Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

School

School of Education

Program

Curriculum and Instruction PhD

First Advisor

John V. G. Matthews

Second Advisor

Tammy B. Overstreet

Third Advisor

Jimmy Kijai

Abstract

Problem

One of the most significant issues for higher education in the early 21st century is student success. Research studies indicate that a large number of freshman community college students are unsuccessful in their academic endeavor. However, there is insufficient research conducted to determine the holistic causes of this problem. Current research focuses on two types of traditional predictors: cognitive (ability, academic factors) and non-cognitive (affective, non-academic factors). It seems, however, that traditional cognitive and non-cognitive predictors alone are inadequate measures for determining students’ full potential because they cannot account for the psychological processes that contribute to and influence a student’s behavioral engagement. Although several research endeavors established connections between psychological predictors and students’ academic performance, there are a limited number of research studies analyzing the impact of individual well-being on student academic success. To address this gap in the research, this study seeks to examine the interrelationship among the six dimensions of Psychological Well-Being (PWB), the student cognitive attributes (high school grade point average [GPA] and American College Test [ACT] scores) and the community college student first-year, first-semester (FYFS) college GPA. The purpose of this study was to examine the interplay between the cognitive and multi-dimensional psychological variables, and the extent to which they may influence one another regarding their impact on freshman student GPA. The study specifically analyzes the interrelationship between the six dimensions of PWB and students’ scores on prior cognitive indicators (high school GPA and ACT scores) to create a prediction model that illustrates how these variables contribute to academic success measured by Southwestern Michigan College (SMC) students’ FYFS GPA.

Method

A non-experimental, predictive, correlational design was used in this quantitative study. The participants in this study were FYFS students (n = 174) enrolled at SMC in the fall of 2015. A 42-item version of Ryff’s PWB scale was administered to all participants. This questionnaire is designed to measure PWB among six dimensions: Autonomy, Environmental Mastery, Personal Growth, Positive Relations With Others, Purpose in Life, and Self-Acceptance. Students’ prior academic achievement records (high school GPA and ACT scores) and the FYFS student GPAs were obtained from SMC’s Banner Data Standards System. Student demographic variables (Age, Gender, Ethnicity, Major, and Parents’ Educational Level) were obtained from a student selfreported demographic questionnaire.

Results

Seven linear regression models were built to answer the research questions. Models 2, 6, and 7 arrived at the same results as the best-fit models. Models 2, 6, and 7 revealed that high school GPA had a statistically significant effect on FYFS GPA (F[1, 135] = 72.87, p < .001). For each point higher in the student’s high school GPA, his or her FYFS GPA increased by an average of 0.79, 95% CI (0.61, 0.97). The resulting adjusted R2 value was 0.35, indicating that approximately 35% of the variation found in FYFS GPA can be explained by students’ high school GPA. Model 2 arrived at its model fit without considering any of the psychological factors. However, Models 6 and 7 arrived at their model fits after considering the psychological factors, and concluded that PWB factors do not contribute to explaining any unique variance in students’ FYFS GPA.

Conclusion

The findings of this research study revealed that high school GPA is the strongest predictor of students’ FYFS college GPA. The study revealed that approximately 35% of the variation found in the rural community college students’ FYFS GPA can be explained by the students’ high school GPA. I also concluded that even though I do not endorse Models 3 and 4, these models together suggest that there might be evidence to support a marginally significant relationship between Positive Relations With Others and FYFS GPA. Positive Relations With Others as a PWB variable emerged to be more important than the other PWB variables in its contribution to explaining 3.2% of the variation found in the FYFS GPA. Therefore, given the limitations of the study, dismissing the idea that students’ PWB dimensions contribute to their FYFS GPA would be premature. In light of current research, further research studies that would avoid the limitations of this study should validate this idea. Furthermore, in order to determine truly the effect of PWB dimensions on students’ FYFS GPA, a longitudinal research on a larger sample size in urban and rural college settings should be carried out.

Subject Area

College freshmen, Community college students, Academic achievement, Prediction of scholastic success

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