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Motivations for success: Strengthening self-efficacy to improve Indigenous student outcomes

Indigenous students could be better supported in their transition, participation, retention and success in higher education with an increased emphasis on emotional support, according to a new research report.

The research led by Dr Jack Frawley from Charles Darwin University and funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education recommended the supplementation of existing academic support programs with equity strategies that recognise the importance of community and family engagement, a sense of belonging and identity, and the development of self-efficacy amongst Indigenous students.

“Throughout Australia there have been many ‘small successes’ of Indigenous individuals who have completed higher education, but these stories are largely absent from the literature. There has, instead, been a strong focus on the barriers and challenges to Indigenous participation,” Dr Frawley said.

“This research addressed widening participation questions and issues through an integrative literature review on self-efficacy and academic success, alongside narrative accounts of Indigenous students’ successful experiences from national and international YouTube videos.”

Researchers defined self-efficacy as “the belief about one’s own ability to be successful in the performance of a task,” identifying four sources of self-efficacy contributing to Indigenous students’ success in higher education.

“What motivates students to be successful varies, but what seems to be vital are positive experiences linked to the self-efficacy sources of personal accomplishments, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological states,” Dr Frawley said.

“Programs that better support the development of a strong sense of self-efficacy in Indigenous students have the potential to contribute to influencing success because positive higher education experiences do impact on students’ goals, needs and desires.”

The research informed recommendations on the most effective approaches for supporting Indigenous pathways and transitions into higher education and successful completions of studies, as well as indicating areas for further research.

“A subset emerged in which a student’s emotional motivation to succeed is in order to give something back to family and the community. Further research would assist in understanding how cultural norms such as the spirit of giving, reciprocity, relationships and responsibility and modify self-efficacy theory,” Dr Frawley said.

NCSEHE Director Professor Sue Trinidad said this research supported the importance of appropriate cultural and emotional support and the value of self-efficacy for Indigenous students, as a foundation for success.

“Indigenous students often face significant cultural and environmental disorientation in their transition to university. Higher education providers need to continue to foster students’ cultural identity and sense of belonging, as well as implementing targeted support programs—within institutions and through community outreach—focused on student wellbeing and self-efficacy,” Professor Trinidad said.


The report, Indigenous Achievement in Higher Education and the Role of Self-Efficacy: Rippling Stories of Success, is available here.

Posted 16 May 2017 Posted in