Course Performance, Locus of Control, and Academic Motivation among Developmental Education Students

Article excerpt

Abstract

I used the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) and the Rotter Scale Questionnaire (RSQ) to measure the academic motivation and locus of control of developmental education students, regularly-admitted students, and honors students. High-performing developmental education students had significantly higher scores than low-performing developmental education students on MSLQ items that measured learner beliefs, self-efficacy, and effort regulation, but not on items that measured self-regulation and time management. Overall, developmental education students scored lower than honors and regularly-admitted students on MSLQ items that measured learner beliefs, self-efficacy, time management, and effort regulation. There were no significant differences in the overall scores on the RSQ among either (a) honors, regularly-admitted, and developmental education students, or (b) lowand high-performing developmental education students. These results indicate that the MSLQ, and not the RSQ, can be used to identify developmental education students who may benefit from academic interventions.

More than one-third of the students at two- and four-year public and private institutions in the United States take at least one year of remedial courses (for comparison, 28% spent that much time in remedial courses in 1995; Cavanagh, 2003a, 2003b; Remedial education, 2003). Many of these students do not know that they are under-prepared for college. For example, (a) although today's entering freshmen have studied less in high school than any previous class, their poor studyhabits have been rewarded with the highest grades ever (Marklein, 2003; Sax, Lindholm, Astin, Korn, & Mahoney, 2002), (b) almost half of college freshmen had an A average in high school, but only one-third of these students studied more than six hours per week (Marklein, 2003; Sax, Lindholm, Astin, Korn, & Mahoney, 2002), and (c) most students in elementary through high school study less than an hour on most nights (Toppo, 2003). When these students get to college, they are often surprised to learn that graduation from high school does not necessarily mean that they are prepared for college. Indeed, in many states more than one-third of students who have earned academic scholarships must take remedial courses when they start college (Schouten, 2003).

The academic success of regularly-admitted college students is associated with a variety of factors, including personality and aptitude (Baird, 1984), stress and social class (Barney, Fredericks, & Fredericks, 1984), self-esteem and critical thinking (Bassarear, 1991; Berenson, Best, Stiff, & Waskik, 1990), academic motivation (Thomas & Higbee, 2000), and scores on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT (Arbona & Novy, 1990; Harackiewicz, Barron, Tauer, & Elliot, 2002; Moore, Jensen, Hsu, & Hatch, 2002; Neal, Schaer, & Ley, 1990; Young & Sowa, 1992). But what about developmental education students, who are often underprepared for college? For these students, traditional aptitude-based measures such as ACT scores are often poor predictors of academic success (Britton & Tesser, 1991; Higbee & Thomas, 1999; Langley, Wambach, Brothen, & Madyun, 2004; Meeker, Fox, & Whitley, 1994; Moore, 2003a, 2003b, 2004a, 2004b; Ray, Garavalia, & Murdock, 2003; Wolfe & Johnson, 1995). Motivation-based behaviors such as class attendance and course engagement, which often do predict the academic success of developmental education students (Cote & Levine, 2000; Bandura, 1986; Pintrich & DeGroot, 1990; ; Ley & Young, 1998; Lindner & Harris, 1998; VanZile-Tamsen & Livingston, 1999), cannot be measured until well after classes begin, at which time the problems are often difficult to remedy.

Developmental educators could help students if they could preemptively identify students who will benefit from academic interventions instead of offer afterthe-fact explanations. …