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Motivational factors as predictors of student approach to learning

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Background and aim: Research indicates that both self-efficacy and test anxiety may influence student performance. There is also evidence to suggest that students´ approach to learn, i.e. whether they adopt a deep or surface approach affect the outcome of learning. There is, however, little research exploring the possible influences of self-efficacy and test anxiety on study behavior in higher education, and current research stresses the importance of considering both cognitive and motivational factors in higher educational contexts (Dinther et.al., 2010) Increasing our knowledge about these associations could improve our understanding of the processes and mechanisms involved in learning and academic performance. Methods: 1181 undergraduate and graduate students from four major faculties at Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark (response rate: 87.5 %) completed a questionnaire package assessing self-efficacy and test anxiety, together with a Danish version of the revised Study Process Questionnaire (R-SPQ-2F) and a number of other variables. Of these, 887 (75.1%) were undergraduate students enrolled in courses across 33 disciplines and 294 (24.9%) were graduate students enrolled in courses across 21 disciplines. Women constituted 61% of the total sample. Statistical analysisThe associations between approach to learn and the potential predictors were analyzed separately with linear regressions as well as with multivariate hierarchical regression analyses, adjusting for the remaining variables. Results: The results of the multiple linear regression showed that each of the motivational factors of self-efficacy, test-anxiety generally strong independent statistical significant predictors in the expected directions of students approach to learning, both when analyzed separately (Beta’s: 0.40 to -0.80; p: 0.0001 to 0.006) and when taking other motivational, background, and institutional factors into consideration (Beta’s: 0.30 to -0.06; p: 0.0001 to 0.06). When adding the motivational factors to the models, the explanatory power was increased considerably for both Deep (Final model: R2 = 0.279) and Surface approach (Final model: R2 = 0.214).Conclusion: Although successful learning largely depends on knowledge and skills, factors such as self efficacy and test anxiety play an important role as predictors of students’ learning approaches, and subsequent learning outcomes. Whether students react with anxiety or with enthusiasm is largely determined by the beliefs that they hold about their own ability. Students are not likely to be drawn towards an active discussion of new meanings if they have little confidence in their own abilities as thinkers. Teachers may think that they have no power to influence or enhance the value of a task to the students, but educators naturally play an important role in this process. Presenting the syllabus, setting the stage, and discussing it with the students are fundamental activities that help clarify the objectives and the means to obtaining them. Besides being a role model by showing enthusiasm for the subject, teachers are important moderators when it comes to building the ability and effort required for deep learning
Original languageEnglish
Publication year24 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2012
EventICED 2012 - Bangkok, Thailand
Duration: 23 Jul 201225 Jul 2012


ConferenceICED 2012

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