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Advising indicators: operating from an empirical perspective. (On-going Topics).


Persistent efforts have been made by educators to discover the kinds of distal and proximal variables associated with student achievement and satisfaction. For over half a century, variables that have been discovered provide general explanations about both students' achievement and satisfaction indices, without establishing a coherent view of whether there are possible interactions or relatedness of students' achievement and satisfaction variables. The purpose of the current investigation was to determine whether certain important variables of student success such as age, gender and expected grades together related to student success. A 27-item Likert-type Satisfaction Scale, derived from Spot Forms from a Mid-western university and Canfield's Learning Style Instrument (1988) were used. Of Canfield's instrument, only the "influence subscale" dealing with expectation of grades (i.e., A, B, C or D) was used. The results indicate that certain variables of student success are more related than others.


Concerns about college student success have preoccupied the minds of educators and researchers for several decades. In the last decade, researchers have investigated a number of factors to explain the steady academic decline and overall student dissatisfaction with education.

Hacket et al. (1992), for example, investigated the relationships of measures of occupational and academic self-efficacy, vocational interest, outcomes expectations, academic ability, perception, support and coping to achievement of 197 Engineering majors. The results of the study indicated that self-efficacy and family support were predictive of college academic achievement. Peng and Wright (1993) also examined a number of factors associated with high achieving Asian students. The results indicated that students who had supportive parents and learning programs at home achieved high academic achievement as compared to those who did not. Neibuhr (1995) investigated the effects of three antecedent variables (i.e., ability, family environment, and school climate) of a number of students, using motivation as a mediating variable. The results indicated that motivation did not have statistical significance on achievement for mainstream students in terms of ability, except for black students.

In like manner, McGee (1997) conducted a study using the Illinois Goal Assessment Program (IGAP test of ability) on a random sample of 100 school districts, and discovered that nearly three-fourths of all the variation on a multiple regression analysis on the IGAP test was due to context factors. Using a National Longitudinal Survey of Youths, Rivera (1997) examined achievement variables of Latino adolescents such as maternal intelligence, maternal education, maternal employment, maternal poverty, and home environment relative to parent/child interactions. The results of the study demonstrated that in every instance maternal intelligence was a significant predictor of academic achievement.

Likewise, Clagett (1988) examined a number of factors affecting the academic achievement of 2,386 first-time at-risk minority students. Factor analysis identified 10 variables that explained a significant proportion of the achievement variances:

Academic commitment, persistence, early term survival, academic standing, financial and academic support, course load, college preparedness, remediation, desire for bachelor's degree, and job-related attendance motives. Mace (1999) examined time management behaviors of 192 pre-dental and dental students in relation to academic achievement. The results indicated that high levels of time management dimensions for both groups was associated with their academic achievement.

Studies performed on characteristics of student success have tended to explain the evidence of certain traits, and not the connectedness of such perceived traits to one another relative to student overall success. In the present study, emphasis was placed on the value of relationships of the variables presented, concerning the strength of their relationships in explaining student success during student advisement.

The purpose of the current investigation was to examine the relationships of students' gender, age, expected grades, grade point average, ACT and satisfaction. While such factors have either been examined in clusters (or independently) in other studies, they have not been investigated in the light of whether they relate to each other to underscore the importance of such relationships to student overall success, particularly in the sense of student advisement. The current study addresses whether there are relationships among characteristics of student success that warrant faculty advisors' valued attention. In the advising exchange, where there are determined weak links among the factors involved in this investigation, efforts of faculty advisors can be better directed and concentrated on those factors which portend to the existence of strong evidence, and on which to engage students in a dialogue about concerns and issues affecting their overall ability to succeed in college. The research question important to the current investigation was as follows: Are there relationships among gender, ACT and age of students regarding grade point average, expected grades and satisfaction?



The study consisted of a convenience sample of 693 students (i.e., 50.4% females and 49.6% males) from a Mid-western university and a community college. 99% were Caucasians and 1% African American. 90% were of traditional age (17-23) and 10%, nontraditional (24-up).


Instructors of selected classes were asked to allow the last 15 minutes of their class time for students to decide to participate in this investigation. Investigator asked students to voluntarily participate in the study, and that those who did not want to participate were free to either stay in class or leave as they pleased. Those students who agreed to participate were asked to fill out a consent form. On the consent form, students were asked to self-report their ACT score as per a set of score categories designed by the investigator (i.e., 0-17, 18-20 ... 30-up), along with other demographic information important to the study such as age, gender and age. By signing the consent form, students were also granting permission for their instructors to provide the investigator with their end-of-semester course grades. The obtained information, however, was to be used for the purposes only as defined in the consent statement.


Students who agreed to participate were administered a 27-item Satisfaction Scale, derived from a Mid-western university's Spot Forms. Spot forms are surveys designed to assess students' perception of a course relative to instructional efficacy and satisfaction. Thirteen of the items on the Spot forms were designed to assess students' satisfaction with their instructors' teaching, and the remaining fourteen were for measuring course satisfaction. Response categories ranged from 1 through 7, where "1" represented "Strongly Disagree" and "7" for "Strongly Agree." The reliability coefficients of the forms range from .910 to .934. Computed reliabilities coefficients of the scales relative to the current sample were in the upwards of .9608. Expected course grades were determined by students' responses to the "influence" subscales relating to student grade expectations (i.e., A, B, C or D). Expected course grade-items are items for which students are able to predict their final course grade in a given course as can be determined by Canfield's Learning Style Inventory (1988), Form E.

Canfield's Learning Style inventory (1988) is a self-report questionnaire of 30 attitudinal items, describing the modalities of students' preferred learning styles. Participants ranked their responses for each item on a four-point ipsative scale, which ranged from (1) for the most-liked choice through, (4) the least. The instrument has eight subscales, which represent conditions for learning (i.e., peer competition, independence), four subscales dealing with areas of interest (e.g., numeric, qualitative, people) and four modes of learning scales (e.g., listening, reading, direct experience).

Canfield (1988) reported alpha and test-retest reliabilities for the inventories to have ranged between .87 and .97. In this study, however, the reliabilities for the instruments were found to range between .39 to .86 with majority of the scales falling within .70 and .85. The test-retest reliabilities of these grading categories on Canfield's subscales range from .84 to .96.


Using a Pearson Moment Correlation analysis, the results indicate that there were moderate significant negative and positive relationships among the variables: gender and ACT (r = -. 18, df = 1/534, p< .001); gender and grade point average (r = .09, df = 1/534, p< .05); gender and expected grades (r = .09, df= 1/534, p< .05) but not for age or satisfaction. Further ACT and gender showed moderate negative relationship (r = -.18, df = 1/534, p< .001); grade point average (r = .25, df = 1/534, p< .001); expected grades, (r = .41, df= 1/534, p< .001); and satisfaction (r = -.17, df= 1/534, p< .001). Grade point average demonstrated significant relationship to gender (r = .08, df = 1/534, p< .05); and expected grades (r = .35, df = 1/534, p< .001). Expected grades were found to be statistically significant to gender (r = -.09, df = 1/534, p< .05). The age of students did not demonstrate significant relationships to anyone of the factors: gender, ACT, grade point average, expected grades, or satisfaction. Table 1 illustrates the results of the statistical relationships among the variables of gender, age, ACT, grade point average, expected grades and satisfaction. See issue's website <>


The purpose of the current investigation was to examine whether relationships exist among the following variables of student success: ACT, gender, age, grade point average, expected grades and satisfaction. Regarding gender and ACT scores, females reporting lower ACT scores do not appear disquieting. Several studies have concluded that females and other ethnic minorities do not test well on standardized tests as compared to their male counterparts (Menchaca, 1992; Selingo, 1998). The contention made by feminists' theorists has been that "the characteristics of researchers are crucial determinants of reality" (Haig, 1997, p. 182). Thus, the composition and proportion of representation of test developers in regards to gender, in this case, may well explain whether there are traits in the formulation of ideas or thinking patterns that take for granted females' social and cognitive images, as well as their general conceptions of reality (Walter & Young, 1997). Gilligan (1982) examined a number of complex exchanges between males and females' relationships, and concluded that the two groups possessed differing ways of "knowing," especially in terms of expressing their unique moral voices. Less than a decade thereafter, Tannan (1990) also concluded in her study that both males and females converse from disparate realms of reality. Therefore, for females to report lower ACT scores than males appears somewhat emblematic of those larger sensitivity and construct validity issues associated with the construction of standardized tests.

In spite of low ACT scores reported by females, females tended to have high expectations of achieving good grades in college, and further were more satisfied with their classes than males. In examining the relationship between gender and grade point averages, it became apparent that the distribution of grades tended to favor females over males. The finding concurs with Keri (1995) that females possess a more positive study orientation than their male counterparts. In the same vein, Gorard et al. (1999) compared achievement differences between boys and girls, and concluded that girls had higher achievement in certain subjects at certain levels, but no gender gaps in other subject areas.

In this study, results regarding ACT scores generally suggest that students who had taken some form of standardized examination for college, such as ACT, achieved better grades in college than those who had not. Watkins (1983) in their investigations, for example, concluded that ACT scores and secondary school grades were the most valid predictors of academic achievement. Similarly, Bicker (1996) examined a number of contributory factors of academic success for business administration graduates and concluded that their Graduate Admissions Test Scores were the only most significant predictor. In the current study, nonetheless, female students were more satisfied where their standardized test scores corresponded to their expected grades and grade point averages than males. This finding may be associated with females' rather more positive general orientation to education and motivation to compensate for their unsatisfactory scores on standardized tests, such as the ACT. Results of other studies concede that differential socializing practices of parents and less so sex-role stereotyping do explain the differences in the academic achievements of males and females (Deslandes, Bouchard, & St. Amant, 1998).

As for reported ACT score and satisfaction, the higher a student's ACT score, the lower the student's level of satisfaction. This finding may well suggest that students with high ability levels need to be rather challenged to satisfy their learning desires. Instructors teaching highly able students, therefore, must concentrate their efforts on providing appropriate and substantive challenges in the teaching and learning process, rather than on less so substantive issues of appearance or disposition of the instructor for the sake of gaining students' approval. Studies involving, for example, gifted students in mainstream classrooms have consistently evidenced the fact that highly able students are less so independently energized by their classes, thus requiring educators' increased interest in accommodating their learning needs.


In faculty advising, advisors need to pay attention to students' score on their standardized tests, along with other performance indicators. This approach to students can provide valuable insights into the academic and social issues affecting students' overall success in college. Furthermore, advisors need to realize that female students will have higher expectations of achieving in college than their male counterparts. Therefore, females who receive poor grades can suffer greater psychological and emotional states, especially where there appears to be incongruities between their grade expectations and their actual end-of-semester grades.

Students who have taken some form of standardized examination prior to entering college are likely to be more satisfied with, and obtain and expect good grades in their classes than those who have not. In connection to females' reported low ACT scores, advisors may need to read females' test scores with some degree of reservation concerning their ability to achieve in college; for females and other minorities such test results seem to have less predictive value. The issues that should, therefore, matter to the advisor when working with females (and other ethnic groups), for example, are the students' overall grade expectations, orientation about education, and ability to achieve the desired goal. However, those females who may not have proven themselves as able, or demonstrated characteristics to achieve, and are only expecting to achieve good grades will surely benefit from some reality check as they learn to develop a rather healthier perspective and critical appraisal of their learning situations. When that occurs for students, they will no longer merely believe that expecting good grades guarantees good grades in the absence of application, ability, hard work and learning smartly, among others. As far as high ability students are concerned, clearly educators must continue to find ways of creating opportunities in which their learning needs can be addressed, as variations in such provisions may differ corresponding to group characteristics.

Finally, it appears the age of students should not matter in the advising exchange relative to students' grade expectations, grade point average, satisfaction or gender. Thus, the age of students should not be seen as a nuisance variable in evaluating students' overall performance, expectations and satisfaction with a course. Hence, the notion of equity should guide how traditional and non-traditional students are assessed, and evaluated for academic support programs in college. Future studies need to examine whether the factors examined in the current investigation will relate to learning styles of college students.


Bicker, R. (1996). Factors affecting academic achievement in Graduate Management Education. Journal of Education for Business; v72 n1, p42-46.

Canfield, A. A., & Cafferty, J. C. (1988). Learning style inventory manual. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.

Clagett, C.A. (1998). Can college actions improve the academic achievement of at-risk minority students? Paper presented at the meeting of the Association for Institutional Research.

Deslandes, R., Bouchard, P., & St. Amant, J. C. (1998). Family variables are predictors of academic achievement: Sex differences in Quebec adolescents. Canadian Journal of Education; v23 n4, p390-404.

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice. Havard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Gorard, S., Rees, G. & Salisbury, J. (1999). Reappraising apparent underachievement of boys and girls. Gender & Education; v11 n4, p441-54.

Hackett, G., Bentz, N. E., Casas, J. M. & Rocha-Singh, 1. (1992). Gender, ethic and social cognitive factors predicting the academic achievement of students in engineering. Journal of Counseling Psychology; v39 n4, p527-38.

Haig, B. D. (1997). Feminist Research Methodology. In John. P. Keeves (Ed.), Educational Research, Methodology and Measurement: An International Handbook (2nd Ed., pp.180-185). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Keri, G. (1995). Study habits and attitudes. Unpublished Masters Equivalency, University of Iowa, Iowa City.

Mace, J. G., & Tira, D. E. (1999). Time management behaviors of dental students as potential explanatory factors in dental academic achievement. Journal of Dental Education; v63 n 10, p738-44.

Menchaca, V. D. (1992). Achievement motivation in eighth grade students of two ethnic groups. Paper presented at the Meeting of the Southwest Educational Research Association (Houston, TX). ED 426837.

Selingo, J. (1998). Science-oriented campuses strive to attract more women. Chronicle of Higher Education; v44 n24 pA54.

Tannan, D. (1990). You just don't understand: Women and men in conversations. New York, N.Y: Ballantine Books, Inc.

Walter, C., & Young, B. (1997). Gender bias in Alberta social studies 30 examinations: Cause and effect. Canadian Social Studies; v31 n2 p83-89.

Watkins, (1983). ACT scores and selective admissions: An exploratory look at some one-time data. ED230520.

Gabe Keri, Indiana/Purdue University, IN

Gabe is a graduate faculty member at Indiana/Purdue University at Fort Wayne and President of Indiana Counselor Educators and Supervisors.
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Author:Keri, Gabe
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2001
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