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Breaking the double-edged sword of effort/trying hard: developmental equilibrium and longitudinal relations among effort, achievement, and academic self-concept

Marsh, H. W., Pekrun, R., Lichtenfeld, S., Arens, A. K. and Murayama, K. (2016) Breaking the double-edged sword of effort/trying hard: developmental equilibrium and longitudinal relations among effort, achievement, and academic self-concept. Developmental Psychology, 52 (8). pp. 1273-1290. ISSN 1939-0599

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1037/dev0000146

Abstract/Summary

Ever since the classic research of Nicholls (1976) and others, effort has been recognized as a double-edged sword: whilst it might enhance achievement, it undermines academic self-concept (ASC). However, there has not been a thorough evaluation of the longitudinal reciprocal effects of effort, ASC and achievement,in the context of modern self-concept theory and statistical methodology. Nor have there been developmental equilibrium tests of whether these effects are consistent across the potentially volatile early-to-middle adolescence. Hence, focusing on mathematics, we evaluate reciprocal effects models over the first four years of secondary school, relating effort, achievement (test scores and school grades), ASC, and ASCxEffort interactions for a representative sample of 3,421 German students (Mn age = 11.75 years at Wave 1). ASC, effort and achievement were positively correlated at each wave, and there was a clear pattern of positive reciprocal positive effects among ASC, test scores and school grades—each contributing to the other, after controlling for the prior effects of all others. There was an asymmetrical pattern of effects for effort that is consistent with the double-edged sword premise: prior school grades had positive effects on subsequent effort, but prior effort had non-significant or negative effects on subsequent grades and ASC. However, on the basis of a synergistic application of new theory and methodology, we predicted and found a significant ASC-by-effort interaction, such that prior effort had more positive effects on subsequent ASC and school grades when prior ASC was high—thus providing a key to breaking the double-edged sword.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Development
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Social
ID Code:65626
Publisher:American Psychological Association

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