Participation in Post-Secondary Honors Programs: Predictors and Effects
Furtwengler, Scott R
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The present studies focused on 1) the academic outcomes of high-achieving students at a four-year, comprehensive research institution, and 2) the influence of achievement goal orientation on high-achieving community college students’ decision to participate in a post-secondary honors program. While correlational studies have been conducted to compare differences in academic achievement between high-achieving students who participate in honors and those who do not, there is a gap in the scholarship regarding quantitative studies to estimate the magnitude of effect for participation in honors education on academic achievement. Further, research findings support non-cognitive factors such as academic self-concept (ASC) and self-efficacy that influence the decision to participate in honors, yet little research has been conducted regarding the influence of achievement goal orientation on students’ decisions to enroll in an honors learning environment. The goals of the studies were to determine 1) the extent to which participating in a post-secondary honors program affects academic achievement and 2) the extent to which achievement goal orientation influences students’ participation in a community college honors program. The first, an observational study, utilized archival data collected from three cohorts of high-achieving students at a four-year, comprehensive research institution. Big-Fish-Little-Pond-Effect predicts that students who opt out of participating in honors will outperform students enrolled in the honors program on academic achievement as measured by GPA. Quantitative and demographic data were collected and propensity score matching on observable variables was used to match students in the intervention group (honors) to the comparison group (non-honors) to control for confounders and to estimate better the magnitude of effect for the intervention of honors on academic outcomes. One-way analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to assess differences on cumulative grade point average (GPA) between the two groups using the propensity score as the covariate. It was anticipated that high-achieving students who participate in a post-secondary honors program would earn a lower cumulative GPA than their non-honors counterparts as an effect of their participation in the program. The second study, a survey, measured the four constructs of achievement goal orientation within the 2 x 2 model (mastery-approach, mastery-avoidance, performance-approach, performance-avoidance) across high-achieving students at a community college. Logistic regression was used to determine the constructs’ accuracy in predicting students’ likelihood of participating in honors. The data were collected from 400 students in an online version of the Achievement Goal Questionnaire-Revised. It was anticipated that the likelihood of participating in post-secondary honors would be greater for students who adopted a mastery-approach goal orientation.