Academic Buoyancy as an Explanatory Factor for College Student Achievement and Retention

Open Access
Strickland, Carolyn R
Graduate Program:
Educational Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 06, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Rayne Audrey Sperling, Dissertation Advisor
  • Rayne Audrey Sperling, Committee Chair
  • Robert James Stevens, Committee Member
  • Peggy Noel Van Meter, Committee Member
  • Michael John Dooris, Committee Member
  • academic buoyancy
  • buoyancy
  • motivation
  • motivation and engagement
  • college student achievement
  • college student retention
Academic buoyancy generally refers to students’ ability to respond to everyday challenges in academic settings. Given the transitional issues known to be experienced by students during the first-year of college, a level of buoyancy sufficient to navigate routine obstacles is necessary for academic success. Two studies were conducted to explore the relationships among academic buoyancy, motivation, and academic achievement of first-year college students. Specifically, whether academic buoyancy is a better predictor of academic success, as measured by college GPA, than SAT scores and scores on college administered placement tests was examined. The Motivation and Engagement Scale for University and College students and the Academic Buoyancy Questionnaire were administered to first-year students enrolled in a Freshmen Year Experience course at a college of technology. In Study One (N=120), regression analysis of a limited sample indicated that academic buoyancy was a small but significant predictor of academic achievement (R2 =.052). In Study One, academic buoyancy was the only significant predictor of achievement of the variables explored, warranting further research on the buoyancy construct in a higher education setting. The findings from Study Two indicated that SATs were the strongest predictor of academic success, accounting for approximately 14% of the variance in students’ GPA at the end of the first-semester of college and for approximately 12% of the variance in students’ first-year cumulative GPA. Self-sabotage, uncertain control, persistence and failure avoidance were the motivational variables likely to be most predictive of academic success. However, academic buoyancy was also a significant predictor of first semester GPA, but to a smaller degree. When considered altogether, these results advance understanding of the academic buoyancy construct in higher education and extends existing research on college student motivation and academic achievement. They also establish the warrant for additional research on the role of buoyancy in relation to achievement and exploration of intervention strategies targeted at increasing individual student achievement and overall institutional retention rates.