Examining Psychosocial Impacts on Academic Performance

Article excerpt

The rapid growth of universities in Taiwan has created problems such as low quality of education and academic performance. The government has recently taken steps toward upgrading the quality of education, and therefore increasing the colleges' academic outcomes. Among these efforts was the establishment of the cabinet-level Higher Education Macroscopic Planning Committee in 2002 to put forth the vision of the development of higher education and provide the government with a direction on the policy for higher education (Ministry of Education, 2006).

Porter (2006) found that institutional structures affect students' engagement in predictable and substantively significant ways. Many measures and variables have been used to examine their impacts on academic performance in previous studies. McIlroy and Bunting (2001) integrated these measures in a manner that linked them to four major orientations within psychology - social cognitive theory, behaviorism, trait theory, and psychodynamic theory. The measures themselves are presented as operational definitions of each construct at the specific point of academic performance. According to Tharp and Gallimore (1988), the sociocultural perspective has profound implications for teaching, schooling, and education. A key feature of this emergent view of human development is that higher-order functions develop out of social interaction. However, these researchers looked at the impact of psychological and social variables on academic achievement separately. This prompted us to conduct this study by linking the variables in this integrated theory to academic achievement. Thus, in this study we aimed to investigate the impacts of the psychological variables on academic performance.

LITERATURE REVIEW

PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS

In this study we defined psychological factors as the sources of motivation to help students develop learning motivation, which can promote academic success (Adelman & Taylor, 1986; Gottfried, 1985). Pintrich and de Groot (1990) divided the psychological factors into three components: expectation, affective, and behavioral components.

The expectations component includes students' goals and beliefs about the importance and usefulness of the course (Sass, 1989). Goal setting is essential for learning, because it sets the standards for the students to evaluate their performance (Bandura, 1986), and students are motivated to continue exerting efforts or to adjust their behaviors to achieve optimal outcomes, in order to reach their goals (King, Harner, & Brown, 2000). This component also includes students' self-efficacy (Archer, Cantwell, & Bourke, 1999; Multon, Brown, & Lent, 1991). Self-efficacy is a broad term that is defined as a personal judgment of one's capability. Bandura (1993) found that belief in one's competence is the guiding force behind thought and action. Zimmerman (2000) also claimed that self-efficacy has emerged as a highly effective predictor of students' motivation and learning. Self-efficacy is believed to mediate the effects of reinforcement on behavior (Corrigan, 1990). This notion is supported by Archer et al. (1999), who stated that efficacy beliefs help one to determine how much effort people will expend on an activity, how long they will persevere when confronting obstacles, and how resilient they will be in the face of adverse situations.

The affective component relates to students' feelings or emotional reactions to the task. Academic emotions, such as students' enjoyment, hope, pride, relief, anger, anxiety, shame, hopelessness, and boredom are significantly related to students' motivation, learning strategies, self-regulation, behavior, and academic achievements, as well as classroom antecedents (Pekrun, Goetz, Titz, & Perry, 2002). For example, anxiety has been observed to be negatively related to academic performance (Hembree, 1988; Seipp, 1991). Another clear finding is that students exert greater effort, increase their learning level, and are more highly motivated to learn when tasks and topics are related to their own interests (Renninger, 2000). …