What Affects Student Achievement
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This study aimed to identify student-level variables that influence academic outcomes, and to determine the extent of their influence. In Study 1, final year secondary students (N = 654) completed a questionnaire gathering demographic information and measuring possible influencing variables. A number of these variables predicted academic achievement, including demographic, attitudinal, personality, study strategy and intelligence variables. Mathematical intelligence was the strongest predictor of achievement for all three achievement variables used, and was followed by school decile. Openness to experience and critical reasoning intelligence were the next strongest predictors of two achievement variables (proportion of Merit and Excellence credits attained and Level 3 attainment), while the third achievement variable (credits attained) was next best predicted by participant sex and verbal intelligence. Self-regulation skills were more beneficial when used by high intelligence participants. Likewise, critical thinking skills were more beneficial for high intelligence participants, high socio-economic participants and non-Māori participants.
These interactions and the influence of participant openness to experience were further explored in a subsequent study, in which a second group of final year secondary students (N = 122) participated in a year-long study. Participants were divided into three groups: one group was taught critical thinking skills; a second group was taught strategies relating to the facets of openness to experience; and the third group was a control group. The control group was taught peer learning skills, which the previous study found did not relate to student achievement. The results of the interventions did not show a change in either the target variables or in student achievement for any of the three groups.
Study 3 aimed to identify the student-level variables that influence academic outcomes for first year tertiary students and to determine the relative influence of each variable. This longitudinal study involved students at a New Zealand tertiary institution (N = 62) who had previously participated in Study 1 during their Year 13 year. Participants completed a questionnaire that collected demographic, attitudinal, personality and study strategy variables. Year 13 achievement and the use of critical thinking skills were the strongest predictors of student achievement.