Motivation and Performance of First-year Students

  •  Irene Roozen    
  •  Katie Goeman    
  •  Luc De Grez    


Adjusting to academic life and managing to perform well at university is challenging for any first-year student. One of the keys to study success is motivation. In line with the social cognitive approach, two motivational constructs are considered: self-efficacy and attribution. Previous studies predominantly took a ‘snapshot’ of first year students' motivation, thereby ignoring the fact that students re-evaluate their self-efficacy as they experience success and failure over time. It is believed that a better understanding of such changes might inform targeted interventions. This case study investigated the development of self-efficacy beliefs and attribution among first-year students in an Economics undergraduate program. One hundred and four students completed three questionnaires at the start of their first academic year, two months later and after they received the results of their first semester exams. Repeated multivariate tests were conducted in order to analyse significant differences in self-efficacy and attribution scores over time. The results suggest that unsuccessful students hold unrealistic self-efficacy beliefs about courses that are new to them. Furthermore, attributions were dependent on the course involved and on students’ exam results. As a consequence, it is suggested to organize early detection and to provide feedback in order to render these beliefs more truthful.

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