Affective variables, learning approaches and academic achievement: A causal modelling investigation with Hong Kong tertiary students

Po Yin Miranda LAI, David A. WATKINS

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background. Academic learning outcomes are believed to be influenced by a complex system that involves the interaction of student personality characteristics and learning processes. Yet to date there have been few studies, particularly in a non-western culture, which have examined the interrelationships between these variables and their causal effects on achievement outcomes. Aims. This study aims to investigate the interrelationships of affective variables, learning approaches and academic achievement. It was hypothesised that academic causal attributions and academic self-concept affected the learning approaches the students adopted and subsequently influenced achievement outcomes. Sample. The participants were 162 male and female Hong Kong Chinese university students who enrolled in first year full-time Nursing, Radiography, and Language and Communication courses. Their average age was 20 years. Methods. Measures of academic causal attributions, academic self-concept, learning approaches and academic achievement were obtained. Structural equation modelling (SEM) techniques were used to test the relationships among the variables. Results. It was shown that as predicted, both academic causal attributions and academic self-concept influenced academic achievement indirectly via students' learning approaches. Locus of control was significantly and negatively related to the surface approach to studying while academic self-concept had a positive significant influence on the deep approach. Both the surface and the deep approaches to studying showed significant direct effects on academic achievement. Conclusions. The findings supported the theoretical notion that personality variables influence students' learning processes and subsequently their academic achievement. The findings also lend support to attributional retraining, self-concept enhancement interventions and development of self-regulated learning strategies to improve different aspects of student learning. Copyright © 1998 British Psychological Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-188
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1998


Hong Kong
academic achievement
Self Concept
learning process
locus of control
learning strategy
Internal-External Control


Drew, P. Y., & Watkins, D. (1998). Affective variables, learning approaches and academic achievement: A causal modelling investigation with Hong Kong tertiary students. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 68(2), 173-188.