Much research has been done in the field of academic achievement and many authors have given their suggestions about the factors that influence students within the school environment. Two of these factors include student attitudes and school context. Against this theoretical background, it is necessary to look at how important these two factors are and exactly how those factors affect student outcomes. The aim of the research is to;
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Research has shown that a large number of students' performances are affected by their attitudes towards specific subjects, education and academics in general (Bowen & Richman, 2000). It has been suggested that when students demonstrate week commitment to their academics then they are bound to under perform. Additionally, some students with an unrealistic view of themselves may perform poorly too, for instance, those who tend to be overconfident or naive about the requirements of their academics may register very poor performance. (Broughton,2003). Conversely, when students do not believe in themselves or when they have low self confidence, then chances are that they will underachieve (Powers, 2006). Sometimes some students may think of themselves as people who cannot control their own destiny. They imagine that they are victims of the system and this can lead to academic failure. In other scenarios some students may be too proud to ask for help when they encounter a problem in their studies. (Bowen & Richman, 2000), also, some students find it difficult to grow or develop because they tend to resist change and this impedes their academic progress. In other situations, a student may not work well in groups yet this is a necessary part of the academic environment. Lastly, some students tend to avoid those areas where they perform poorly such as in science or mathematics. These and many more aspects of student's attitudes can be causes of academic failure. School context is depicted through certain avenues. These avenues can either lead to excellent performance or poor performance depending on how they are implemented (Powers, 2006). In certain schools, the system may be too bureaucratic to the point that both teachers and students cannot do their jobs. This eventually leads to poor performance (Bowen & Richman, 2000). In other situations, teachers lack the skills to impart knowledge and this may cause failures, likewise, some teachers may be disengaged with their students and this brings about problems in the end (Broughton, 2003).
Additionally, there are certain school environments that are influenced by the external world to such a large extent that the students cannot concentrate on what they are meant to do, such schools lack discipline (Broughton, 2003). Some school environments may have certain levels of segregation and this impedes academic success (Broughton, 2003).
Academic achievement is an issue that involves the school context and the students. Students have to show some effort in academics to achieve academic excellence and the school too has roles to play in academic achievement. Several ways or programs have been put in place just to improve the performance in schools, colleges and other learning institutions. These programs are based on elimination of the factors that affect academic performance or to prevent reduced performance due to the very factors that affect academic performance (Lopez-Lee, 2007).
Identified factors that affect academic achievement are such as student attitude, school context, racism, students social life and so many others. The two major ones are student engagement influenced by attitude and school context. These two factors will always affect academic achievement in any kind of education institution whether for the disabled, the blind or just normal educational institutions (ERI C, 2006). In order to ensure academic success, the causative factors have to be identified and eliminated (Lopez-Lee, 2007).
Academic excellence involves all parents, teachers and the students. Students have to put required effort as well as the teachers, while parents play the role of supporting the students so that family matters do not affect the performance. If a student is stressed due to family problems, the performance is affected too. It is the responsibility of the parents to ensure these are eliminated in collaboration with the teachers or the professionals (Seidman and Tinto, 2005).
Physiological and Contextual Factors of Academic Success
Academic achievement has been indicated in most research to be controlled by teachers in the various educational institutions. It is the responsibility of a teacher to make the student realize her/his abilities and develop confidence in it. As it has been noted earlier, the performance of a student is affected by so many factors, one of them being the attitude of the student. A teacher is charged with the responsibility of being supportive to the students to make the students have the important competence in academics (Seidman and Tinto, 2005).
It has always been, or it is hypothesized that the attitudes of students affect the academic achievement and this attitude is always build by the teachers. The teacher plays a very important role as it is evident that they influence the behavior and attitude of students which in turn affect the performance. Teachers therefore affect performance indirectly (Seidman and Tinto, 2005). School context involve teachers instructions, supportive activities and consistent clear and high expectations. If the school context has developed good behavior and required attitudes in students, then it is with no doubt that the performance will also be positive. If the mediators are positive, then the result becomes positive (Seidman and Tinto, 2005).
Importance of Student Attitude in Academic Performance
In any kind of academic setting, there will always be learning activities. These require a student to be engaged in the activities, which is the reason why they are formulated in the first place. In engagement in learning, a student or a learner participates in the learning activities or is said to have some interest. This interest and participation differs from one student to the other. It is the work of the attitudes and behaviors that are also different and so produce the different engagement. Engagement in learning activities be it in the classroom or outside lead to success in academics (Alexander and Winne, 2006).
This is the reason why attitude is always an important role in the academic achievement since it forms part of a student's engagement in learning activities. Research shows that students who engage more learn more and therefore academic achievement is high (Willms, 2003). Motivation improves engagement and this is another area of concern in academic achievement. For the students to be engaged, it requires the efforts of the teachers, as well as their own. School context therefore is important in academic achievement in supporting student engagement in good performance.
Importance of School Context in Academic Performance
Student engagement is influenced by the school context. The factors of school context that influence a student's engagement are, the support the teachers give towards building a positive attitude towards learning, the support given to encourage high clear, consistent behavioral expectations, the quality of instructions that the school offer which should improve the performance of the students, and the academic expectations the school sets for the students (Willms, 2003).
Both behavioral and academic expectations should be set high, clear and consistent if the school targets academic achievement in a certain area of learning, the instructions should be of high quality and the relationship with teachers be positive towards achievement of academic excellence of the specific target of education.
The Relationship Between Student Attitude and School Context.
Students attitudes and school context are mediated by certain psychological factors. The degree of competence and confidence of a student is one of the factors that come in between the school context and student attitude. When a student is confident and believes in his/her competency to be successful in education, the student will perform well. A student who is not confident will not perform well based on the lack of confidence in his/her ability to perform. This affects the attitude of the student and may end up dropping out of school or giving up on performance (Coleman, 1980).
The belief in competence and confidence affects the engagement of the student in school activities hence academic performance. This is the reason why students who believe that they cannot perform well in certain subjects fail, and it also affects their behavior. Engagement as had been indicated, is the much effort the student puts to the learning activities with his/her attitude and behaviors. If a student has less interest in a subject due to belief of incompetency, the attitude and the behavior towards working hard for the subject changes too. The change is negative since it does not support a successful performance target.
School Context Success Factors School context relationship to the student engagement affects the academic achievement. There are three factors that need special attention when it comes to student engagement which will in turn affect academic achievement. These are; caring and showing a sense of belonging, consistent, clear and high expectations, and creation of challenging and meaningful educational environments. In showing a sense of belonging, teachers need to be supportive by motivating the students (McInerney and Van Etten, 2004).
High clear and consistent expectations builds the students confidence in various learning activities hence influencing the academic achievement positively. The last factor, which is meaningful educational environments, improves students performance by encouraging their participation in learning activities. When teachers develop strategies that challenge the students, make them learn new things and encourage them to show their ability, the students get encouraged and get used to the learning activities to the extent that confidence is built (McInerney and Van Etten, 2004).
Significance of Study
Upon completion of this study the research may lay out clear causes of academic failure thus facilitating change in school environments. The research may assist teachers in formulating strategies to deal with attitudinal and contextual problems. Additionally, the research will transform traditional ways of thinking about education. It might remove stereotypical notions or ideas held by stakeholders in education. The research may also encourage greater investment in the psychological development of the student because it will review some of the pre-existing psychological attitudes that could be hindering academic excellence.
The research is based on the latter mentioned literature. Consequently, the purpose of the research is to affirm pre-existing theory on factors that affect academic success. Due to the nature of this investigation, it will be necessary to perform a qualitative rather than a quantitative study. This study will entail the use of two types of methodology. The first will be through primary research while the second will be through secondary research.
In the primary research, data will be obtained through face to face interviews. Students, teachers and administrators will be asked about the aspects of students' attitudes that affect academic achievement. Additionally, the latter groups will also be asked about the role of school context in academic achievement. Thereafter, they will be required to give their opinions about the most influential factors among the two in their respective schools.
The second part of the research will be done through an examination of student reports in a specific school. This will entail obtaining requests from the school administration to utilize their resources in the research. Academic achievement of the participating students will be analyzed for one year while comparing that to certain indicators of school attitude and school context. A relationship will then be established between these factors (Powers, 2006).
Qualitative interviews are generally more difficult to analyze because responses obtained are quite varied, however, answers will be clustered into similar groups to try and establish a relationship between the parameters. Additionally, student attitude and school context are both complex parameters, i.e. they are denoted by other sub-factors. It will be difficult to determine which factors are most important and which ones are not.
Since the secondary aspect of the research will involve only one school, then it may be difficult to transfer results for the relationship between student attitude and respective student achievement to the entire student population. In relation to this, the issue of school context will also be a problem in secondary research owing to the fact that there will be no comparison with others schools.
The research's major aim is to establishing a link between school context, student attitude and academic achievement. This might enable teachers/ administrators/ stakeholders to look for ways of enhancing academic achievement. The major limitations of the study revolve around data analysis and data collection while the delimitation will be brought by secondary research which be conducted in only one school.
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