First-Year Students' Initial Motivational Beliefs at University: Predicted by Motivational Beliefs Derived from Within and Out-of-School Experience and Malleable Regardless of the Extent of Students' Out-of-School Experience

Julia Gorges
Frontiers in Psychology 2017, 8: 1258
The present study tested how academic self-concept of ability (ASC) and intrinsic task value (ITV) transpose onto novel university programs that depart from traditional subject areas within the framework of expectancy-value theory. The study focused on two potential sources of information used to anticipate one's ASC and ITV regarding new learning content (here: business administration). First, students' experiences from secondary school, especially their ASCs and ITVs established in a school subject they consider similar to business administration-mathematics-should predict their business administration-specific ASC and ITV. Second, students may have gained relevant experience in out-of-school settings such as internships with business companies or commercial vocational training prior to entering higher education. ASC and ITV developed from out-of-school experiences was hypothesized to predict students' business administration-specific ASC and ITV as well. However, the likely mismatch between anticipated and actual experience with new contents should lead to revisions of ASC and ITV after entering university reflected in a presumably lower stability compared to secondary school settings. In addition, the extent of students' out-of-school experience might act as a moderator. Data were collected from 341 first-year students in higher education in Germany before they began their study program and again 3-4 months later. Confirmatory factor analyses support the discriminant validity of the measures used in the study. Results from structural equation modeling show that students' ASC/ITV derived from relevant out-of-school experience make an important contribution to their initial business administration-specific ASC and ITV beyond their mathematics-specific ASC/ITV. Furthermore, both business administration-specific ASC and ITV showed significantly lower stability coefficients over the initial study phase than research from secondary school indicating revisions to them via experience. Multiple-group structural equation modeling showed no moderating effect of the extent of students' out-of-school experience. The discussion focuses on interpretations of the expectancy-value theory that explicitly include motivational beliefs derived from out-of-school settings as antecedents of expectancy and value. With respect to practical implications, results are discussed in the light of student counseling and support to help students develop an adequate picture of a study program's learning contents and overcome initial motivational setbacks.

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