Background to the research.

The concept of Possible Selves was developed by Hazel Markus and Paula Nurius in 1986 in the United States of America. Their initial research indicated that all people thought about the future to some extent and, in particular, reflected on a personal future that involved a range of expectations, hopes and fears.

            Australians are little different in their future thoughts and most, if not all of us, reflect on possibilities for our personal futures. These future thoughts vary according to our particular circumstances in life and may concentrate on concerns about continued good health,  financial security or long-lasting relationships. Younger people tend to reflect on these too but also on other aspects of immediate concern to them such as meeting the expectations of parents, making future improvements in performance at school and maintaining good health. 

            Students in year 10 are at a stage in their education and development where they are required to make important decisions about their futures. By this time, most have reached the mature stage of thinking called “Formal Operations” and are, for the first time, in a position to think in an adult way about their immediate and more distant futures.

Year 10 is usually the year during which subject choices for the South Australian Certificate of Education (S.A.C.E.) Stage 1 subjects are made and these choices tend to have a major impact on the future directions for these students both in terms of Stage 2 subject choices and future career opportunities. Year 10 is often a year during which work experience is offered to students to help them decide on an appropriate future career as well.

            The research carried out so far indicates there is a strong link between what a person sees as their possible future, and their motivation to work hard at current tasks that lead to the realization of that future. Thus, students who have clear envisionments of their future successful selves tend to be highly motivated to do work that they believe will allow them to achieve their expectations and hopes.

            Being highly motivated in year 10 can be an indication of the likelihood that a student will stay at school and complete all requirements for the S.A.C.E. Motivated students are likely to describe realistic and achievable future selves if asked about their future thoughts. Similarly, unmotivated students are likely to describe a less certain future for themselves.

Being able to identify students who express limited future aspirations and who are at risk of not completing S.A.C.E. requirements, is one of the main thrusts of this research project.

                                   Geoff A. Higgs,

                  University of South Australia.    RETURN