An Analysis of the Factors Involved in the Process of Academic Achievement, with an Emphasis on Assessing Differences in Achievement between African-Americans and Whites at a Predominantly White University

Craig Saunders Cabezas (Ph.D., 1991)

Thesis directed by Professor Peter G. Ossorio

Numerous attempts have been made to understand the variables underlying achievement. Initial studies considered pre-collegiate variables (e.g., high school grade point average, high school rank) as a way to measure achievement. However, several researchers, including Breland (1978), demonstrated that the use of these variables was insufficient for predicting achievement in ethnic groups other than Whites. Other researchers (Sedlacek and Brooks, 1976) addressed this concern by examining "noncognitive" variables (e.g., self-concept) and found these variables to be effective in predicting graduation rates and cumulative college grade point average (G.P.A.).

While these studies have provided valuable information about achievement, a continued concern has been that most studies in achievement lack a conceptual basis. One of the purposes of this study was to develop a conceptually-based model which examines achievement as a process.

A multi-cell integrative model has been developed. This model included six column variables (Selecting and Enrolling in a College, Choosing Appropriate Classes, Participating in Classes, Reviewing and Examining Lectures and Readings, Completing Daily Work Assignments, and Demonstrating Knowledge) that examine the task of achieving a high grade in a class, and five row variables (Ability, Motivation, Readiness, Opportunity, Adversity) that account for the influence of individual attributes on achievement. These row and column variables have been combined to develop thirty cells, each of which provides a potential explanation for why a student may fail in the process of achievement.

Another central purpose of this study was to compare differences in achievement across ethnicity, and so African-American and White students were sampled. In addition, hypotheses have been stated so that the cross-cultural validity of the model could be tested. Subjects completed questionnaires that were based on the multi-cell integrative model and G.P.A.'s were collected from official university records.

The results of the study indicated that the model accounted for a significant amount of the variance in G.P.A. for both ethnic groups. The findings also indicated that different variables were involved in the achievement of African-Americans, as compared with that of Whites. The findings suggested that differences in ethnicity must be addressed when assessing achievement.