Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Education, Business & Science

First Advisor

Professor Anthony Williams

Second Advisor

Professor Kevin Petrie


130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified


This doctoral dissertation describes a qualitative grounded study that examines the lived experience of teenage Alternative Entry Program (AEP) students, using data from two male and two female participants enrolled in an AEP at a private college of higher education (now a university college) in regional New South Wales. From the literature, it is evident that age tends to be an impediment to the academic progress of such students, with younger age being associated with higher attrition rates. Having a better understanding of the causes might make it possible to address the attrition and improve the performance of younger AEP students, thereby producing savings in time, money, and resources. The findings of the study show that teenage AEP students can perform effectively from Day One even after two years out of school, and despite not having completed Years 11 and 12. This success appears to be independent of their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), but closely linked to agency, which receives impetus from student goals. Success is likely to follow when career goals have been explored, matched to self-recognised potential, committed to, and then converted to strategic study goals. The research design is a bricolage of paradigms (constructivist-interpretivist and narrative), methodologies (mini-case study and grounded theory), and methods (narrative). The data were constructed, using reflective documents written by the participants, interviews, and researcher observations. The more successful participants were goal-driven and agentive. They engaged in study from Day One, having processed the experience of past academic underperformance and brought to the AEP new attitudes to study. Less successful students appeared to learn less from their initial self-analysis, to undervalue the AEP, and to resist taking responsibility as agents. The plans that teenage students institute in the orientation phase of an AEP set the tone for their unfolding semester. Making a positive start enables them to consolidate in the middle phase, where they grow in confidence and self-efficacy through interacting in the educational interface, and end the semester well, feeling satisfied—even excited—to be a step closer to commencing a degree program. The study fills several gaps in the literature, including the need for qualitative studies that feature the teenage voice, including the male voice. It reinforces the point that ATAR has limited value as an indicator of academic potential. And it demonstrates the value of second-chance education for teenage AEP students, providing evidence that not all the students with academic potential are identified in senior high school.


Used by permission: the author.

A print copy of this thesis is held in the Avondale College Library (SC Theses).

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