An investigation of the influences of college students' goals on quality of effort and growth during the freshman year

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The purpose of this study was to develop and test a conceptual model of influences of motivational factors and quality of effort on two freshman-year developmental outcomes. Literature on college effects indicates the importance of student characteristics in determining college outcomes, but does not provide evidence concerning the influences that students' nonacademic goals have on their growth and development.

A sample of freshmen dormitory residents responded to the College Student Experiences questionnaire. Goals data were provided by a survey conducted during freshmen orientation. Ordinary least squares regression analyses were used to estimate effects of quality of effort dimensions, motivational factors (including goals for college), and four background characteristics on two outcomes--perceived personal-social gains and perceived intellectual gains.

The hypothesized model did not fit the data. Highly intercorrelated quality of effort scores introduced multi-collinearity and led to unreliable estimates of the independent effects of the three quality of effort dimensions. The implications of collinearity and other characteristics of the data for interpretation of results were discussed.

Regression results indicated that, among the motivational factors, the importance of social goals contributed the most to student estimates of personal-social gains while educational aspirations and certainty about major and career contributed the most to student estimates of intellectual gains. The relationships were partially mediated by quality of effort although interpretation of the indirect effects was limited by the collinearity of quality of effort dimensions. The social goals variable predicted the quality of participation both in group experiences and in personal-interpersonal experiences; educational aspirations and certainty about major and career both predicted the quality of academic experiences; and educational aspirations also contributed to prediction of the quality of personal-interpersonal experiences. The fourth motivational factor, importance of personal development goals, contributed to both outcomes but had no significant relationships with quality of effort dimensions. This surprising finding was thought to merit further investigation. Among the background characteristics, gender (female) was a strong predictor of both outcomes.