Guiding futures: The role of teachers in the formation of students’ aspirations for higher education

Year: 2016

Author: Fray, Leanne, Gore, Jenny, Smith, Max, Lloyd, Adam, Holmes, Kath

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Abstract:
The role of teachers in shaping and supporting students’ intentions to pursue university education has largely been overlooked. Many studies have addressed factors impacting on the under-representation of students from low SES and other disadvantaged backgrounds in universities in general, and in high status universities and degrees more specifically (Naylor, Baik and James, 2013). We provide insight into the explicit and implicit messages students glean from their teachers about their aspirations for higher education and ways of getting there (Gemici, Bednarz, Karmel and Lim, 2014). The study is informed by a scoping literature review of more than 150 papers reporting findings from empirical studies of the role of teachers in the formation of students’ aspirations. Drawing on survey data from teachers (n=1,496), and focus groups and interviews with teachers (n=157), principals (n=15), and career advisers (n=15), we examine how these data align with student survey (n=10,543) and focus group (n=567) data on their educational and career aspirations. Using these data we investigate the relationship between students’ aspirations for higher education and: (1) the views expressed by teachers about students’ educational futures; and (2) students’ views about the impact of their teachers on their educational plans. We also examine how these relationships vary by student cohort (in terms of SES, prior achievement, gender, location, ethnicity, and Indigenous status) and how these relationships change as students advance through the school years. We demonstrate the role of teachers in explicitly and implicitly shaping students’ aspirations and highlight ways in which teachers might assist in overcoming the under-representation of students from low SES and other disadvantaged backgrounds. Gemici, S., Bednarz, A., Karmel, T., and Lim, P. (2014). Young People's Aspirations and Their Occupational Outcomes. The Australian Economic Review. 47(1), 124-36. Naylor, R., Baik, C., & James, R. (2013). A critical interventions framework for advancing equity in Australian higher education. Canberra: Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. Retrieved from https://www.ncsehe.edu.au/publications/critical-interventions-framework/

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