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Investigating the role of school-based outreach programs in developing the aspirations of low SES students and building their social and cultural capital for higher education

Geagea, Antoinette (2019) Investigating the role of school-based outreach programs in developing the aspirations of low SES students and building their social and cultural capital for higher education. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Forming educational aspirations and planning for the future are important developmental tasks for adolescents. Arts-based interventions in schools provide a context in which young people can interact with and learn from adults and peers. Using Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model as an initial theoretical framework, the research used a mixed method design to investigate the relations between school-based arts activity participation, students’ school experiences, aspirations and expectations change and the processes that influence these relations. The dissertation includes three studies: Study 1 utilised data from the Youth Activity Participation Study of Western Australia (YAPS-WA) project (n = 1215) over four years and I examined the contemporaneous and longitudinal relations between students’ reported arts activity participation, school satisfaction and university aspirations. Results showed that although school satisfaction and university expectations declined as students progressed through high school, students participating in arts activities reported higher levels of school satisfaction and university expectations at each time point beyond what expected individual trajectories when compared to those who did not participate in school art activities at all. Study 2 focused on the effects of CAI on students’ university expectations from 2014 to 2015 and used data collected from students over four years of the Murdoch Aspirations and Pathways for University (MAP4U) Project in Perth’s southwest corridor schools (n = 1429). A proportion of these students participated in art-based intervention programs, the Creative Arts Initiative (CAI), at four low ICSEA government high schools, and on two campuses of a local university. As a longitudinal study, it measured university expectations across three-time points and the associations with students’ social and cultural capital in the form of discussions about university with parents, teachers and friends at the third-time point. Results indicated that although there was a decline in university expectations over time, the CAI participants reported stable expectations and increased discussions about university with their important socialisers compared to non-participants. Study 3 was a qualitative analysis of student stories about the CAI programs’ influence on their aspirations and expectations for higher education. Study 3 utilised qualitative analysis to examine data from eight focus groups with CAI students (n = 28) who had participated in one or more CAI programs from 2014 to 2016. Students reported that conversations with industry role models and university mentors in the programs helped them to develop more positive attitudes to school, increased their social and cultural capital for higher education and, and helped them to develop strategies to activate the capital to realise their expectations for higher education and work careers. Positive school experiences during school-based arts activities offered students, particularly those in low SES schools, a conducive environment to explore arts-related post-school educational and work aspirations. The Creative Arts intervention programs provided people and resource-rich environments where positive and supportive external mentors, role models and teachers, as social resources, collaborated to provide information, technical and soft skills, and university life experiences, as cultural resources, that helped to shape the experiences of students in low SES schools and post-school aspirations for education and work. Importantly, these interactions with the mentors and role models included discussions about university and work that helped students to develop and strengthen the instrumental relationship with their parents and teachers. These findings have implications for policy for widening participation in higher education and the provision of arts programs in schools, particularly in low SES areas, that could support students’ positive school experiences, aspirations and viable expectations for higher education participation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: Education
United Nations SDGs: Goal 4: Quality Education
Supervisor(s): MacCallum, Judy
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