Date of Award

Summer 1-6-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

Nannette Commander, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Catherine J. Brack, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Catherine Y. Chang, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Daphne Greenberg, Ph.D.


As the number of college students studying science continues to grow, it is important to identify variables that predict their success. The literature indicates that motivation and learning strategy use facilitate science success. Research findings show these variables can change throughout a semester and differ by performance level, gender and ethnicity. However, significant predictors of performance vary by research study and by group. The current study looks beyond the traditional predictors of grade point averages, SAT scores and completion of advanced placement (AP) chemistry to consider a comprehensive set of variables not previously investigated within the same study. Research questions address the predictive ability of motivation constructs and learning strategies for success in introductory college chemistry, how these variables change throughout a semester, and how they differ by performance level, gender and ethnicity. Participants were 413 introductory college chemistry students at a highly selective university in the southeast. Participants completed the Chemistry Motivation Questionnaire (CMQ) and Learning Strategies section of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) three times during the semester. Self-efficacy, effort regulation, assessment anxiety and previous achievement were significant predictors of chemistry course success. Levels of motivation changed with significant decreases in self-efficacy and increases in personal relevance and assessment anxiety. Learning strategy use changed with significant increases in elaboration, critical thinking, metacognitive self-regulation skills and peer learning, and significant decreases in time and study management and effort regulation. High course performers reported the highest levels of motivation and learning strategy use. Females reported lower intrinsic motivation, personal relevance, self-efficacy and critical thinking, and higher assessment anxiety, rehearsal and organization. Self-efficacy predicted performance for males and females, while self-determination, help-seeking and time and study environment also predicted female success. Few differences in these variables were found between ethnicity groups. Self-efficacy positively predicted performance for Asians and Whites, and metacognitive self-regulation skills negatively predicted success for Other students. The results have implications for college science instructors who are encouraged to collect and utilize data on students’ motivation and learning strategy use, promote both in science classes, and design interventions for specific students who need more support.