Academic journal article College and University

Transitioning from Quarters to Semesters: CHANGES IN COLLEGE STUDENTS' PREDICTED AND PERCEIVED MOTIVATION

Academic journal article College and University

Transitioning from Quarters to Semesters: CHANGES IN COLLEGE STUDENTS' PREDICTED AND PERCEIVED MOTIVATION

Article excerpt

Seventeen higher education institutions in Ohio converted from FUTURE RESEARCH quarter to semester systems in 2012-13 (Farkas 2012, Pyle 2009, Pyle 2012). Other institutions and systems that have undergone similar transitions include the Rochester Institute of Technology, California State University-Los Angeles, Auburn University, the University of Minnesota system, the Utah State system, and Northeastern University (Mayberry 2009). The decision to convert to a semester system is typically multifaceted (see Quann 1998), with rationales ranging from the financial to student transfer and curriculum, to name a few. The University System of Ohio (2012) identifies credit transfers as the greatest factor in the decision to make the change. Those who believe that all higher education institutions in Ohio should operate according to the same academic calendar contend that the change to a semester calendar would enable students to transfer credits more easily to different institutions within the state (Fingerhut 2010).

Despite the perceived benefits of converting to semesters, student motivation is rarely a primary focus of decision maldng about such a conversion; yet research indicates that achievement motivation may greatly influence students' learning outcomes. Motivation is defined as the process whereby goal-directed actions are instigated and sustained (Schunk, Pintrich and Meece 2014). Therefore, it is worth considering that an institution's change of its academic calendar may alter its students' "goaldirected actions." The conversion from three ten-week quarters to two fifteen-week semesters has the potential to change how students manage their time and/or their confidence in their ability to maintain their energy and focus throughout a fifteen-week academic term. Students who become fatigued (or de-motivated) as a result of the change may behave in a manner that is maladaptive to their learning and/or to the institution's mission. At the same time, students who perceive that a fifteen-week semester will provide them with more time to master course content may adapt their learning strategies (e.g., time management, self-regulation, etc.) accordingly. Thus, even though the decision to convert from a quarterto a semester-based calendar may rest primarily on issues related to institutional finances, student transfer protocols, and/or curriculum changes, the decision can have significant implications for student-motivated behaviors.

The literature suggests that faculty members favor semesters whereas students (undergraduates in particular) appear to favor quarters (Pyle 2007, 2009, 2012). Explanations for the difference include the notion that undergraduates may favor quarters because they are shorter and provide more opportunities to quickly obtain grades to demonstrate their competence {i.e., employing performance orientations). Faculty may favor semesters over quarters because they allow more time to delve deeply into content so that mastery can take place. (For more on how extended instructional time can be used to promote adaptive [mastery] goals, see Schunk, Pintrich and Meece, 2014, p.206.) Historically, opportunities to master course content have resulted in desirable learning outcomes for students (Anderman and Wolters 2006) whereas a focus on grades, competition, and test performance has been associated with shallow cognitive processes (Sinha and Kumar 2000).

In this mixed methods study, we investigate students' favoritism toward semesters and quarters at an institution undergoing semester conversion in addition to the predicted and perceived changes of their motivated behaviors (defined in this study as strategies and approaches to academic work). Finally, we compare students' self-reported motivation during their last year on the quarter system to that during their first year on the semester system.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Converting to Semesters

Semester calendars are more common than quarter calendars at u. …

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