Mind the Gap
Lead University: University of New South Wales
Lead Researcher: Todd Walton
Research Team: Ann Jardine, Todd Walton and Franz Carillo
Year Funded: 2016
Funding Received: $141,465
This project investigated whether Australian university widening participation initiatives are addressing the attainment gap that exists for low SES students in regional and remote schools. Mixed methods research identified trends in attainment levels in regional and remote schools, and examined differences between schools that were known to have had sustained engagement with widening participation activities and those which had not.
- The project had three objectives:
- investigate whether Australian university Widening Participation (WP) initiatives are addressing the attainment gap that exists for low socioeconomic status (SES) students in regional and remote schools
- examine and identify any trends in attainment levels in regional and remote schools
- examine any differences between schools known to have had sustained engagement with widening participation activities and those which had not.
- On whether WP initiatives are addressing the attainment gap for low SES students:
- The research questions were investigated using a mixed methods approach incorporating statistical multi-level growth modeling with interview narrative analysis.
- Quantitative results showed that university WP programs that aim to boost parental and community involvement had significant influence on academic attainment between 2010 and 2016.
- Interviews with teachers indicated a belief that WP initiatives helped their students. They also associated success with broadening student experiences rather than just raising attainment.
- On identifying trends in attainment:
- Attainment levels were found to be static in regional New South Wales government secondary and central schools between 2010 and 2016.
- The research found that factors capable of impacting attainment included:
- rurality (school location)
- distance to the nearest campus
- school type
- school population
- Year 12 cohort size
- school Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) score
- school Educational Access Schemes (EAS) status.
- On differences between schools with WP initiatives and those without:
- Teachers were favourably disposed towards WP programs and believed their school would be worse off without their presence. Most teachers wanted to maintain and enhance the presence of WP programs.
- Statistical modeling showed no statistically significant difference in attainment levels between schools based on amount of contact with WP initiatives.
- Other findings included:
- WP initiatives are regarded favourably, but valued in diverse ways by regional and remote teachers. Value was generally not in regards to raising academic attainment.
- WP activities aimed at boosting parental and community involvement represented the single type of WP activity to have a statistically significant influence on attainment numbers.
- Teachers were ambivalent about the effectiveness of WP initiatives to raise academic attainment in regional schools, but instead believed the programs were good at extending student experiences outside their communities and comfort zones.
Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.