PUBLIC DOMAIN Children’s perception of their abilities contributes to their later academic achievements.
Over the past few decades, educational and developmental psychologists have attempted to understand the link between the concept of one’s self and academic achievement.
A recent study published in the Child Development journal looked specifically into students’ self-concepts of ability, or a student’s perception of their capacity to successfully perform on academic tasks.
Lead researcher María Inés Susperreguy of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and colleagues at the University of Michigan found that self-concept in math and reading in young children plays a significant role in predicting later math and reading achievement, regardless of performance level.
“Our study shows that youths’ perceptions of their abilities in middle childhood are important in promoting their later achievement in math and reading,” Susperreguy said, according to ScienceDaily.
Several factors were controlled and taken into account during the experiment, such as demographics, early academic achievements and mother’s education.
Past studies have shown that reminding children of a negative self-concept in math and other subjects have had deleterious effects on subsequent test scores. However, no previous study has examined the effects of self-concept over a period of time.
Unlike previous studies, the researchers at the Pontifica Universidad de Chile and the University of Michigan explored the link between self-concept of academic achievements throughout schooling and their actual achievements through middle childhood and into adolescence.
As students transition from middle school to high school, they face important decisions such as choosing between an advanced math or English class.
During this time, self-concept of their ability influences their decision and the later outcomes. Therefore the researchers decided to examine this specific time frame on self-concepts.
According to Pamela Davis-Kean, professor of psychology and research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, the study addresses whether or not the relationship affects students across all levels of performance, or only for those who achieve the best grades.
Some researchers have proposed that the relationship depends heavily on the academic outcomes themselves.
“When trying to understand the issues of low academic performance, we often examine what additional skills children need to succeed in school,” Davis-Kean said, according to ScienceDaily.
The researchers took samples from three data sets of students aged five to 18, with 13,901 British students from Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, 1,354 American students from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development and 237 American students from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics-Child Development Supplement.
Students from each dataset were tested by various self-concept measures and standardized administrative achievement tests.
For example, students were asked questions such as “How good at math are you?” and were given a seven-point scale with one being “not good at all” to seven being “very good.”
According to Davis-Kean, the study tracked each student and their academic achievements for up to 10 years after the start of the study.
“Our findings, replicated across three data sets, show that it is important to understand the relation between children’s perceptions of their abilities and later achievement,” she said.
Contrary to views that high academic achievers are driven by the relationship between self-concept and academic achievement, Susperreguy suggests that this relationship is just as, if not more, important for low-performing students.
“This relation is not limited to students who perform at the top levels, but extends to students with different levels of achievement in math and reading,” Susperreguy said. “Even the lowest-performing students who had a more positive view of their math and reading abilities had higher levels of achievement in math and reading.”
While this study did not account for other factors such as the influence of teachers, parents and peers, it does identify the important role of self-concept on later achievement and suggests that teachers should be offered proper guidance to help raise students’ self-concept in their abilities.