Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education


This thesis used a multimethod approach and an adapted version of the Pintrich and Schrauben (1992) model of cognition and motivation in the classroom to examine the relationship among students' entry characteristics, self-regulated learning (cognition and motivation) and academic performance for Nursing Practice and Science courses in first year Bachelor of Nursing programs.

Students from three universities were surveyed, by structured questionnaire, in the first and second semesters of their Bachelor of Nursing program. The questionnaires contained questions about students' entry characteristics - age, mode of entry, academic background, nursing as a first choice, ethnicity - and research instrument - SEFS, NCSES, NASES, and selected MSLQ scales (SELAP, TV, MSCR, CT). Scores and grades for their Science and Nursing Practice courses were used as measures of students' academic performance. High and Low Achiever categories were used to categorise students' performance.

Structured telephone interviews were conducted, in the first semester, with a purposeful sample of 40 students and 19 of these students were interviewed again at the end of the first year. The first interview established students' self-beliefs about science, their expectations about their courses, perceptions of the relevance of the courses, and learning strategies for their Science and Nursing Practice courses. The second interview sought to identify changes in their learning strategies that students

may have made during the year. Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with 10 academics involved in teaching the Science and Nursing Practice courses. The academics were asked to identify student entry characteristics linked to

academic success in their respective course areas. The results from the questionnaires, and student and academic interviews were triangulated.

Age, ethnicity, nursing as a first choice, TER scores and HSC Science background were identified by academics as factors influencing academic performance. Academics described students aged 20+ years as self-regulated learners who, despite having low self-efficacy expectations for science and academic learning and performance, become empowered once they have been successful in their first semester courses. Students from a NESB were described as having difficulties with their first year courses. Three themes were identified from academics' comments about students from a NESB: language skills, help-seeking and cultural specific approach to study.

Students who questioned the relevance of their Science courses to clinical nursing practice tended to be Low Achievers. Students used general and course-specific learning strategies when studying for their Science and Nursing Practice courses. Eight categories of learning strategies - organisation, reading, elaboration, rehearsal, metacognitive self-regulation, study environment and help-seeking - were used by students when studying for their Science courses. Six categories were identified for the Nursing Practice courses - workbook, reading, elaboration, clinical skills practice, metacognitive self-regulation and help-seeking. High Achievers reported using more and a wider variety of learning strategies than Low Achievers. Low Achievers were consistent over the year in the number and type of strategies they used.

Hypothesised models for students' first and second semester Science and Nursing Practice courses were tested and refined using AMOS. In all final (trimmed) models, cognition (metacognitive and self-regulated learning strategies and critical thinking) had direct effects on motivation (self-efficacy measures and task value). Motivation had direct effects on academic performance. Ethnicity and nursing as a first choice had direct effects on Scl academic performance and ethnicity and age had direct effects on NP1 academic performance. In the second semester age had a direct effect on Sc2 academic performance and ethnicity and age had direct effects on NP2 academic performance. Age had direct effect on cognition. Goodness-of-fit indices for the final (trimmed) models were: Scl: AGFI=0.94, RMSEA=0.04, TLI=0.98, CFI=0.99; NP1: AGFI=0.91, RMSEA=0.07, TLI=0.90, CFI=0.94; Sc2: AGFI=0.90, RMSEA=0.08, TLI-0.93, CFI=0.97; NP2: AGFI=0.92, RMSEA=0.06, TLI=0.94, CFI=0.97.

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