This research develops a theory to explain the pathways taken by students through higher education in Australia. From a socio-ecological perspective, pathways are conceptualised as a diverse series of choices within learning contexts. In relation to Australian higher education, the model of pathways through undergraduate courses emphasises contexts in which personal and social factors contribute to the choices students make over time. A new method identifies and documents longitudinal pathways of progression through university degree courses. Higher education population data was examined over time to test the Pathways Theory of student progression. This unique detailed longitudinal approach documented all the pathway choices made by a cohort of students as they progressed in and out of their courses over time. Pathways were documented to the point of departure from a course and beyond, to include the extended pathways of students who returned to their courses following stop-outs and transfers. The results highlight the importance of a longitudinal approach in explaining pathways through specific course contexts. This research underlines the importance of considering context and diversity in student behaviours when using indicators of performance, retention and completion. Understanding the relationship between the personal and social characteristics of students and their specific learning contexts contributed to an understanding of the choice behaviour of students as they negotiated pathways through courses within the broader context of higher education.
[Information on pages 271-275 has been removed from the digital version of this thesis for copyright reasons.
The full print version of this thesis is available in The University of Sydney Library:
Robinson, R. A. (2006). Pathways in Context: Background Characteristics and Demographics in Student Progression through Higher Education. PhD Thesis. The University of Sydney, Sydney.]