Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Academic Procrastination in STEM: Interactive Effects of Stereotype Threat and Achievement Goals

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Academic Procrastination in STEM: Interactive Effects of Stereotype Threat and Achievement Goals

Article excerpt

A host of academic outcomes have been investigated as consequences of stereotype threat for women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), including attrition and decreased academic performance. However, the role of a potentially important precursor to these negative outcomes-academic procrastination-remains unclear. The present research sought to address this issue. University students (N = 223) enrolled in biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology courses participated in the study. Mastery approach, mastery avoidance, and performance avoidance achievement goals were hypothesized to moderate the effect of stereotype threat on academic procrastination. Results indicated significant interactions for women but not for men; however, interactions were not in the hypothesized direction for the avoidance goal moderators. Mastery approach goals exerted a significant buffering effect on the stereotype threat-academic procrastination relationship, but, contrary to prediction, both mastery avoidance and performance avoidance goals exerted a significant buffering effect. Implications for career-related outcomes among women in STEM are discussed.

Keywords: women in STEM, academic procrastination, stereotype threat, achievement goals

The shortage of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has emerged as an increasingly important career development issue in recent years. Despite a growing gender balance in the biological sciences, the National Science Foundation (2010) reported that only 21% of the bachelor's degrees in STEM were awarded to women in 2007. We wish to extend research on this shortage of women by examining academic procrastination as a possible early indicator of academic discontent. In the following sections, we also discuss the conceptual linkage between academic procrastination and two potentially important antecedents, stereotype threat and achievement goals, highlighting the shared relationship they hold with negative affect.

Academic procrastination

Certainly, most individuals procrastinate, or delay engagement with a task, from time to time. However, the body of literature that has accumulated over the years suggests that individuals who engage in dilatory behavior may be doing so at their own peril. Procrastination is generally viewed as a failure of self-regulation (Baumeister, 1997) that has deleterious effects in numerous areas of functioning (e.g., health; Sirois, 2007) and under a host of different circumstances (Blunt & Pychyl, 2000; Pychyl, Lee, Thibodeau, & Blunt, 2000). Perhaps the most popular context in which procrastination has been studied is the academic setting, because of the high frequency with which it occurs among students (Özer, Demir, & Ferrari, 2009) and because it has such important implications for academic and career development. Procrastination has been conceptu- alized as a self-handicapping strategy (Jones & Berglas, 1978) insofar as dilatory behavior allows one to postpone exposure to self-esteem threats that are expected to result from poor performance. Thus, pro- crastination may have the short-term benefit of protecting self-esteem, but performance is likely to suffer over the long term. Procrastination is often characterized by chronic self-doubt as evidenced by empirical linkages with work avoidance (Wolters, 2003) and test anxiety (Cassady & Johnson, 2002). It is not surprising, then, that fear of failure is also an antecedent of procrastination (Flett, Hewitt, Blankstein, & Mosher, 1991; Schraw, Wadkins, & Olafson, 2007) given that fear of failure is the affective component underlying anxiety and avoidance. Fear of failure appears to be particularly high among women in studies of procrastina- tion (Özer et al., 2009; Solomon & Rothblum, 1984). A typical fear of failure situation for college women occurs in classroom settings in which there may be concern about confirming the stereotyped belief that they cannot perform well in typically male-dominated STEM fields compared with men (e. …

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