Reframing Responsibility for Academic Success: A Causal Model Measuring the Impact of Student Attributes in the First Year of College

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2006-09-07

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The purpose of this single-institution study was to investigate the predictive power of student attributes in a path analytic model for academic success in the first year of college. Student attributes were defined as academic self-concept, social self-concept and self-determination; academic success was measured by cumulative college grade point average. The conceptual model tested in this study blends psychological theories of student attributes with Astin's (1991) input-environment-outcome (I-E-O) model, a sociological model of college impact. Using descriptive and path analytic techniques, this study contributes to assessment philosophy by demonstrating that student attributes predict academic success beyond what can be explained by prior achievement and involvement.

By examining the contributions of student attributes to academic and social involvement and to subsequent achievement, this study describes higher education as a partnership between student and institution for which both have responsibility. The findings of the study suggested at least through conclusions. First, accounting for student attributes contributes to an understanding of academic success. Rather than focus on the institution's responsibility to engage students, this study demonstrates that academic and social involvement and achievement are products, at least in part, of students' academic self-concept and self-determination. Second, results from this study indicate that measurable change in student attributes occurs during one year, a portion of which is attributable to students' academic and social involvement. These findings substantiate previous research on the impact of involvement on students' personal development (Astin, 1994; Berger & Milem, 1999) and affirm the benefits of college attendance. Third, this study demonstrates that the effects of the environment within the classic I-E-O model (Astin, 1991) are mediated through academic self-concept.

These findings reframe responsibility for student success by highlighting students' dispositions toward the academic enterprise as the strongest predictor of involvement and success. Consequently this study offers a different perspective of students' academic and social involvement. Rather than referring to involvement as an indication of the environment (Astin, 1994; Kuh, 1991), this study suggests that involvement behaviors are a measure of students' responsibility toward their collegiate experiences. The findings of this study have implications for future research, practice, and policy.

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