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Learning and Individual Differences 39 (2015) 199204

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Learning and Individual Differences


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/lindif

Effects of approach to learning and self-perceived overall competence on


academic performance of university students
Elaine S.C. Liu , Carmen J. Ye, Dannii Y. Yeung
City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 11 March 2014
Received in revised form 14 January 2015
Accepted 15 March 2015

Keywords:
Self-perceived overall competence
Approach to learning
Academic motivation
Academic performance

a b s t r a c t
This study integrated self-perceived overall competence and approaches to learning in predicting academic
motivation and performance of university students. The sample comprised 462 undergraduate students in
Hong Kong, who were invited to complete a set of measurements. Results of the pathway analyses conrmed
our hypothesized model. In particular, deep and surface approaches to learning directly and indirectly inuenced
grade point average (GPA), whereas the effect of self-perceived overall competence on GPA was fully mediated
by academic motivation. The ndings of this study advance the literature on higher education by revealing the
importance of self-perceived overall competence on academic success.
2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to


change the world.
[Nelson Mandela]
Education is an important means to empower individuals. Among
the various stages of educational training, higher education is regarded
as the engine of development in the new world economy (Castells,
1994, p. 14). Tertiary education is a source of tremendous potential for
the social, economic, and cultural development of the country (Barnet,
1990). Accordingly, factors that inuence academic success and motivation of students have often been the focus of educators and policy
makers.
Educators have attempted to develop a systematic framework for
understanding academic performance in higher education. A metaanalysis of 109 studies investigated the relationship between psychosocial and study skill factors (PSFs) and academic outcomes in tertiary
education (Robbins et al., 2004). PSFs refer to the contextual and social
factors (e.g., perceived social support, institutional selectivity, and
nancial support), as well as the motivational factors (e.g., academic
achievement motivation). The ndings of this research reveal that
academic achievement can be better predicted by combining both psychosocial and motivational factors in the model (Robbins et al., 2004).
Corresponding authors at: Department of Applied Social Sciences, City University of
Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
E-mail addresses: elaine.au@cityu.edu.hk (E.S.C. Liu), dannii.yeung@cityu.edu.hk
(D.Y. Yeung).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2015.03.004
1041-6080/ 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Similarly, a recent meta-analytic study treated study habits, skills, and


attitudes as the third pillar supporting collegiate academic performance because these three cognitive constructs, taken collectively,
are the key and critical factors in determining one's academic success
(Cred & Kuncel, 2008, p. 425). In their proposed model of academic
performance determinants, other than cognitive factors, the researchers
also included non-cognitive factors such as personality, interests, and
prior experience to capture a full picture of the determinants of academic performance. In sum, these two meta-analytic studies pinpoint
the importance of including personality, cognitive (e.g., approach to
learning) and motivational factors (e.g., academic motivation) in the examination of academic performance of undergraduate students. In light
of previous research, a conceptual model that integrates both cognitive
factors and personal characteristics is therefore proposed in this study
to systematically examine their effects on academic performance of university students. In particular, we hypothesize that cognitive factors and
personal characteristics are predictive of academic success through academic motivation (see Fig. 1). In the following sections, the effects of
personal characteristics and cognitive factors on academic motivation
and academic performance will be reviewed.
1.1. Effects of personal characteristics on academic motivation and academic
performance
Personal characteristics have been shown to be one of the crucial
inuencing factors of academic achievements of university students
(Noftle & Robins, 2007). A meta-analytic study (Poropat, 2009) with
a cumulative sample size over 70,000 participants reported small to
medium correlations between personality traits and academic performance in secondary and tertiary education. A study by Tomas and

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E.S.C. Liu et al. / Learning and Individual Differences 39 (2015) 199204

Cognitive Factors
Academic
Motivation

Academic
Performance

Personal
Characteristics

Fig. 1. The proposed conceptual model for understanding the relationships among cognitive factors, personal characteristics, academic motivation, and academic performance.

Adrian (2003) revealed that personality traits accounted for nearly


15% of the variance in examination grades. A three-year longitudinal
study by Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham (2003) provided further
evidence to support these ndings. In particular, neuroticism and
conscientiousness predicted the overall examination scores of British
university students, accounting for more than 10% of unique variance
in overall examination marks. In addition to academic performance,
personal characteristics, such as persistence, self-directedness, and
self-transcendence, are also predictive of academic motivation of college students (Tanaka, Mizuno, Fukuda, Tajima, & Watanabe, 2009).
The above-mentioned ndings illustrate the direct effect of personal
characteristics on academic performance and motivation. Yet, some
researchers argued that academic motivation can also directly inuence
academic performance. In the present study, academic motivation is
dened as a type of intrinsic motivation, which refers to the motivating
force that is derived from the interests, pleasure, and satisfaction obtained from participating in academic activities (Vansteenkiste, Lens, & Deci,
2006). Students who are academically motivated have a strong desire
to perform well in universities, are more eager to learn, enjoy the
learning-related activities, and believe that education and knowledge
are important. Therefore, individuals with higher academic motivation
are more likely to achieve better learning outcomes and academic success than those with lower academic motivation (Clark & Schroth,
2010; Komarraju, Karau, & Schmeck, 2009; Turner, Chandler, & Heffer,
2009).
The effect of academic self-efcacy on academic performance was
widely examined in past studies (e.g., Pajares, 1996; Zimmerman,
2000). However, according to Pajares and Miller (1994), self-efcacy
refers to a context-specic assessment of competence to perform a
specic task (p. 194), implying that this construct only captures one
dimension of competence (i.e., an evaluation of one's capabilities). It is
therefore suspected whether the overall competence, which includes
self-efcacy, self-concept, outcome expectations, and expectancy beliefs (Schunk & Pajares, 2005), would be a better predictor of academic
motivation and performance. To advance the literature on higher education, this study assessed the effect of self-perceived overall competence on academic motivation and performance.
Self-perceived overall competence is dened as a personal characteristic that reects one's global expectation or belief in his/her ability
to accomplish tasks (Eccles & Gootman, 2002; Lerner et al., 2005;
Schunk & Pajares, 2005). Lerner et al. (2005) demonstrated the importance of self-perceived overall competence in positive youth development. Past laboratory and longitudinal studies have demonstrated that
self-perceived competence in the academic domain is predictive of
undergraduates' learning and achievement (Fazey & Fazey, 2001) and
motivation (Harter, Whitesell, & Kowalski, 1992; Vallerand & Reid,
1984). In addition, some researchers stressed that other types of competence beliefs may also be related to students' academic success. For
example, social competence at school could facilitate learning outcomes
through promoting positive interactions with teachers and peers
(Wentzel, 1991a, 1991b). Accordingly, this study aimed to test the effect
of self-perceived overall competence on academic motivation and

performance. To the best of our knowledge, past literature on academic


performance has mainly focused on academic self-efcacy, and no study
has yet examined the inuence of self-perceived overall competence on
academic motivation and performance. This study will therefore advance the literature by revealing the important role of self-perceived
overall competence in academic success.
According to the cognitive evaluation theory (CET; Deci & Ryan,
1985, 1990), a sub-theory within Self-Determination Theory, the level
of autonomous academic motivation is dependent on one's perception
of academic competence and self-determination. When university
students do not feel competent in their study, their academic motivation will decrease, whereas when they perceive themselves with a
high level of academic competence, their academic motivation is
maintained or even enhanced (see Elliot & Dweck, 2005 for a review).
In addition, Fortier, Vallerand, and Guay (1995) suggested that the effects of academic competence perceptions on academic performance
might be mediated by academic motivation. In light of past ndings
reviewed above, two hypotheses are generated:
H1. Self-perceived overall competence is positively correlated with
academic performance.
H2. Academic motivation mediates the effect of self-perceived overall
competence on academic performance.

1.2. Effects of approach to learning on academic motivation and academic


performance
Approach to learning refers to the ways or methods the students
apply to their study, and it is strongly associated with academic performance (Marton & Salj, 1976). Biggs and colleagues divided approach
to learning into two categories, namely, deep approach to learning and
surface approach to learning (Biggs, 1987; Biggs, Kember, & Leung,
2001). Students who adopt deep approach are more likely to engage
in an active learning and searching for the meaning of the learning
materials, while those who prefer surface approach tend to use a more
supercial way of learning and mainly focus on memorizing the
learning materials for tests or examinations. Previous research demonstrated that approach to learning is predictive of academic outcome
(Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2008; Diseth, 2003; Snelgrove &
Slater, 2003). In particular, deep approach to learning was found to be
positively correlated with academic achievement, whereas surface
approach was negatively related to examination results.
Moreover, approach to learning is strongly linked to academic
motivation, which in turn affects academic success. The relationship
between approach to learning and academic motivation has been
well-documented in the literature. For example, university students
who applied deep approach to learning reported increased achievement
motivation, whereas those who did not systematically seek the meaning
of learning materials exhibited low levels of academic motivation in
their study (Busato, Prins, Elshout, & Hamaker, 2000). Research on
goal orientations also sheds light on the relationship between approach

E.S.C. Liu et al. / Learning and Individual Differences 39 (2015) 199204

to learning and academic motivation. This is because both goal orientation and academic motivation are regarded as intercorrelated motivational constructs (Colquitt & Simmering, 1998), and thus they have
been used interchangeably in the literature (Kizilgunes, Tekkaya, &
Sungur, 2009). Kizilgunes et al. (2009) demonstrated that deep approach to learning was positively correlated with mastery-goal orientation but negatively associated with performance-goal orientation.
Therefore, it is expected that approach to learning affects one's academic motivation, such that employing deep approach to learning is associated with increased motivation whereas surface approach to learning is
linked to lower motivation.
Furthermore, Cred and Kuncel (2008) proposed that the relationship between study habits or attitudes (as a form of approach to
learning) and academic performance would be mediated by academic
motivation. It is anticipated that students who prefer deep approach
tend to possess an intrinsic motivation to learn (e.g., out of personal
interest or on purpose of self-actualization), and thus are more willing
to invest immense efforts in relating concepts together to systematically
acquire knowledge and obtain better academic outcome. The use of
surface approach is related to a utilitarian motive and an inclination to
rote learning, which may lead to poorer academic performance in comparison with those who adopt deep approach to learning and possess
greater motivation to learn. Accordingly, we hypothesize that:
H3a. Deep approach is positively associated to academic performance.
H3b. Surface approach is negatively correlated to academic performance.
H4. Academic motivation mediates the relationship between approach
to learning (deep and surface approaches) and academic performance.

1.3. The relationship between self-perceived overall competence and


approach to learning
Personality traits are found to be predictive of the learning styles and
study strategies of undergraduate students (Blickle, 1996; Duff, Boyle,
Dunleavy, & Ferguson, 2004). For example, conscientiousness is associated with approach to learning (Diseth, 2003). The relationship between self-perceived overall competence and approach to learning is
seldom the focus in the previous research. Though, some researchers
have found that students adopting deep approach to learning reported
higher level of self-efcacy while those using surface approach to leaning were more likely to possess lower levels of self-efcacy (Papinczak,
Young, Groves, & Haynes, 2008). In light of these past ndings, we further hypothesize that self-perceived overall competence is related to
approach to learning, such that competent individuals are more likely
to explore learning materials in-depth and comprehensively, whereas
individuals who feel incompetent tend to adopt a surface approach
and focus on memorization of learning materials. Therefore, we predict
that:
H5. Self-perceived overall competence is positively related to deep
approach and negatively associated with surface approach.
To summarize, the present study aims to test an integrated model of
combining both cognitive factors (i.e., deep and surface approaches to
learning) and personal characteristics (i.e., self-perceived overall competence) in predicting academic performance through academic motivation. Unlike previous studies which mainly focused on individual
components of academic competence beliefs such as self-efcacy or
self-concept, this study advances the literature on learning and education by investigating the effect of self-perceived overall competence
(as a global evaluation of one's capabilities in various domains) on
academic motivation and performance. The ndings of this study will
provide recommendation to the educators to understand the inuencing factors of students' academic motivation and performance.

201

2. Method
2.1. Participants
A sample of 496 undergraduate students at a local university participated in this study. Thirty-four students did not report their GPAs, thus
they were excluded from further analysis. The nal sample size is 462,
with 32.8% of which are male. Their study majors were social science
subjects. The age range is between 18 and 29, with a mean of age of
20.75 (SD = 1.74).

2.2. Measures
2.2.1. Self-perceived overall competence
The competence subscale of the Positive Youth Development Inventory (PYDI; Arnold, Nott, & Meinhold, 2012) was adopted to measure
self-perceived overall competence of university students. PYDI was developed to assess personality characteristics of adolescents and young
people (Eccles & Gootman, 2002; Lerner et al., 2005). The competence
subscale of the PYDI consists of 14 items. It measures one's view of
his/her actions in social, academic, cognitive, and vocational areas. Sample items include I can handle problems that come up in my life and I
am aware of other people's needs in social situations. Participants
responded to each item on a 4-point Likert scale, with 1 = Strongly
Disagree to 4 = Strongly Agree. Higher scores indicate higher degrees
of perceived competence. The Cronbach's alpha of this scale was .80.

2.2.2. Approach to learning


A revised two-factor study process questionnaire (R-SPQ-2F; Biggs
et al., 2001) was applied to assess the two approaches to learning. The
questionnaire consists of two subscales, namely, deep and surface
approaches, with 10 items for each subscale. Examples of items for
assessing deep approach are I nd that at times studying gives me a
feeling of deep personal satisfaction and I nd that I have to do enough
work on a topic so that I can form my own conclusions before I am
satised. Sample items for the surface approach subscale are My aim
is to pass the course while doing as little work as possible and I only
study seriously what's given out in class or in the course outlines. The
questionnaire was rated on a ve-point Likert scale, with 1 = Never
or only rarely true for me to 5 = Always or almost always true for me.
Higher scores indicate the more frequent use of the respective approach
to learning. The reliability obtained for the two subscales was satisfactory
(deep approach: = .82; surface approach: = .85).
2.2.3. Academic motivation
The motivation subscale of the Student Adaptation to College
Questionnaire (Baker & Siryk, 1989) was administrated to evaluate the
level of academic motivation of undergraduates. The questionnaire consists of six items, with sample items such as I know why I'm in the university and what I want out of it and Most of the things I am interested
in are not related to any of my course work at university. Participants
responded to each item using a 9-point Likert scale, with 1 = Does
not apply to me at all to 9 = Apply very closely to me. Higher scores
represent a stronger academic motivation. The reliability of this measurement was acceptable ( = .69).

2.2.4. Academic performance


Grade point average (GPA) was utilized as an indicator of academic
performance. The respondents were requested to report their GPAs in
the last semester. Their GPAs ranged from 1 to 4.3. Higher scores indicate better academic performance.
In addition, participants were asked to report their majors, age, and
gender in the questionnaire.

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E.S.C. Liu et al. / Learning and Individual Differences 39 (2015) 199204

2.3. Procedure
The ethical approval for this study was obtained from the afliated
university. Participants were recruited and completed the questionnaires during classes, such that most questionnaires were immediately
returned to the researchers. Participation in this questionnaire was
voluntary. Participants were assured that the data collected would
be kept condential and would only be utilized for the research
purpose.

3. Results
First, the means and correlations of the main constructs in the proposed model are presented in Table 1. Consistent with the prediction
in H1, a signicantly positive correlation between self-perceived overall
competence and GPA was found (r = .14). GPA was signicantly associated with deep (r = .30) and surface approaches (r = .28), which
support H3a and H3b. The expected positive correlation between selfperceived overall competence and deep approach (r = .38) and negative correlation between surface approach and self-perceived overall
competence (r = .31) were also observed, which conrm H5. Furthermore, in accordance with the predictions for the two approaches
to learning, deep approach was found to correlate signicantly with
surface approach (r = .20). Moreover, academic motivation was
associated with GPA (r = .32), the two approaches to learning (deep
approach: r = .42; surface approach: r = .48), and competence
(r = .44). These associations provided the statistical foundation to test
the proposed mediating model.
Path analysis was performed by using AMOS to investigate the
hypothesized relationships among self-perceived overall competence,
approach to learning, academic motivation, and GPA (Arbuckle,
2006b). AMOS offers several model t indices to evaluate the appropriateness of the proposed model, including Chi-square (2) with its
degree of freedom (df), root mean square error of approximation
(RMSEA), normed t index (NFI), and comparative t index (CFI).
These t indices directly measure the t of the hypothesized model
with the observed data and of the estimated model relative to alternative baseline models, including a null model with no correlations
between the variables (Arbuckle, 2006a).
The proposed pathways evaluated the effects of self-perceived
overall competence and two approaches to learning on academic
performance through academic motivation. First, we found that
self-perceived overall competence has no signicant direct effect
on GPA (see Table 2). Thus, the direct pathway from self-perceived
overall competence to GPA was removed from the model. The nal
model, which is shown in Fig. 2, demonstrates a good model t (2
(1) = 2.61, p N .01, NFI = .994, RMSEA = .06, CFI = .996). As presented in Fig. 2, academic motivation fully mediated the direct effect of
self-perceived overall competence on GPA, therefore H2 is supported. Moreover, both deep and surface approaches to learning have
direct and indirect effects on GPA in the expected directions. Thus,
H4 is also supported.

Table 1
Means of and correlations among self-perceived overall competence, approach to learning,
academic motivation, and academic performance.
1
1. Self-perceived overall
competence
2. Deep approach
3. Surface approach
4. Academic motivation
5. Grade point average
p b .01.

5 Mean (SD)

.38
.31
.44
.14

2.97 (.33)

.20
.42
.48
.30
.28 .32

3.24 (.52)
2.63 (.64)
5.93 (1.03)
3.29 (.37)

Table 2
The direct and indirect effects of perceived competence and approach to learning on grade
point average (GPA).
Standardized Beta (SE)
Deep
approach

Surface
approach

Self-perceived Academic
motivation
overall
competence

Direct effects
Academic motivation .26 (.04) .36 (.04) .23 (.05)
GPA
.22 (.04) .18 (.05) .08 (.05)
Indirect effects
GPA
.05 (.02) .06 (.02) .04 (.02)

.17 (.05)

p b .01.
p b .001.

4. Discussion
This study examined the interrelationships among self-perceived
overall competence, approach to learning, academic motivation, and
academic performance. It demonstrated the signicant effect of overall
competence on academic motivation and performance. The results of
path analyses also supported our hypothesized model, which integrates
the inuences of cognitive factors and personal characteristics on academic performance through the mediation of academic motivation.

4.1. Theoretical implications


Unlike past studies which focused mainly on the effect of academic
self-efcacy on study habits, attitudes, motivation, and academic
performance (Bandura, 1993; Brookover, Thomas, & Paterson, 1964;
Lent, Brown, & Larkin, 1986; Papinczak et al., 2008; Phan, 2007;
Zimmerman, 2000), this study investigated the role of overall competence in academic motivation and performance. The expected association between personal characteristics and cognitive factors were
observed, with self-perceived overall competence positively correlated
with deep approach and negatively correlated with surface approach.
Among undergraduate students who feel competent in both academic
and social contexts, they tend to perceive learning materials as interesting and consider studying as a source of intrinsic satisfaction, which in
turn motivate them to spend more time and effort to their academic
studies. By contrast, students with lower levels of perceived overall
competence tend to learn things by rote and reluctantly attempt to
learn the required subject materials (Papinczak et al., 2008; Sobral,
1997). These ndings are similar to the past studies examining the
effects of personality traits, such as the Big Five personality factors,
on learning styles and study strategies of undergraduate students
(Blickle, 1996; Duff et al., 2004). In addition to personality traits and
academic self-efcacy which were widely examined in past studies,
this study demonstrates that self-perceived overall competence is also
an important predictor of approaches to learning among university
students.
The present study advances the literature by demonstrating that
self-perceived overall competence, as a global construct of competence
beliefs, can be a signicant predictor of academic success of university
students. The overall competence, which includes positive views of
academic, social, cognitive, and vocational domains, determines the
level of aspiration and study motivation of students, which in turn inuences their academic performance and whole-person development in
the long-run. Students who possess a higher level of overall competence
will perform better at university than their peers with only a higher
level of academic competence but lower competence in other domains.
The ndings of the present study suggest that overall competence,
including not only academic competence but also competence in other
domains, such as good interpersonal relationships, career plan and
decision-making abilities, is important in academic success, especially

E.S.C. Liu et al. / Learning and Individual Differences 39 (2015) 199204

203

Deep
Approach
.38***
-.20***

Self-perceived
Overall
Competence
-.31***

.20***

.26***

Academic
Motivation

.23***
-.36***

.15**

GPA

-.17**

Surface
Approach
Fig. 2. Pathways of self-perceived overall competence, deep and surface approaches to learning, academic motivation, and GPA. Note. p b .01; p b .001.

in the era when teamwork and whole-person development are


emphasized.
This study also investigated the effects of the two approaches to
learning of students on academic performance. Consistent with our
predictions, academic motivation was positively predicted by deep
approach and negatively predicted by surface approach. These ndings
are in alignment with other empirical studies to demonstrate the linkage between approach to learning and academic motivation (Busato
et al., 2000; Kizilgunes et al., 2009). However, some researchers may
argue that academic motivation determines one's approach to learn
and study (e.g., Diseth & Martinsen, 2003). Future studies should therefore adopt a longitudinal design to clarify the direction of relationship
between these two constructs.
Furthermore, the proposed mediation model was observed. Results
of the pathway analysis have demonstrated that both cognitive factors
(i.e., approaches to learning) and personal characteristics (i.e., selfperceived overall competence) were salient predictors of academic
motivation. The present study also reveals that approach to learning
directly and indirectly affects academic performance, which further validated the model proposed by Cred and Kuncel (2008). Similar to their
research, this study also shows that the effect of self-perceived overall
competence on academic performance is fully mediated by academic
motivation. The full mediation effect of academic motivation reveals
the underlying mechanism of the pathway from personal characteristics
to academic success (Fortier et al., 1995). This study therefore advances
the literature by assimilating cognitive factors and personal characteristics to provide a comprehensive picture of higher education through the
analytical lens of an integrated model.
4.2. Limitations and future directions
When interpreting the ndings reported in this paper, a few issues
should be taken into consideration. First, only one factor from each
dimension of cognitive constructs and personal characteristics was
selected for examination. Other personal characteristics, such persistence or self-directedness (Lane & Lane, 2001; Tanaka et al., 2009), as
well as other cognitive factors, such as critical thinking skills and study
habits (Gortner & Zulauf, 2000; Macan, Shahani, Dipboye, & Phillips,
1990; Stupnisky, Renaud, Daniels, Haynes, & Perry, 2008), should also
be taken into account when investigating academic performance in
future studies. Second, social inuences such as the social support
from family, peers, or teachers can play a vital role in affecting students'
coping strategies in face of academic stress and challenges (Cutrona,
Cole, Colangelo, Assouline, & Russell, 1994; Malecki & Demaray, 2006).
Hence, the proposed model can be further improved by encapsulating
relevant social factors to fully understand academic achievement.
Third, this study is cross-sectional and causal relationships cannot
be drawn. Educators in higher education should interpret and make
use of these ndings with cautions. Future studies should adopt an

experimental design to fully disclose the pathways examined in the


present conceptual framework. Last but not least, the present study
only requested the participants to report their GPA in the questionnaire
as an indicator of their academic performance. Future studies should
also include an objective measure of academic performance by gathering academic records from the university.

4.3. Practical implications


Apart from the theoretical implications and limitations discussed,
the results shown in this study shed light on tertiary education
practices. Considering the signicant effect of self-perceived overall
competence on academic achievement, teachers, instructors, and policy
makers can assist students to develop an accurate perception of their
capabilities. Provided that competence level is not easily increased
within a short period of time, a clear and realistic perception of one's
ability and efcacy can at least lead to one's awareness of his/her weaknesses. The ndings from the present study also suggest that academic
competence (i.e., academic self-efcacy) should not be the sole
focus in university education. Other types of competence beliefs,
such as competence in social and vocational domains, are also inuential on students' academic success as well. Meanwhile, this study
provides educators with insights for designing intervention programs that will help students modify their approaches to learning
and study strategies. For instance, student-centered learning environments should be prompted to increase their deep learning strategies (Baeten, Kyndt, Struyven, & Dochy, 2010), such as emphasis
on personal interest or self-actualization. Moreover, educators can
consider both cognitive factors and personal characteristics in designing class instruction and management methods to maximize
learning outcome in tertiary education.

5. Conclusions
This study explores the interrelationships among self-perceived
overall competence, approach to learning, academic motivation, and
academic performance. Results strongly supported the proposed pathways, which indicated that both overall competence and approach to
learning play critical roles, either through direct or indirect pathways,
in predicting the GPA of university students. Specically, overall competence was proven to exert its inuence on GPA fully through academic
motivation, whereas approach to learning directly and indirectly affects
GPA. The ndings of this study advance our knowledge by unveiling
the importance of self-perceived overall competence on academic
achievement. They also provide insights to educators to improve approaches to learning and enhance the study motivation for university
students.

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E.S.C. Liu et al. / Learning and Individual Differences 39 (2015) 199204

Acknowledgment
This study was supported by research fund from the Department of
Applied Social Sciences at City University of Hong Kong.
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