Motivated Attention: Promoting Academic Resilience and Student Retention at University
A variety of cognitive, motivational and behavioral issues relate to academic success or failure in university. Various challenges at university can trigger cognitive and other mental processes within individuals that can predispose those students to either continue or withdraw from university. Of interest in this review is what occurs in students’ minds when students are passing or failing university, and what insights can be gained from the literature and from research to better inform student retention efforts at university. Based on cognitive and motivational theory, a conceptual model was developed of how the success and failure experiences of students at university may be construed within working memory. In the model, goal-related information is represented dichotomously in working memory in terms of the perceived strengths and resources of the individual for achieving the goal, along with any weaknesses and threats to goal attainment that might exist. Because academic success and failure tend to be deeply felt personal experiences, mental representations are apt to include positive or negative cognitions, images, emotions, and physiological state information pertinent to the situation. The prevalence and content of such positive or negative information in working memory can persuade students to either continue at university or withdraw from further study. Four distinct patterns of dichotomous working memory representation were identified, depicting four student scenarios: (a) those who pass university and plan to continue with their studies, (b) those who pass but plan to withdraw from the university, (c) those who fail and plan to withdraw from university, and (d) those who fail university but plan to continue attending if possible. The latter three scenarios underscore particular forms of self-regulatory failure - failure to set reasonable standards or goals, failure to monitor one's progress effectively, and failure to demonstrate and apply necessary skills (Carver and Scheier, 1998). It is contended that retention initiatives designed around helping students establish and maintain positive working memory representations regarding their academic work at university should help to ensure they succeed. A cognitive-motivational perspective on student endeavours at university can help to inform institutional policy, teaching practices, and student counselling in the service of improving post-secondary student retention efforts.
30 Nov -0001
Strategic Research Theme
Community and Regional Development