"I want to be a teacher because I like bossing people around." An initial cross-sectional analysis of student data from the Aspirations Longitudinal Study

Year: 2013

Author: Gore, Jenny, Smith, Max, Holmes, Kathryn, Albright, James, Southgate, Erica, Berger, Nathan, Ellis, Hywel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Current government policies are focussed on increasing the participation rates of disadvantaged groups in higher education (Bradley, Noonan, Nugent & Scales, 2008). The successful deployment of these policies requires the alignment of school students' career and educational aspirations as they move toward post-school opportunities. Most empirical studies of aspirations have focussed on the later years of school education (Bowden & Doughney, 2010; Curtis & McMillan, 2008; Hillman, 2005; Marks, 2008) and little is known about the early formation of children's aspirations in terms of the myriad factors that might be at play. The Aspirations Study is a four year longitudinal research project involving 70 public schools in New South Wales, the first study of its kind to examine these factors in the middle years of schooling. Data was collected from students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, and their parents/carers and teachers using a suite of surveys designed to explore the development of career and educational aspirations. The surveys were framed by a composite capitals model which draws on Bourdieu's (1986) notions of cultural, social and economic capital and on Becker's (1986) notion of human capital.
For this paper, this comprehensive framework was used to enable a nuanced examination of first year cross-sectional data from the student surveys. Student-level variables including academic achievement as measured by NAPLAN, parental occupation and educational attainment, and other variables related to the four capitals are examined in relation to students' career and educational aspirations. Analysis of school-level variables such as socioeconomic composition, income, academic performance, and cultural and social diversity sheds further light on factors affecting the development of aspirations in the middle years of schooling. These data are also used to explore preliminary differences between and among schools and clusters of schools located in diverse NSW regions.