An exploration of university student perceptions of discipline: Introducing F.I.R.S.T. discipline principles

Hana Krskova*, Yvonne Breyer, Chris Baumann, Leigh Norma Wood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The role of discipline in achieving higher academic and workplace performance is receiving increasing attention; however, research into student discipline has historically centred on schools. The purpose of this paper is to explore how university students from multiple faculties and at different stages of academic progression understand discipline in higher education, with the aim to investigate how graduates could become more disciplined and more work ready. 

Design/methodology/approach: This study adopted a qualitative exploratory approach. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with university students and analysed using thematic analysis. 

Findings: The students viewed discipline as internally driven as opposed to being enforced externally, which is often the case in schools. Five main themes were identified as discipline dimensions: “focus”, “intention”, “responsibility”, “structure” and “time” (F.I.R.S.T.).

Originality/value: A new concept of discipline is presented, underpinned by a conceptual framework comprised of self-determination, goal-setting, self-efficacy, self-regulation and time management principles. A “Threshold Concept of Discipline”, a hierarchical four-layered concept that develops over time for every individual with the ultimate level being “Creative Discipline”, is proposed. These findings illuminate learning strategies that higher education institutions can use to further enhance learning and increase the work readiness of their graduates. Such strategies can empower students who aspire to perform at a higher level and to become true professionals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-82
Number of pages22
JournalHigher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Academic performance
  • Discipline definition
  • F.I.R.S.T. discipline
  • Higher education
  • Qualitative research
  • Work readiness


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