Student Attitudes and Academic Background as Predictors of Achievement in College English

Article excerpt

An emerging trend in instructional systems design is the consideration of the motivational characteristics that students bring to the learning environment (1-2). For instance, motivation topics (such as achievement motivation and intrinsic/extrinsic motivation) have been integral parts of the graduate curriculum in instructional design (3) while a recent cognitive model for instructional design included motivation as a component (4). Further, a motivational model of instructional design has been developed to improve the effectiveness of instructional materials (5-7); that model has been tested (8) and integrated with adult learning theory to comprise a model of instructional design intended for applications in higher education (9). Similarly, a student-centered approach to learning has been utilized to develop university courses (10) and resulted in improved student self-confidence in computer use. Finally, the importance of student motivation for the development of computer-based instructional materials has been discussed (11). However, it has been suggested that there is a continuing need to explore the relationship between student motivation and instructional outcomes (12).

Two specific learner characteristics that have been identified as predictors of students' achievement outcomes are academic self-concept and achievement expectancies. For instance, several recent studies have found both achievement expectancies and academic self-concept to be significant predictors of college grade outcomes. Gordon (13) found that achievement expectancies predicted grades in selected general education courses while recent research found students' expectations of graduating with honors and of earning at least a B average in college to be significantly related to grade performance in introductory college psychology (14). Other studies have found that achievement expectancies are significant predictors of other types of outcomes such as cumulative grade performance (15), grades in mathematics (16-18) and science courses (19-22), and school withdrawal (23). With regard to academic self-concept, several studies have found that there is a significant relationship with the performance of students of varying ages and on several types of academic tasks. For example, academic self-concept is significantly correlated with subsequent achievement for elementary and secondary school-aged students (24-31). For college students, academic self-concept has been shown to be a significant predictor of overall grade performance (32-33), grades in specific courses (34-35), and school withdrawal (36-38). Further, students' educational intentions and goal commitment are significant predictors of withdrawal from college (39). Consequently, there is considerable research indicating that initial learner characteristics are related to subsequent academic achievement.

At many universities, an important component of the undergraduate curriculum is the completion of general education requirements. These general education courses are typically directed toward the development of student competencies in skills such as reading, writing, listening, speaking, and mathematical skills. Further, in many instances students are encouraged to meet general education requirements during their first year of college. Consequently, students' achievement outcomes in general education courses can have a critical impact on whether or not students continue in college to the eventual completion of a bachelor's degree.

Numerous studies have investigated the validity of admissions test scores for predicting students' cumulative grade performance (40). However, a more limited number of studies have assessed the degree to which admissions test scores predict later achievement in college English courses. Results from two studies suggest that American College Testing Program (ACT) Composite scores are significantly correlated with students' grades in first-year English courses (41- 42). …