Transition to university: managing constraints and successfully persisting with study on a pathway program

PhD Thesis

Morrison, George. 2016. Transition to university: managing constraints and successfully persisting with study on a pathway program. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Transition to university: managing constraints and successfully persisting with study on a pathway program

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorMorrison, George
SupervisorLawrence, Professor Jill
Brodie, Professor Lyn
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages225

Pathway to university programs like USQ’s Tertiary Preparation Program (TPP) have a significant role to play in widening participation in higher education in Australia as they prepare students from targeted equity groups that have previously been disadvantaged in terms of access to university. While access to higher education has improved for some equity groups, a continuing concern for stakeholders is the perceived rate of attrition in pathway programs. Statistical measurements of attrition and retention may provide tools for evaluating program successes and failures, but they do little to inform policy makers about the student experience of study. The purpose of this study is to identify TPP students’ experience of constraints to successful persistence with study and how they manage to overcome them and achieve their learning goals. A qualitative dominant mixed methods research design was utilised to investigate the students’ experience of studying on the program. The main data was generated through analysis of student assignments completed at different points of program progression and semi-structured interviews upon completion. Findings are discussed utilising the conceptual framework of Bourdieu’s social reproduction theory to discuss constraints as forms of capital. The main socioeconomic constraints faced by TPP students relate to time spent in paid and unpaid work which leaves little time available for full time study. The way in which students utilise time available for study, however, reflect cultural constraints. It was found that unrealistic expectations and false beliefs about the nature of tertiary study prior to enrolment compound constraints that reflect lack of familiarity with academic practices and forms of literacy dominant at university. The process of managing constraints and successfully persisting with study is best conceptualised as development of a personal learning ecology (PLE). Development of a PLE is predicated on students’ capacity to successfully manage existing social relationships and develop new ones. Resources and relationships exist in different contexts and each context requires a different form of communicative competence. Pedagogy in pathway programs must facilitate the building of students’ personal capacity by scaffolding activities and instruction that specifically target the communication and interpersonal skills required to build a personal learning ecology.

Keywordsuniversity study; tertiary; TPP; University of Southern Queensland; higher education; pathway programs; student experience; personal learning ecology; communication
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390203. Sociology of education
390102. Curriculum and pedagogy theory and development
390301. Continuing and community education
Byline AffiliationsOpen Access College
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Related outputs

Enabling connections and persistence in a distributed learning community
Morrison, George. 2013. "Enabling connections and persistence in a distributed learning community." 3rd National Association of Enabling Educators of Australia Conference (NAEEA 2013): Flexibility: Pathways to Participation. Melbourne, Australia 27 - 29 Nov 2013 Toowoomba, Australia.