Date of Award

August 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Nadya A Fouad

Committee Members

Stephen Wester, Bo Zhang, Christopher Lawson


Academic Persistence, Measurement, Outcome Expectations, Psychometrics, Retention, Social Cognitive Career Theory


Academic persistence, or a student’s decision to leave an institution of higher education, has remained an inveterate puzzle to researchers, theoreticians, institutions, and counselors. Despite a large body of theoretical and empirical literature, the rate at which students leave institutions of higher education has remained stable over the past 50 years. The discipline of counseling psychology has a long tradition of investigating academic persistence from a psychological perspective. Earlier investigations in counseling psychology focused on identifying psychopathological traits, cognitive abilities, and contextual factors associated with a student’s decision to leave. These investigations were met with a sociological reaction that has dominated the question of persistence for the past forty years. Though useful in describing the institution’s role in persistence, these models lack substantial empirical support and are fraught with conceptual problems. Meta-analytic studies investigating non-cognitive factors in academic persistence have revealed that social cognitive constructs namely academic self-efficacy and goals are predictive of student retention when traditional predictors are accounted for (Robbins et al., 2004). However, outcome expectations, an integral theoretical component of social cognitive theory, remain almost completely unexamined in the domain of academic persistence. This study sought to develop a theoretically derived scale to measure outcome expectations in the domain of academic persistence. An initial item pool was developed and sent to a sample of college students (N = 216). A second, confirmatory sample of undergraduate students was collected via an online crowdsourcing format known as Prolific Academic (N = 301). Results suggested the presence of a two-factor structure was the most parsimonious solution that fit the data rather than the hypothesized three-factor structure. The two factors retained across both samples anticipated rewards and punishments that students perceived about remaining in college for the year. This was contrary to Bandura’s (1977, 1997) hypothesis that outcome expectations conformed to three classes. Limitations and implications are discussed.