University of South Australia

Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences.

Magill Campus.


Title of the research project: Possible Selves and the Motivation of High School Students.

Researcher: Mr G.A. Higgs (B.Ed, Dip. T.)

Telephone: 8264 0543  or  8302 4552  or  0403 198965.


Supervisor: Dr G.C. Yates. 8302 4505.



The Principal/Head of selected secondary schools in South Australia,

Dear Head of School,

                        Iím seeking your permission to gather research data from the students in year 10 at your school. Research data obtained from Adelaide metropolitan and country schools will be collected, analysed and presented as a Doctoral Thesis to be examined at the University of South Australia.

            My interest is in the future thoughts and aspirations of students in high school and their degree of motivation to complete their secondary education. 

            Students who look to the future and think about who or what they might become, use these inner thoughts and hopes as motivational tools to help them persist with their education despite any setbacks and barriers that are placed in their way. Studentsí future hopes and aspirations, called Possible Selves, can be identified and linked to other aspects of their inner selves such as self-esteem, optimism and persistence to complete a task. Research conducted in the United States has shown that possible selves are strongly linked to motivation and persistence by providing specific goals to strive for through structured thoughts and actions. In addition, possible selves motivate a person by providing the emotional energy to persevere in pursuing those goals. My research may provide early indications of students who are at risk of failing to complete high school studies.

            If you allow this research to go ahead, students in year 10, with permission obtained from parents, will be asked to respond to short questionnaires. Students who continue through to year 12 will be asked to complete the survey again during that year. This subsequent data collection and analysis may provide insight into the reasons why some students leave school before completing their secondary education.

 I would also like to ask for participating students to be placed into ability groups for the purpose of establishing three additional variables for the study. These ability group lists will be destroyed after reference numbers are matched with collected data from participants. Further information is available at the "Information for Teachers" link on this web site.

The collected questionnaire data will remain confidential within the guidelines published by the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of South Australia. Students will not be identified by name in published reports. My research proposal was approved by this committee on October 25th  1999.

The questionnaires are available on the World Wide Web and can be accessed from individual computers connected to the Internet. I have designed the questionnaires to be quick to administer thus reducing the time away from classes to a minimum. Studentsí responses will be sent directly to the university via the Internet.  It is estimated that individuals could take up to a total of 40 minutes to complete the required responses.

Students and parents have the option of withdrawing from the proposed research at any time. The proposed method of administering the questionnaires has a very low impact on the structure of a school's program. The only requirement is Internet access on at least one computer where students can sit to respond to the questionnaires. The data can be received at the university 24 hours a day. Individuals or class groups can respond at any time convenient to the school but as early as possible in term 4, 2000. As soon as the data is sent through, there is no other school involvement other than the posting of the parental permission forms to the university.

The stages in the process are:

1.      Decide to participate by clicking on the "Take Part in the Survey" link on the "Start" page.

2.      Notify staff. (Information is available at "Information for teachers" on the "Start" page.)

3.      Notify parents and collect permission forms. (See details under "Information for Parents" on "Start" page.)

4.      Arrange a time for students to answer the questions.

5.      Send permission slips to the university. (They have to be kept for 7 years.)

Please explore this web site to view further details. There is an active page available to reply with an expression of interest or to decline participation. You may also use conventional mail to respond. The questionnaires can only be completed on the Internet.

Should you wish to seek further information about this proposal, my primary supervisor at the Magill Campus of the University of South Australia, Dr. Greg Yates, is available on 8302 4505, by email at or at the address of the university shown on the head of this letter. The name and telephone number of the Chair of the Human Research Ethics Committee is listed below. She will be available to discuss general aspects of the project should you wish to do so.

The current Chair is Ms Linley Hartmann,

Business & Enterprise, City West,

telephone: (08) 8302-0327,

facsimile: (08) 8302-0512,


Yours sincerely,

  Geoff A. Higgs.

School of Education,