A Model of Academic Enablers and Elementary Reading/language Arts Achievement

Article excerpt

Abstract. This article includes a review of theoretical and empirical models of educational outcomes to identify student attitudes and behaviors that researchers have hypothesized to influence academic achievement. A theoretical model is proposed of the relationships between specific academic enablers (motivation, interpersonal skills, engagement, and study skills) and academic achievement. Structural equation modeling is used to test the fit of this model for two samples of elementary students. The results of these modeling analyses indicate that prior achievement and interpersonal skills influence motivation, which in turn influences study skills and engagement to promote academic achievement. The article concludes with a discussion of practical implications of the tested model as well as necessary directions for future research regarding models of academic enablers and academic achievement.

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DiPerna and Elliott (2002) define the construct of academic enablers as "attitudes and behaviors that allow a student to participate in, and ultimately benefit from academic instruction in the classroom" (p. 294) and suggest that academic enablers include broad domains such as motivation, interpersonal skills, engagement, and study skills. In the present article, theoretical and empirical models of educational outcomes are reviewed briefly to identify student attitudes and behaviors that researchers have hypothesized to influence academic achievement. The results of this literature review are used to develop a theoretical model of the relationships between academic enablers and academic achievement and test the fit of this model for two samples of elementary students. This article concludes with a discussion of practical implications of this specific model as well as directions for future research to further clarify possible functional relationships between academic enablers and academic achievement.

Theoretical and Empirical Models of Academic Achievement

During the past four decades, several educational researchers (e.g., Bennett, 1978; Carroll, 1963; Glaser, 1976; Walberg, 1981) have proposed theoretical models to explain direct and indirect influences on students' educational outcomes. Despite slight variations among the specific constructs included in these theoretical models, all share some conceptual similarities. Specifically, each theoretical model includes characteristics of Pie learner, the learning environment, and the quality of instruction the learner receives (Haertel, Walberg, & Weinstein, 1983). Although some constructs from these models have received empirical support in the research literature, one potential shortcoming of existing theoretical models is that they do not include many of the significant student characteristics that influence educational outcomes. A review (Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1993) of the empirical literature regarding the correlates of one educational outcome, academic achievement, indicated that student characteristics exhibit the most significant direct influence on achievement.

One of the few empirically tested theories of academic achievement including student variables is Walberg's (1981) theory of educational productivity. This theory posits that psychological characteristics of individual students and their immediate psychological environments influence educational outcomes (cognitive, behavioral, and attitudinal) (Reynolds & Walberg, 1992c). Based upon reviews of approximately 3,000 studies, Walberg identified nine key variables that influence educational outcomes: student ability/prior achievement, motivation, age/developmental level, quantity of instruction, quality of instruction, classroom climate, home environment, peer group, and exposure to mass media outside of school (Walberg, Fraser, & Welch, 1986). The first three of these variables (ability, motivation, and age) reflect aspects of student aptitude; the fourth and fifth variables reflect instruction (quantity and quality), and the final four variables (classroom climate, home environment, peer group, and exposure to media) represent aspects of the psychological environment. …