Mismatch between student and university expectations of academic achievement

A negative outcome from well-intentioned student support or a driver for improved academic performance?





assessment, grade distributions, student perception, academic achievement, self-efficacy


Student perceptions of their studies and learning are important influencers of academic performance and outcome. Here we find that the grades students anticipate obtaining may differ significantly from grades awarded: students’ perceptions of their studies appear to be at odds with the university’s assessment of their academic worth. A previous study introduced students to the concept of self-efficacy and its effects on academic performance and outcome; we demonstrate that students’ self-efficacy can be raised. Importantly, the focus is not on the validity of the concept of self-efficacy as the guiding or defining principle in this research, but rather a means to potentially identify important student perceptions that may influence academic performance. Moreover, the effect, emphasises a mismatch between student and university expectations of the measure of achievement: students overestimate their anticipated grades against grades awarded. By encouraging improved self-efficacy are we emphasising differences between anticipated and awarded grades? Are we diminishing the student’s sense of achievement and therefore negatively impacting on student performance? To resolve this, in this study we shift the focus from the purely analytical analysis of the impact of self-efficacy and highlight assumptions of the primacy of grades as signifier of academic success. Academic success is motivated by a desire for learning as much as for good grades. Furthermore, a student’s academic success reflects a complex of socio-personal influences. These perspectives allow the effects of improved self-efficacy to be formative in the student’s maturing sense of belonging within education. The survey and concept of self-efficacy is now better understood as the vehicle for improved experiences of learning, becoming potent drivers of student success.

Author Biographies

Warren Lake, Southern Cross University

Dr Warren Lake is a casual teaching and research academic at Southern Cross University who is focused on the role of feedback in facilitating student learning. Warren is also dedicated to understanding proficiencies in all areas of teaching and learning through the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Hanabeth Luke, Southern Cross University

Dr Hanabeth Luke’s work focusses on regional community resilience in times of transition. She uses social research to inform strategic planning decision for scientists, industry and government, translating complex scientific research for a general readership. She is the coordinator for Southern Cross University’s University’s Regenerative Agriculture program. https://scu.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/esploro/profile/hanabeth_luke/overview?institution=61SCU_INST; https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=7Li25sIAAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao


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