervention programs, using pre-post treatment-control designs. Aim 4 was to measure how educational aspiration and student characteristics changed over the first four years of high school. To achieve these aims, a series of five studies were conducted. Addressing Aims 1 and 2, Study 1 involved the development and refinement of a measurement tool that assessed factors related to student attrition, retention, and educational aspiration. This resulted in the development of six student scales measuring student characteristics that were subsequently correlated with educational aspiration. Factor analysis, reliability analysis, as well as qualitative assessment of items, were used to refine the set of items used to measure the six scales. Addressing Aim 3, Studies 2, 3 and 4 assessed the effectiveness of three Year 7 intervention programs designed to increase low socioeconomic high school students’ educational aspiration to complete school and attend university. Participants were assigned to a treatment or control group, with the measure developed in Study 1 administered before and after the intervention. Analyses indicated that none of the interventions had a significant effect on educational aspiration or the other measured student characteristics. Addressing Aim 3 and 4, Study 5 used a longitudinal design to examine four intervention programs and the cumulative effects of these on one student cohort tracked over 4 years from Year 7 to Year 10 of high school. This study also sought to examine how student characteristics (i.e., educational engagement, educational self-efficacy, achievement goal setting, perceptions of school quality, school friendships and life satisfaction) changed over this period. Results showed student characteristics and aspiration levels declined as students progressed through high school. The greatest declines occurred at the start of high school and tended to plateau around Year 8, 9, with small increases in Year 10. The interventions showed no significant influence on student characteristics and there was no evidence of a cumulative effect of these interventions. In summary, these five studies formed a four-year longitudinal examination of the educational aspirations of students at low socioeconomic high schools in Australia, Victoria, within the Melbourne and the Greater Geelong area. Taken together, these five studies make an important contribution to the national and international literature on educational aspiration. First, the need to develop a psychometrically sound instrument was identified. Second, significant moderate correlational relationships were found between educational aspirations and key predictors of educational aspiration. Third, although no positive effects were found from the intervention programs, these studies demonstrated that simple and relatively short interventions such as the ones examined are often insufficient to lead to lasting aspirational change for students. Fourth, although educational aspiration and the predictors of educational aspirations did not increase as students progressed through high school, this study provided a detailed picture of how educational aspiration and related student characteristics changed from Year 7 to Year 10 in a low socioeconomic school environment. A valuable contribution was made to research pertaining to educational aspirations, predictors of educational aspirations and intervention programs aimed at increasing the educational aspirations of low socioeconomic students. Although no positive effects were found from the intervention programs offered, these five studies contributed to our understanding of which interventions work and how best to design and implement future intervention programs such as these. Furthermore, this series of studies increased our understanding of student characteristics predictive of educational aspiration, in addition to how these characteristics change over the trajectory of high school. It was found that simple intervention programs were insufficient in leading to lasting aspirational change for students. These findings, therefore, inform on intervention design and implementation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
Additional Information:

"Submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Psychology).
Full-text is not available from this Repository

Uncontrolled Keywords: Student educational aspirations, intervention programs
Subjects: Current > FOR Classification > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Current > Division/Research > Other
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2020 23:10
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2020 05:20
URI: http://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/40004
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