Are the Links between Academic Achievement and Learning Motivation Similar in Five Neighbouring Countries?

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Recently, much psychological research has been carried out to find universal phenomena across nations, for example in the structure of personality (McCrae et al. 1996), in self-esteem (Schmitt and Allik 2005), in beliefs and values (Inglehart 2006), in the link between IQ and wealth (Lynn and Vanhanen 2002, 2006). This research is valuable for testing different psychological theories in different cultural contexts.

The links between educational achievement and non-cognitive characteristics (such as interest in learning and self-evaluation) have been research objects for a long time: reports have been written analyzing the reciprocality of attitudinal characteristics (e. g. self-concept, self-efficacy, attribution, motivation, interests, and learning strategies) and the results of achievement tests (DiPerna et al. 2005, Schunk 1991, 2003, Multon et al. 1991). The focus of this research is on the relationship between the academic achievement and students' non-cognitive characteristics. F. Gagne and F. St. Pere had questioned with their work (2001) the common belief of most educators about the crucial role of motivation as a determinant of scholastic achievement, since they did not find clear empirical support for hypothesis that motivation contributes to the educational results (a study carried out among Canadian students).

The international educational studies conducted in the last few decades, such as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and TIMSS (Third International Mathematics and Science Study), have established conditions for researching educational achievement together with students' non-cognitive characteristics based on vast data banks. Reports about this interaction on the individual level considering international students' tests like PISA and TIMSS are have been? written (Taht and Must 2009, Eklof 2007, Shen and Pedulla 2000), and there are some attempts to compare this interaction between different countries (Shen and Pedulla 2000). In these reports, positive correlations are shown between motivation and achievement and also between self-evaluations and achievement on the individual level.

The question of whether the links between students' achievement and noncognitive characteristics are universal across different countries is not answered. The research on IQ and its correlates is an excellent example of how these data can be put to use. For example, Rindermann (2007) has showed the possibility to use a country's results in international tests like PISA or TIMSS as that country's IQ indicator. The same theme has been under consideration in the studies of Weiss (2008) and Lynn and Mikk (2009). The challenge is to seek similarity across nations in the data collected by the same methodology. There are first attempts to investigate the relationship between educational achievement and attitudes on the basis of data of international educational surveys across nations (Ross and Victoria 2009, Chiu and Xihua 2008, Shen and Pedulla 2000). The aim of this paper is to continue in this vein--to estimate the generalizability of the relationship of educational achievement and attitudes in five neighbouring Baltic and Nordic countries. According to Lynn and Vanhanen (2006:54) neighbouring countries have closely similar IQs. The achievement test results are only part of the data collected by these international tests, in PISA 2006 research data, the answers to non-cognitive questions are given, too.

In the above-mentioned paper (Taht and Must 2009), the relationships between general educational performance (GEP) and attitudes towards science learning were analysed using the Estonian PISA 2006 sample. The variable GEP was modelled as a common latent variable of the three observed achievement scales (mathematics, reading and science). Of thirteen attitudinal PISA scales, eight were used, related to student selves, not to general themes such as the environment. …