Year

2000

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Department of Psychology

Abstract

The purpose of the study was to examine the relationship between personal dispositions, academic stress, academic performance, cognitive appraisals, and coping responses. The study consisted of three parts. The purpose of study I was to examine whether academic attributional style, locus of control, learned resourcefulness, and academic stress each predict academic performance as indicated by a student's grade point average (GPA). A second aim of the study was to examine the moderating effect of learned resourcefulness on the academic stress / academic performance relationship. In the study, 141 first-year undergraduate students from the University of Wollongong completed a set of questionnaires including the Academic Attributional Style Questionnaire (AASQ; Peterson & Barrett, 1987), IPC Scales (Levenson, 1985), Self-Control Schedule (SCS, Rosenbaum, 1980), and the Undergraduate Stress Questionnaire (USQ, Crandall, Preisler & Aussprung, 1992). Research showed that academic stress was negatively associated with academic performance. The negative effect of academic stress on academic performance was moderated by learned resourcefulness. A high level of academic stress was associated with a low GPA in low resourceful students but not in high resourceful students.

Study II examined the effect of situation and learned resourcefulness on students' coping responses. Two hundred and fifty-five students participated in the study. Students completed the Self-Control Schedule (SCS, Rosenbaum, 1980) and the revised Ways of Coping Questionnaire (WCQ; Folkman & Lazarus, 1988). Students reported their coping responses when they had an exam or an unsatisfactory exam result. Findings indicated that situation and learned resourcefulness had a significant effect on coping responses. Students tended to use more confrontive coping, more escape-avoidance, and more seeking social support in the situation of having an exam compared to the situation of having an unsatisfactory exam result. High resourceful students used more planful problem solving, more positive reappraisal and less escapeavoidance than low resourceful students did.

Study III examined the effect of situation and learned resourcefulness on students' cognitive appraisals and their coping responses with an intra-individua! design. A hundred and ten students completed appraisal-related emotions scales (Folkman & Lazarus, 1985) and the Ways of Coping Questionnaire for three different exam situations: 1) having an exam in a week's time; 2) waiting for an exam result that is possibly a pass or a fail marginally; and 3) having an unsatisfactory exam result. Results revealed that students appraised having an exam situation as less threatening and more challenging, whereas a negative outcome situation was evaluated as more threatening, more harmful and less beneficial compared to other situations. High resourceful students perceived these situations as more challenging than low resourceful students did. Situation and learned resourcefulness also had a significant effect on coping responses. Students utilised more planful problem solving, more positive reappraisal, and more seeking social support in the situation of having an exam, compared to the situations of waiting for an ambiguous exam result and having a negative exam result. They relied on more distancing in the waiting situation, and they accepted more responsibility in the situation of having an unsatisfactory exam result. Consistent with the results of study II, high resourceful students tended to use more planful problem solving, more positive reappraisal, more seeking social support, and less escape-avoidance than low resourceful students.

The findings provide support for the transactional theory indicating the effect of situational and personal (learned resourcefulness) factors on cognitive appraisals and coping responses. The results also suggest that high resourceful students can minimise or control the detrimental effect of academic stress on their academic performance. They appraise the stressful situations as challenging and they exhibit an adaptive coping pattern. It appears that it would be profitable to teach students resourcefulness skills.

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