Journal of Education Research vol:7 issue:2 pages:111-134
The purpose of this study is to disentangle the complex relationship between gender, personality and academic performance. Previous work has shown higher levels of performance for female students. Further, a bulk of studies stressed the role of personality, conceptualized within the Big Five framework, with respect to academic achievement. The literature, however, is unclear with respect to personality as an underlying factor in the relationship between gender and academic outcomes. In this paper, we investigate whether the gender effect on academic results can partly be explained by differences between men and women in personality and whether academic motivation could be the missing link to fully understand the gender effect on academic performance. We make a distinction between three different approaches towards academic motivation: motivation as trait, motivation regulation and academic effort. We theoretically and empirically focus on the possible role of Self-Determination Theory and Regulatory Focus Theory in explaining gender differences in academic effort and performance. The sample consisted of 233 college freshmen in a Business Administration program at a college in Belgium. The data for this study were collected by survey and completed with the end-of-semester exam results. Models with academic effort and performance as dependent variables were tested. The results reveal that gender differences in academic effort and performance can be explained, both as a whole and in the particular parts, by differences in personality, especially conscientiousness as the trait component of study motivation. In explaining academic performance, effort (the state component of study motivation) as well as aspect, the dimension referring to autonomous versus controlled motivation (motivation regulation), seem to be essential elements.