School-university partnerships and low-SES student university expectations: The role of emotional engagement and valuing education

Year: 2017

Author: Vernon, Lynette, Taggart, Andrew, Watson, Stuart

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Interest in the benefits afforded by school-university collaborations to build school academic culture is high, driven in part by the recognition of the possible role of such partnerships in creating equitable post-secondary access to university for all students (Naylor, et al., 2013). There is some evidence that participation in some types of university outreach predicts a higher proportion of students enrolment in university (e.g., Gale & Parker, 2014), but how university outreach influences student engagement and university expectations for low-SES students is not clear. School-university partnership programs may elicit emotional reactions which can subsequently change attitudes to school and education. If education is valued, then it is presumed to influence academic outcomes (Fredricks et al., 2004). This study used longitudinal growth models to examine change over time in students' emotional engagement; specifically, valuing of school education in relation to changes in students' expectations to engage in university study while accounting for the weighted number (dosage) of school-university partnership programs. The dosage of school-university programs ranged from one off visits to the university campus to more heavily weighted on-going school academy affiliations with the university. The valuing of school education scale was measured with five items; for example "schooling is not important for kids like me." The sample consisted of 623 students (mean age 16 years at initial assessment; 41% male), from 15 schools, across south metropolitan Perth, WA. Participants' valuing of school education and university expectations were measured three times over 18 months. Conditional latent growth models (Curran, et al., 1997, p. 652) were estimated using Mplus. The results indicated that students who had high initial levels of valuing school education reported higher levels of university expectations, however, both valuing of school education and university expectations underwent negative linear growth over time when controlling for school-SES and final dosage of school-university programs. Although there was a decline in valuing school education and university expectations over time, the trajectories were significantly positively associated. That is a change in valuing school education associated with a slower decline in students' expectations to go to university. Thus students' emotional engagement particularly the value they place on education can be subject to change over time. School-university partnerships become an important context whereby collaborative programs can positively influence the value students' place on education which can in turn increase students expectations to go on to study at university.