The skill of discipline – measuring F.I.R.S.T discipline principles in higher education

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Human capital theory suggests that any increase in skills translates into greater productivity of the workforce. Non-cognitive skills, in particular, play a critical role in many domains in life. The aim of this study is to gain a greater understanding of one such skill, discipline. Viewing discipline as a tool for enhancing learning, personal development and increasing overall achievement, this study offers an alternative way to measure discipline in higher education.

Design/methodology/approach: This paper presents the results of an online survey of 537 current students and recent graduates from the United States, South Korea and China. Principal component analysis was used to test the overarching assumption that student discipline is composed of five dimensions. Multiple analysis of variance (ANOVA) with post hoc analyses and t-tests were applied to test for country and gender-related differences between the three country groups. Cluster analysis was used to profile the respondent groups based on similarities across the samples.

Findings: The results confirm that student discipline is a construct comprising five discipline dimensions – focus, intention, responsibility, structure and time (F.I.R.S.T). In addition, the identification of low, medium and high discipline levels among the respondents provides support for the recently introduced concept of a layered “threshold of Discipline”.

Originality/value: A F.I.R.S.T. discipline measurement questionnaire for capturing student discipline – underpinned by a conceptual model encompassing self-determination, goal setting, self-efficacy, self-regulation and time management principles – was developed and tested. Suggestions for enhancing graduate work readiness through increasing levels of the skill of discipline are outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-281
Number of pages24
JournalHigher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2021


  • Cross-cultural
  • Discipline questionnaire
  • F.I.R.S.T. discipline principles
  • Gender
  • Human Capital Theory
  • Threshold of discipline


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