Beyond ACT & GPA: self-efficacy as a non-cognitive predictor of academic success

Published date05 March 2018
Date05 March 2018
AuthorRobert J. Tepper,Steven A. Yourstone
Subject MatterAccounting & Finance,Accounting/accountancy,Accounting methods/systems
Beyond ACT & GPA: self-ecacy
as a non-cognitive predictor of
academic success
Robert J. Tepper and Steven A. Yourstone
Anderson School of Management,
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
Purpose The purpose of this study is to identify signicant non-cognitive variables as predictors of
student successin an introductory accounting class.
Design/methodology/approach Non-cognitive characteristics of the students were obtained by
surveying two sections of an introductory accounting class. Survey results were combined with student
performance in the class. Regressionanalysis was applied to determine the signicant predictors of academic
Findings Findingsshow that students with similar ACT scores and GPA may outperform others owing to
the effect of certain non-cognitive variables pertaining to self-efcacy. These included the individuals
perceivedskill level, tendency to become discouraged and expected performancerelative to others.
Research limitations/implications One research limitation is the lack of a pre- and post-test to
measure any interventions. No interventions are part of this research study, but this limitation provides a
strong suggestionfor future research. Also, largersample sizes might lead to different results.
Practical implications Cognitive ability is the intellectual capability that enables one to acquire,
memorize, recall,combine, compare and use information and conceptual skills in new frameworks(Cronbach,
1984;Jensen, 1998). Standardizedtests measure cognitive variables (Sedlacek, 2011).Research demonstrates
that cognitive ability alonewill not provide the best predictive model of performance (Hall et al.,2006). This
study of certain non-cognitive variables improves instructor understanding of student success, increases
predictiveability and informs teaching methods and interventions.
Originality/value This study differs from previous researchby adding to and enhancing the currently
small and limitedbody of literature. While other studies have identiedlargely cognitive factors that relate to
success in the introductory accounting course (Phillips,2015), this study identies signicant non-cognitive
variables relating to self-efcacythat can help accounting educators better understandstudent performance
in introductoryundergraduate nancial accounting courses.
Keywords ACT, GPA, Cognitive ability, Introductory accounting, Student perceptions,
Student performance
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
The purpose of this study is to identify non-cognitive variables that contribute to
understanding student success in an introductory nancial accounting course. Non-
cognitive factors encompass sets of behaviors, skills, attitudes and strategies that are
crucial to studentsacademic performance and persistence in post-secondary education
(Nagaoka et al.,2013). The traditional predictors of student performance are ACT or SAT
scores, and entering grade-pointaverage (GPA). ACT scores (available for all students) and
GPA were used initially to explain variation in the totalpoints achieved. Thereafter, certain
non-cognitive variables that might enhance understanding of student performance were
predictor of
Received10 May 2017
Revised20 October 2017
9November 2017
Accepted10 November 2017
InternationalJournal of
Accounting& Information
Vol.26 No. 1, 2018
pp. 171-186
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/IJAIM-05-2017-0060
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
identied. Students were surveyed concerning numerous non-cognitive characteristics
beyond demographics, includingperceptions about themselves, the classroom environment,
pedagogy used and the discipline in general. Ultimately, only a few of the characteristics
helped to explainthe variation in student performance.
This paper begins with a discussion of theliterature background of the study. Section 2
describes the methodology of the study, while Section 3 describes the research method.
Section 4 discusses the results of the study. Section 5 of the paper concludes with a
discussion of results,directions for future research and the limitations of the study.
2. Literature review
Personality characteristicscan have strong predictive power in addition to ACT scores and
GPA (Harrison and Rainer, 1992). Personalitycharacteristics vary and can be identied and
documented. Those characteristicscan enhance explanatory power in addition to traditional
cognitive measures. Non-cognitive skills include individual characteristics such as
motivation, condence, tenacity, trustworthiness, perseverance, social skills and
communication skills(Gutman and Schoon, 2013).
2.1 Self-ecacy: general concepts
Self-efcacy can be denedas an individuals estimation of ones ability to use all capacities
to perform a task or tasks (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975). Self-efcacy can be a signicant
predictor of student grades (McKenzieand Schweitzer, 2001). Perceived self-efcacy refers
to beliefs in ones capabilities to mobilizethe motivation, cognitive resources and courses of
action needed to meet given situationaldemands(Wood and Bandura, 1989, p. 408). Beliefs
of self-efcacy may affect an individualstudents level of perseverance and determinationto
succeed in a class.
Self-efcacy may be viewed as generalized or task specic(Hall et al., 2006). Task
specic self-efcacy has been identied as an effective predictor of performance in a study
by Yi and Im (2004).People who think theycan perform well on a task do better than those
who think they will fail(Gist and Mitchell, 1992, p. 183). Gist and Mitchell discuss the
construct of self-efcacy, including its determinants and the accuracy of individual
judgments. Seligman (1991) surveyed studentsattributional characteristics when they
entered a university. Seligman found that the optimistic students attained signicantly
higher grades than wouldhave been predicted by achievement tests and high schoolgrades.
Conversely, the more pessimistic students achieved lower performance than what would
have been predicted by achievementtests and high school grades.
Attitudes toward the importance of specic subject matter can also affect performance;
Marzuki et al. (2017, pp. 152-153) noted that in the context of teaching ethics education in
accounting, positiveattitudes about the need for such education enhanced self-efcacy:
As academics more strongly perceive ethics education as being critical to the profession and the
public interest, the greater the belief that one is able to personally convey the importance of
ethical values in their classes.
This suggests that self-efcacyaffects the performance not only of students but alsoof their
instructors, and student attitudes concerningthe importance of nancial accounting should
not be overlooked.
2.2 Self-esteem distinguished from self-ecacy
The construct of self-esteem is frequently confused with the construct of self-efcacy (Gist
and Mitchell, 1992). Self-esteemis considered to be a personality trait such as self-worth and

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