School of Paediatrics and Child Health

Postgraduate Research Profiles

Kirsten Hancock


Kirsten Hancock

School of Paediatrics & Child Health
The University of Western Australia
Princess Margaret Hospital for Children
PO Box D 184, Subiaco
WA 6840

Phone (+61) 9340 8625
Fax (+61) 9388 2097


Start Date

May 2011

Submission Date

November 2014

Kirsten Hancock


Attitude, attendance and achievement: A longitudinal view of student development and participation in education over time.


Education is a key developmental opportunity for children, and a powerful tool through which health and living standards can be improved for those who are socially and economically marginalised. The effectiveness of education in achieving these goals relies on student participation and engagement in educational settings. Attendance at school is widely understood to be necessary for such participation and engagement to occur, where attendance is a necessary input to achieving educational output.

This PhD project will examine the interplay between students’ attitude and behaviour, patterns of absence, and academic achievement. Research has consistently shown that these three concepts are related, not only to each other, but with other student characteristics such as socio economic background. However, the literature has not yet addressed the interaction between these factors, and how the relationships and interactions develop over time. One of the key aims of this project is to address the questions that so far remain unanswered. For example, is absence in the early years a precursor for poor attitude and behaviours in later years, and if so, how early do problems emerge?

Further, the literature has not yet addressed the fine level detail that accompanies each episode of absence, including the number of absences within a given time period, whether short, frequent absences are more disruptive for students than long, infrequent absences, and if absences that occur earlier in the semester are more disruptive than those which occur later in the semester. The reasons provided for these absences are also of interest, and whether absences that occur for family or social reasons have different impacts to absences that are due to minor illness and also chronic illness.

Using a Western Australian Department of Education population-level database of up to 450,000 school students—including longitudinal measures of attitude and behaviour, attendance, and achievement—this project will address significant research gaps, and provide education policy makers with useful information relevant to Australian students in the Australian context.

Why my research is important

Longitudinal assessments of student attitude, behaviour and effort are rare. Analysis of such data will address questions often asked but seldom answered about the role of student engagement in the attendance-achievement relationship, and how these relationships evolve over time, along with questions around temporal patterns of absence. Additionally, this study will provide education policy makers with information relevant to Australian students in an Australian context. Both Federal and State Governments commit substantial amounts of funding to education and recognise the importance of attendance for student achievement. Research that examines the nuanced relationships around attitude, attendance and achievement will help to explain why some attendance polices succeed and why others fail, leading to the development of more appropriate intervention strategies.


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Last updated:
Monday, 1 September, 2014 3:06 PM