Using Expectancy Theory to Assess Group-Level Differences in Student Motivation: A Replication in the Russian Far East

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ABSTRACT: We replicate and extend previous studies examining expectancy theory, accounting student motivation, and cultural differences (Harrell et al. 1985; Geiger and Cooper 1996; Geiger et at. 1998). Using a within-persons decision modeling approach, Individuals from four Russian accounting student groups were analyzed to determine whether group subcultures affect individual motivation and effort decisions. We find significant differences across individuals in different groups regarding the relative influences of three potential motivators: improving overall grade-point average, increased personal satisfaction, and increased esteem within the group. Regarding the students' effort-level decisions, we find no evidence of group-level differences. Overall, our evidence indicates Russian accounting students tend to value expectancy over valence in making their effort decisions; however, this finding is, in part, due to gender differences.

Data Availability: Access to the data will be provided upon approval by the appropriate administrators at the Khabarovsk State Academy of Economics and Law.


In a recent cross-cultural study of accounting student motivation, Geiger et al. (1998) present strong evidence suggesting students from different nations are motivated differently and weight differently the expectancy of success when deciding to exert academic effort. National culture and student motivation have been linked, but is this the limit of cultural influence? Hofstede (1991, 10) observed, "As almost everyone belongs to a number of different groups and categories of people at the same time, people unavoidably carry several layers of mental programming within themselves, corresponding to different levels of culture." At one level is the national culture, but lower levels of culture also exist, including a regional and/or ethnic and/or religious level, a gender level, a generation level, a social class level, and an organizational level (Hofstede 1991). In this study we investigate the relationship between student group subcultures and individual student motivation.

The American Accounting Association (AAA) has committed itself to pushing the frontier of knowledge into the international realm "to determine the ability to generalize research findings on an international scale, determine where differences lie and how they should influence accounting education." (See Wallace 1996, 111.) This study advances this theme by replicating, with Russian accounting students, the research designs of Harrell et al. (1985), Geiger and Cooper (1996), and Geiger et al. (1998). These studies employ Vroom's (1964) expectancy theory and a within-persons decision modeling method to examine individual accounting student motivation.

What distinguishes this study from earlier accounting student motivation studies is its focus on student group subcultures. Russian orthodox culture values the social group and in Russian universities group-based learning is central to the educational experience. For example, accounting students in Russian universities spend their entire five years of study in assigned student groups, attending all classes by group and engaging in recreational and social activities by group. Grouping students within academic disciplines has a long history in Russia. "After periods of experimentation during the first decades after the revolution, the Soviets implemented a highly centralized, standardized, and traditional educational system in 1934 that has remained roughly intact since then." (See Gerber 2000, 221.)

We find significant differences across individuals from different student groups regarding the relative influences of three potential motivators: improving overall grade-point average (GPA), increasing personal satisfaction, and increasing esteem within the group. Our evidence indicates improving overall GPA is the dominant motivator for most Russian accounting students and is particularly influential among individuals from groups containing larger proportions of academically distinguished students. …


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