Motivations, identity and concerns in widening participation students at different stages of the student life-cycle
Journal: Psychology Teaching Review
Non-traditional students are increasingly making up a larger part of the student body and can include students from various groupings, for example differentiated by ethnicity, socio-economic class (SEC), disability, residential location or age. The aim of this initial exploratory study was to investigate whether and how the motivations, identity and concerns of different types of non-traditional psychology students differed from each other. Previous research has either investigated all types of non-traditional students together with no breakdown according to specific category, or focused on one category (e.g. mature versus non-mature students). A questionnaire was sent to a cross-sectional sample of pre-University, first year, second year, third year and graduate students to collect mainly qualitative data. Questions addressed a number of areas: motivation to go to University; post-University aspirations; identity; and student concerns. There were interesting gender differences with regard to the motivations to go to University; with males more likely to give reasons relating to intrinsic factors and females stating extrinsic factors, supporting previous research. The findings relating to identity showed that mature students were more negative in their self-descriptions, but for second year and third year students, mature students were more likely to indicate changes to their identity since joining University. It will be interesting in the next stage of planned research to track changes in identity over time; as this study provides just a snapshot at each stage of the degree. The findings showed that student concerns frequently related to the reason for their being classified as a non-traditional student. For example: financial concerns were more often stated by those from lower socio-economic backgrounds; and mature students were more concerned about academic issues, while younger students expressed more social concerns. Although these initial observations require further exploration with a larger sample, they are discussed with regard to their implications for the level and type of pastoral support available to different types of non-traditional students. This study is the first stage of a longitudinal project, and further work suggested from these results will be investigated over the remaining two years of the project. For example, students participating in this study will be tracked, a further group of traditional-entry students will be recruited for comparison and further measures will be collected relating to extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.