Changing College Students' Psychological Constructs of Learning Influences Their Academic Performances

Article excerpt

Based on the psychology theory and the leadership definition, the author designed questionnaires of psychological constructs of learning and leadership characters to investigate the correlation between four psychological constructs of learning and leadership characters and to inquiry into whether changing students' psychological constructs of learning changes their course grades. Participants were 93 four-year college students in Taiwan. The results showed positive correlations between psychological constructs of learning and leadership characters were statistically significant. Three models were obtained from using multiple regression analysis to analyze data. The models showed that changing psychological constructs of learning influenced students' academic performances. One of the models can be used for predicting the next year students' course grades.

INTRODUCTION

Students' psychological constructs of learning include the internal locus of control, the external locus of control, positive attitudes, and negative attitudes. The construct is a meaningful combination of concepts and is not directly observable (Schumacher & McMillan, 1993). However, it can be measured by well-designed questionnaires (Chert, 2002; Chert, Wu, & Ku, 2001; Wielkiewicz, 2000). The internal locus of control is we believe that we have control over situations and rewards, yet the external locus of control is that we believe situations and rewards being out of our control and that the events outside ourselves determine what happens (Hellriegel, Slocum, Jr., & Woodman, 1998; Plotnik, 1996). Attitudes may be defined as any belief or options that includes a positive or negative evaluation of some target and that predisposes us to act in a certain way toward the target (Baron, 1998; Coon, 1998; Hellriegel et al., 1998).

The academic performances were the engineering mathematics examinations and course grades. Three-credit engineering mathematics course was taught three hours per week; it was a required course for the college students whose majors were in engineering and science. Because the engineering mathematics course is a prior and basic knowledge for the engineer and the scientist, if engineering or science major students gained good grades, they may have better academic performance in the engineering and science related courses (Chen 1998; Feldman 1993; Graham & Hughes 1994; Johnson, Jr., 1987). Also, higher academic grades have been found to make an important contribution to the retention of student (Chen & Thomas, 2001; Graham & Caso, 2002; Pascarella, Smart, & Ethington, 1986).

Researchers found that the result of teaching and learning was influenced by the student prior constructed knowledge, learning motivation, and the problem solving strategy (Chen, 2001a; Mayer, 1987/91). However, the factors of textbooks, instruction methods, intelligent quotients, pressure, anxiety, study habits, resident status, and endeavoring to the study may also influence students' academic grades (Blumner & Richards, 1997; Chen, 1998; Chen, 2001b; Taylor, 1987, 1988). Besides the former addressed factors, psychological constructs of learning and leadership characters influenced students' academic performances (Besterfield-Sacre, Atman, & Shuman, 1997; Chen, 2002; Chen et al., 2001).

For psychological construct of learning, educators and psychologists found that people with an internal locus of control were generally higher achievers although the correlation is as low as .20 to .30 but it was statistically significant (Chen, 2002; Plotnik, 1996). In Chen's (2003)paper, students who had lower semester grades showed higher external locus of controls, but students who had better semester grades were in positive attitudes toward learning. Also, the students' academic performances were found influenced by their negative attitudes toward learning (Chen, et al., 2001), i.e., students who had lower semester grades showed negative attitudes toward learning. …