Influencers of Academic Effort: A Quantitative Study of 10th Grade Students
Poenitzsch, Nicole L
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As demands of education increase, reforms have fallen short of affecting the levels of advancement desired relative to student achievement and attainment. Present reforms, while positively affecting improvements in class size, teacher quality, instructional practices, technology, and fiscal resources have marginalized the notion that in order to learn more, students need to work harder. The intent of this study was to determine if there are relationships between levels of academic effort, academic efficacy, and belief in the meritocracy of the process of education for secondary students. Research procedures included exploratory factor analysis to extract proxy measures for academic efficacy, belief in the meritocracy of education, and academic effort from the survey items available on the Base Year 2002 Student Questionnaire designed and administered by the National Center for Educational Statistics as part of the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002. The sample population included 15,325 tenth grade students from 752 schools who participated in administration of the student questionnaire in accordance with the design guidelines established by the NCES. Multiple regression analysis was used to determine existence of linear relationships between academic effort, academic efficacy, and belief in the meritocracy of education, while controlling for characteristics of race, gender, socioeconomic status, and the interaction between academic efficacy and belief in meritocracy of education. This study is grounded by Albert Bandura?s (1977) social cognitive theory and his successive works on the agentive role of efficacy relative to moderation of action.Application of the regression model generated for this study produced standardized betas of .435 for both academic efficacy and belief in meritocracy relative to academic effort. The overall levels of academic efficacy, belief in the meritocracy of education, and academic effort measured by tenth grade students? responses to the selected survey items were relatively low. However, the regression model employed accounted for approximately 60% of the variance observed in levels of academic effort. The selected control variables of race, gender, socioeconomic status, and the interaction between academic efficacy and belief in the meritocracy of education demonstrated weak relationships with academic effort that were not significant relative to practical impact. Gender and African American Race were the only two control variables that produced statistically significant relationships relative to academic effort. However, each produced negligible impact relative to effort with gender revealing a standardized beta of .090 for gender and .022 for African American Race. The control variables accounted for approximately two percent of the total variance explained by the model employed in this study. The directionality of some of the relationships depicted between the referenced control variables and the variables of academic efficacy, belief in the meritocracy of education, and academic effort lend themselves to further investigation. The findings of this study provide for the conclusion that there is a positive and statistically significant linear relationship between academic effort and academic efficacy, and between academic effort and belief in the meritocracy of education while race, gender, and socioeconomic status are only weakly related and yield a non-significant impact on academic effort.