“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Answers to this question affect which subjects students select in school, what opportunities are available to them, their self-confidence and their future employment.
Now in its second year, the University of Newcastle’s Aspirations Longitudinal Study is a four-year research project that works with students, families, teachers, schools and communities to understand students’ career and education goals.
The project aims to map and track the relationships between student-level and school-level factors that influence students’ aspirations. A significant focus of the study is investigating the ways in which socioeconomic status interacts with the formation of aspirations. The project’s goal is to develop principles to inform school-based educational and career interventions designed to increase equity for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Aspirations Study has attracted more than $1 million in competitive funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and NSW Department of Education and Communities (DEC). The project is now listed in the NSW Government’s regional action plan as a priority project for increasing educational outcomes.
The project’s research team comprises more than 25 individuals from a range of complementary backgrounds in research and schooling. This dedicated team is led by five accomplished researchers in the field of education: Professor Jenny Gore, Professor James Albright, Dr Erica Southgate, Dr Kathryn Holmes and Professor Max Smith. Under the leadership of these Chief Investigators and project managers Hywel Ellis and Elizabeth Macdonald, currently seven research higher degree candidates and a strong group of research assistants are devoted to working with communities to explore the complexity of factors that influence students’ educational and career aspirations.
The still-growing number of participants in the study includes approximately 18,000 individuals associated with 82 schools, extending from North Sydney to the Hunter/Central Coast and through the North Coast to the Queensland border.
Even though the study is only in its second year, preliminary analysis of 2012 data is producing some fascinating results thanks to the efforts of the research team and participants. These analyses will only continue to expand and become more comprehensive as the study progresses.