SMP Monthly Education Forum

The Role of Student and Customer Social Identification on University Students’ Learning Approaches and Psychological Well-Being


The current research measured students’ social identifications as university students and as university customers to predict their self-reported engagement in deep and surface learning, attitudes toward cheating, intent to continue their studies, and their psychological well-being (e.g., affect, self-esteem). Also measured were students’ perceptions of deep- and surface-learning norms. Overall, students identified more strongly as students than as customers. More relevant to hypothesized social-psychological processes, social identification as a university student positively predicted own deep-learning approach and intent to continue, but negatively predicted own surface-learning approach and favourable attitudes toward cheating. Enhanced university-student social identification was also associated with favourable psychological well-being. In contrast, social identification as a customer positively predicted own surface-learning approach and favourable attitudes toward cheating. It was only in the context of high deep-learning norms that university-customer social identification yielded some favourable learning and well-being outcomes. Conceptually, these results provide further support for the application of the social identity approach to educational contexts. In application, these results reveal that social identification as a student offers far better learning and psychological well-being outcomes than social identification as a customer. As such, if universities seek to embrace a transactional delivery of services and transform the student-as-customer metaphor into a reality, then they have the additional responsibility to ensure that there is a recognizable and acknowledged norm for deep learning.

This session speaks to the SMP Vision and Purpose and will be of interest to all SMP academic, professional and honorary staff.

About the speakers

Michael Platow is a professor of psychology. He has published widely on the social-psychology of leadership and social influence; justice, fairness, and trust; intergroup relations, including prejudice and discrimination; and education. He has received over two million dollars in research money from the Australian Commonwealth to study many of these processes, being awarded separate Discovery Grants on distributive justice, procedural justice, restorative justice, marginalizing racism, and lay views of prejudice. He is currently leading an international, ARC-funded research project on the psychology of “partisan truth.”

To learn more about Professor Michael Platow, click here.