Exploring Four Hong Kong low achieving Cantonese students evolved into high achieving HE learners through the Lens of Higgins’ Self-and-Affect Model

  • Tim C Edgar Chow

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


This qualitative study relates to four Cantonese graduates from a non-traditional overseas university (University X) who prior to their Bachelor’s degrees achieved very little academic success. In each case they evolved to become high achievers, graduating with First Class Honours awards. The research addresses the question as to whether their experience can be used to shed light on the situation of other learners in Higher Education from similar backgrounds. It is investigated from the perspective of a Cantonese-speaking graduate of the same university whose learning trajectory took a similar shape.

Established theory on self-efficacy frames the study, which revisits and reflects with the graduates on the journeys that each has undertaken. In the first section, a review of relevant literature is undertaken and used to justify the main theoretical foundations of this inquiry which has two dimensions: i) the human development dimension (Harris, 1998; Deci et al., 1996), and ii) the expectancy dimension (Higgins, 1987). The human development dimension probes the fields of goals, motivation, self-efficacy and performance, while Higgins’ expectancy dimension supplies an analytical framework through which the underlying patterns and connections between low/high-achieving-learning, academic/non-academic goal, own/other effect and the entwining “relational-dependent selves” of Cantonese learners.

Following Higgins (1987), I draw the conclusion in section 6.5 that the learners studied in this paper are affected more significantly by the “other”, than the “own”, and that the effects these relations produce often escape awareness. The study opens up an avenue towards understanding the ways in which higher education can create a supportive environment that enriches the experience of Cantonese learners.
Date of Award22 Mar 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorJanet L Orchard (Supervisor)


  • Higher Education
  • Hong Kong Cantonese learners
  • Expectancy
  • High-achieving
  • Low-achieving
  • Relational-dependent

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