The Role of Domain-Specific Non-Cognitive Variables in Postsecondary Academic Success

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Mary Nelson
Bernard P. Gee
Sarah Hoegler


The Self-Regulated Learner must possess certain non-cognitive beliefs in order to remain sufficiently motivated in the pursuit of academic success. Students who are do not possess such beliefs are more likely to struggle in academics. This problem is especially pronounced in students at public universities and community colleges. Even though these students have the appropriate background knowledge to be awarded a high school diploma, they must still acquire certain non-cognitive beliefs, in particular self-efficacy (a belief in one’s ability to succeed and master the tasks at hand within a given domain), in order to be motivated to apply the knowledge they learned in high school, regulate their study habits, and monitor their progress. This exploratory study surveyed 42 undergraduates enrolled in a psychological statistics course. A hierarchical multiple regression assessed the extent to which self-efficacy predicted final statistics exam grades, while controlling for prior GPA. This analysis showed that prior GPA explained 38.9% of the variability in final exam grades and self-efficacy accounted for another 7.3% of the variance, explaining a total of 46.2% of the variance in final exam performance. These findings indicate that non-cognitive variables play an essential role in the prediction and promotion of academic performance at the college level in public universities. Developing students’ self-efficacy beliefs in specific courses may improve students’ performance. Different methods of employing interventions to alter students’ non-cognitive beliefs are discussed, with particular focus on the use of exam wrappers to promote self-efficacy and improve course grades.


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Nelson, M., Gee, B., & Hoegler, S. (2016). The Role of Domain-Specific Non-Cognitive Variables in Postsecondary Academic Success. International Journal for Innovation Education and Research, 4(11), 1-11. Retrieved from
Author Biographies

Mary Nelson, Western Connecticut State University, USA

Professor, Dept. of Psychology

Bernard P. Gee, Western Connecticut State University, USA

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Psychology

Sarah Hoegler, Western Connecticut State University, USA

Undergraduate Honors Student, Dept. of Psychology


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