Issue 7
Monday, 22 May 2017
Charles Darwin University
Co-author and CDU Associate Professor James Smith
Co-author and CDU Associate Professor James Smith

Indigenous student success a community affair

By Leanne Miles

Research into Indigenous student engagement in higher education has found that social responsibility and giving back to community are key to participation and success.

The study was undertaken by researchers from Charles Darwin University and the Batchelor Institute, and funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education at Curtin University.

The “Rippling Stories of Success” research team reviewed self-efficacy and academic success by looking at documented narrative accounts of Indigenous student success in higher education.

Co-author and CDU Associate Professor James Smith said the research addressed widening participation questions and aimed to identify how students were motivated towards success.

“The results showed that while self-efficacy through experience, performance and accomplishments in determining success were significant, these sources were less important than physiological states,” Dr Smith said.

“The key drivers were a students emotional motivation to succeed in order to give something back to family and the community, and was linked to cultural norms such as the spirit of giving, reciprocity, relationships and responsibility.”

He said the research suggested that Indigenous students could be better supported in their transition, participation, retention and success in higher education with an increased emphasis on emotional support.

“While support programs were important, within these there needs to be a stronger national focus on providing emotional support to Indigenous students,” Dr Smith said.

Other recommendations for more effective engagement included greater flexibility, provision of culturally capable counsellors, provision of culturally safe spaces, equity strategies and initiatives that involve community and family engagement.

“There is a real need for further work within the context of Indigenous student transition, participation, retention and success in higher education to advance existing program investments and supports in this sector,” he said.

The report, “Indigenous Achievement in Higher Education and the Role of Self-Efficacy: Rippling Stories of Success” was led by University of Sydney research Dr Jack Frawley, and co-authored by Dr Smith, Honorary University Fellow Ms Millie Olcay, and Batchelor Institute’s IRC Fellow Ms Robyn Ober.