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

Picton, Catherine and Kahu, Ella R. and Nelson, Karen (2018) ‘Hardworking, determined and happy’: first-year students’ understanding and experience of success. Higher Education Research and Development, 37 (6). pp. 1260-1273. ISSN 0729-4360


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.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Files associated with this item cannot be displayed due to copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2022 04:53
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2022 06:04
Uncontrolled Keywords: first-year experience; student engagement; Student success
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390303 Higher education
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2018.1478803
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/48693

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