How do life goals and motivations of international students studying in Australia impact their achievement outcomes?

Year: 2012

Author: Guns, Ann, Richardson, Paul W., Watt, Helen M.G.

Type of paper: Refereed paper


Chair: Zoe A. Morris

Many international students aim beyond their country boundaries by moving away from home and studying abroad. Australia has a long history of educating international students and successive governments have brought significant changes to the policy of international education. This longitudinal design addressed a gap in current research, by linking together antecedent life goals and motivations on entry to students' studies, to predict exit achievement scores, to provide information concerning optimising international students' engagement and learning.

Participants were international students (N = 342) from South-East Asian backgrounds who at arrival to Australia did not meet university requirements and therefore enrolled in a university preparatory course. All participants planned to transition to undergraduate Business degrees. At its beginning and end, they completed ethically approved reliable psychological survey measures which elicited information on a range of study motivations; a measure of general life goals was purpose-developed and validated. Exit achievement data were provided by course administrators. General life goals were measured by a purpose-developed scale by the researchers at time 1 and 2, consisting of 3 components supported by principal component analysis with orthogonal rotation: Career & life (a=.732), Community (a=.753), and Family (a=.611). Motivation factors were also measured at both times by the MSLQ (Pintrich, Smith, Garcia, & McKeachie, 1993). Regression analyses determined impacts of life goal and motivation factors on exit achievement outcomes.

When students valued their future career and happiness highly at the start of their preparatory course, they were more likely to value the task ahead. These task value beliefs remained stable through their course overall, although, those who held life goals of contributing to their community were further strengthened in their task value belief. As a result these students also received higher achievement scores at the end of their course. High task value beliefs and strong life goals related to career, life and community were most beneficial for students' achievement outcomes. Promoting and sustaining these life goals should foster academic task value, and actual achievement. The results also do not sustain the stereotypical view that international students study in Australia in order to migrate.

Keeping Australia's history in international education in mind and knowing how much universities and colleges rely on international student enrolments, this longitudinal study offered a possibility to look deeper into background life goals and motivations for these students throughout a study course at an Australian institution.