‘Hardworking, determined and happy’: first-year students’ understanding and experience of success

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Taylor and Francis Group
(c.) 2018 HERDSA
While all agree student success in higher education is important, there is less agreement on what it means to be a successful student. Student success is often measured by institutional reports of grades, student retention and qualification completion. More recently, broader definitions have emerged; however, these do not incorporate student perceptions of success. The current study addresses this gap by exploring how first-year students talk about their success. Drawing from weekly interviews of students at an Australian regional university, the data are analysed through the lens of a conceptual framework of student engagement. The findings demonstrate that success is inextricably linked with student engagement as well as other dimensions of the student experience. As expected, students assess their success extrinsically with institutional measures such as grades and feedback. In addition, their behavioural engagement was seen as a more immediate measure of their success, while happiness and satisfaction were necessary for some students to feel successful. Perceptions of success have important consequences for students in terms of increased positive emotions, self-efficacy and course belonging. Success for these students has multiple dimensions. These findings give rise to suggestions for a staged approach to supporting first-year student success. However, the student experience is complex and multifaceted and further research is needed with different student cohorts who may define and experience success in other ways.
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Higher Education Research & Development on 30 May 2018, available online:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07294360.2018.1478803
Student success, student engagement, first-year experience
HIGHER EDUCATION RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT, 2018, 37 (6), pp. 1260 - 1273