Theses Doctoral

Individual Differences in Learning v. Achievement: What Self-Regulation Really Predicts

Modrek, Anahid Sandaldjian

What makes some students more effective learners and better academic performers than others? Is the answer identical with respect to learning and academic achievement, or do the contributing factors differ? I examined two kinds of self-regulation – cognitive regulation and behavior regulation – as predictors of individual differences in middle-school students’ learning and academic achievement. The type of learning investigated here is that of inductive learning, where knowledge must be discovered or constructed by the learner – the knowledge is not given to them, rather it is induced based on newly found evidence in light of preconceived beliefs.
Across two studies, one a pilot study with underachieving students of lower socioeconomic status (SES) (n=21) and the other a larger study with a wider range of lower to middle SES students (n=135), results were consistent. A measure of cognitive regulation, but not behavior regulation, predicted learning effectiveness on an inquiry learning task adapted for this study. Behavior regulation, but not cognitive regulation, predicted academic achievement (assessed by state-administered standardized achievement tests).
Longitudinal analyses were conducted to determine whether two distinct self-regulatory processes predicted change in academic performance. Cognitive regulation predicted improvement in math scores, while behavior regulation did not. Behavior regulation, however, showed little predictive power to English scores, and cognitive regulation showed none. Finally, to better understand the directional associations of these variables, structural equation modeling was performed. Results suggested that it is indeed cognitive regulatory processes, not behavior regulation, that predict learning effectiveness, which in turn predict improvement on both Math and English standardized test scores.
These results support the conclusion that (a) learning and academic achievement are distinct constructs, and (b) cognitive regulation and behavior regulation are related, but distinct, processes of self-regulation, with cognitive regulation the more consequential as a long-term predictor of both learning and academic achievement.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Developmental Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Kuhn, Deanna
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 2, 2016