Date of Award

8-1-2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Rottinghaus, Patrick

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine possible predictive factors of student retention in a longitudinal study of agricultural majors utilizing self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000) as a theoretical framework. Logistic regressions were utilized in order to examine the influence of the following predictor variables assessed at Time 1 on retention: perceived parental need support, autonomous self-regulation, and academic major satisfaction. Measures included: the Perceptions of Parents Scale (POPS; Robbins, 1994), the Self-Regulation Questionnaire (SRQ; Ryan & Connell, 1989), the Academic Major Satisfaction Survey (AMSS; Nauta, 2007), the Perceived Competence Scale (PCS; Williams & Deci, 1996), and the Institutional Integration Scales (IIS; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1980). According to self-determination theory, support of psychological needs and autonomously regulated behaviors lead to more satisfactory learning experiences and higher persistence in learning activities. A vast amount of research has also shown that when students are satisfied with their institution, they are more likely to persist until graduation (e.g., Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). As hypothesized, academic major satisfaction significantly predicted retention across all three levels of retention (i.e., academic major retention, academic college retention, and institutional retention) while autonomous self-regulation and perceived competence were shown to be a significant predictors of academic major retention and academic college retention. Perceived parental need support and constructs related to the institutional integration scales were not found to be predictive of retention on any level. Findings from the study provide empirical evidence supporting the use of self-determination theory as a framework for retention research.

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