The psychology of school leaving: Motivation, sense-of-self, values and aspirations

Year: 2005

Author: Dowson, Martin, McInerney, Dennis

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Identifying the reasons for school leaving remains a critical issue for educational researchers and practitioners. Many studies have investigated sociological variables implicated in school leaving. Very few studies, however, have explored psychological variables that may be implicated in school leaving. The aim of this study was to identify key psychological variables implicated in students' decisions to stay at, or leave, school. 590 secondary school students (298 females and 292 males) attending five schools in the Sydney metropolitan region were surveyed to determine the quantity (or level) and quality (or orientation) of their academic motivation, sense-of-self, and their values and aspirations. These variables were then used, in a series of Discriminant Analyses, to discriminate between school 'stayers' and school 'leavers'. Results of the study indicate that a limited range of variables (which included students' overall motivation, their general self-concept, their aspirations to further education, and the value they placed on their schooling) correctly discriminated between approximately seventy percent (70%) of school leavers and stayers in the study. The study indicates that relevant psychological variables may be used to correctly classify school leaver and school stayers. Hence, these variables ought not to be ignored in studies and interventions concerned with school leaving.