What's in it for me: The role of personal goals in student persistence and success

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


School of Education


Sparrow, H., Kinnear, A., Boyce, M., Middleton, S., Cullity, M. (2008, December). What's in it for me: The role of personal goals in student persistence and success. SRHE Conference: Liverpool UK.). Abstract available here.

Also presented at the 2010 WA Teaching and Learning Forum.


In Australia, as in many other countries, universities are working hard to find better ways to support students in their learning, but the task is complex, and there is concern that far too many students with great potential, do not thrive, but rather struggle and often fail, or simply withdraw. The importance of the transition to university and the first year experience is widely acknowledged (Krause, Hartley, James and McInnis, 2005), however, there is much less attention paid to the successful progression of students through the later years of study, and our understanding of the factors contributing to effective student progression is limited (Leach and Zepke, 2003; Robinson, 2004).

This paper reports on some initial findings from a 2-year project, funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council to investigate the factors contributing to student success. The project collected the perceptions of diverse students about their learning journey as they progress through the later years of their study and into the workforce, through surveys, focus groups, journals and interviews. One of the most striking initial findings is the critical role that personal goals have in student persistence. This paper will share insights into the value that diverse students place on their studies and the power of personal aspirations in giving them the strength to rise above their problems and go on to succeed.

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