A Model of Academic Enablers and Elementary Reading/language Arts Achievement
DiPerna, James Clyde, Elliott, Stephen N., Volpe, Robert J., School Psychology Review
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.
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.
Since proposing his theory of educational productivity, Walberg has engaged in a program of research exploring the effects of the aforementioned nine variables on the educational outcomes of achievement and attitude (e.g., Parkerson, Lomax, Schiller, & Walberg, 1984; Reynolds & Walberg, 1991, 1992a, 1992b, 1992c; Walberg, Fraser, & Welch, 1986). In addition, Keith and colleagues (e.g., Anderson & Keith, 1997; Cool & Keith, 1991) have tested models of academic achievement influenced by Walberg's theory of educational productivity. Both Walberg and Keith consistently found that a student variable, prior achievement, had the largest direct effects on current achievement, and another student variable, motivation, had significant total effects on achievement. Similar to the aforementioned theoretical models, one potential limitation of the Walberg and Keith studies is that the models tested in these studies may have omitted other key student variables that contribute to academic achievement.
Wang, Haertel, and Walberg (1993) attempted to explore the relative magnitude of each of 228 variables on academic achievement. The authors used three different review methods (content analysis of review articles, expert ratings, and meta-analysis) to determine which of the 228 variables have the most significant effect on student achievement. Based on these reviews, the authors concluded that "proximal" variables such as psychological, instructional, and home environment characteristics have a more significant impact on achievement than "distal" variables such as state-, district-, or school-level policy or demographics. They also concluded that, within the proximal variables, student characteristics (i.e., social, behavioral, motivation, affective, cognitive, and metacognitive) have the most significant impact on student outcomes.
As currently defined, the concept of academic enablers falls within the student characteristics that Wang et al. (1993) identified as having the most significant effect on academic achievement. As such, testing a model of the relationships between academic achievement and the academic enablers that DiPerna and Elliott (2000, 2002) have specified may lead to the identification of significant variables that have been omitted from prior empirically tested models. In addition, development of such a model may provide a framework for conceptualizing assessment, intervention, and prevention services for students experiencing academic difficulty. Based on the research of Walberg and Keith, it is clear that prior achievement and motivation must be considered in a model of academic enablers. The following section includes a review of research related to three other student variables--social behavior, engagement, and study skills--that have been shown to contribute meaningfully to academic achievement and are included i n our theoretical model of academic enablers.
Relationships Between Social Behavior, Engagement, Study Skills, and Academic Achievement
Wentzel (1993) and Malecki (1998) have contributed to a program of research exploring the relationship between social behaviors, problem behaviors, and academic outcomes. Wentzel (1993) examined the relationship between measures of academic outcomes (i.e., grades and standardized achievement test scores) and students' social and academic behavior. In this study, teacher ratings of students' prosocial, antisocial, and academic behavior were significant, independent predictors of students' grade point averages. Prosocial and antisocial behavior also contributed indirectly to GPA through academic behavior. However, only prosocial behavior was a significant, independent predictor of …
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Publication information: Article title: A Model of Academic Enablers and Elementary Reading/language Arts Achievement. Contributors: DiPerna, James Clyde - Author, Elliott, Stephen N. - Author, Volpe, Robert J. - Author. Journal title: School Psychology Review. Volume: 31. Issue: 3 Publication date: Summer 2002. Page number: 298+. © 2002 School Psychology Review. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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