Motivational Beliefs Specific to Business Studies Subfields: Interrelations, Antecedents, and Change in the Introductory Study Phase

Julia Gorges


In higher education, self-concepts of ability (SCA) and intrinsic task values (ITV) are key determinants of students’ choice of study program and dropout. Both constructs are multidimensional (i.e., specific to curricular learning content) and hierarchically structured (i.e., aggregate into one or more higher-order factors), which is often neglected in higher education research. Therefore, the present study investigated German business studies students’ (N = 375; age: M (SD) = 21.8 (5.51); 59% female) SCAs and ITVs at the level of subfields. Longitudinal data collected at the transition into higher education (t1) and toward the end of the first semester (t2) gave insight into (changes in) interrelations and antecedents of subfield-specific SCAs and ITVs during the introductory study phase, when students likely had to review their hitherto anticipated motivational beliefs. Results from confirmatory factor analyses and structural equation modeling revealed that interrelations of SCAs and ITVs decrease over time. SCAs correlate increasingly strongly within a mathematical and a verbal domain compared to cross-domain correlations. Accordingly, mathematics, but not German SCA, from high school predicts all subfield-specific SCAs at t1, but only mathematical subfield SCAs at t2. The pattern of results for ITVs is less systematic:  Mathematics ITV consistently predicted both mathematical subfield ITVs, whereas German ITV predicted law ITV only at t1. Curricular and practical implications of the subfield-specific formation of motivational beliefs at the transition into higher education are discussed.


motivation; self-concept of ability; intrinsic task value; higher education; structural equation modeling

Full Text:



Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. Macmillan.

Barefoot, B. O. (2004). Higher education's revolving door: Confronting the problem of student drop out in U.S. colleges and universities. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 19(1), 9–18. doi:10.1080/0268051042000177818

Bean, J. P., & Eaton, S. B. (2000). A psychological model of college student retention. In J. M. Braxton, (Ed.), Reworking the student departure puzzle (pp. 48–61). Nashville, Vanderbilt University Press.

Brahm, T., Jenert, T., & Wagner, D. (2017). The crucial first year: A longitudinal study of students’ motivational development at a Swiss Business School. Higher Education, 73(3), 459–478. doi: 10.1007/s10734-016-0095-8

Bråten, I., & Olaussen, B. S. (2005). Profiling individual differences in student motivation: A longitudinal cluster-analytic study in different academic contexts. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 30(3), 359–396. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2005.01.003

Bong, M. (2001). Role of self-efficacy and task-value in predicting college students' course performance and future enrollment intentions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 26(4), 553–570. doi:10.1006/ceps.2000.1048

Chanal, J., & Guay, F. (2015). Are autonomous and controlled motivations school-subjects-specific?. PloS one, 10(8), e0134660. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0134660

Coertjens, L., Brahm, T., Trautwein, C., & Lindblom-Ylänne, S. (2017). Students’ transition into higher education from an international perspective. Higher Education, 73(3), 357–369. doi:10.1007/s10734-016-0092-y

Crosling, G., Thomas, L., & Heagney, M. (2008). Improving student retention in higher education: the role of teaching and learning. London: Routledge.

Denissen, J. J. A., Zarrett, N. R., & Eccles, J. S. (2007). I like to do it, I’m able, and I know I am: Longitudinal couplings between domain-specific achievement, self-concept, and interest. Child Development, 78, 430–447. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01007.x

Dickhäuser, O. S., Schöne, C. C., Spinath, B., & Stiensmeier-Pelster, J. (2002). Skalen zum akademischen Selbstkonzept: Konstruktion und Überprüfung eines neuen Instruments. [The academic self-concept scales: Construction and evaluation of a new instrument]. Zeitschrift für Differentielle und Diagnostische Psychologie, 23(4), 393–405. doi:10.1024//0170-1789.23.4.393

Eccles, J. S. (1983). Expectancies, values, and academic behaviors. In J. T. Spencer (Ed.), Achievement and achievement motives: Psychological and sociological approaches (pp. 75–146). San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.

Eccles, J. S. (2005). Subjective task value and the Eccles et al. model of achievement-related choices. In A. J. Elliot & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 105–121). New York, NY: Guilford.

Eccles, J. S., Vida, M. N., & Barber, B. (2004). The relation of early adolescents’ college plans and both academic ability and task-value beliefs to subsequent college enrollment. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 24(1), 63–77. doi:10.1177/0272431603260919

Eccles, J. S., & Wigfield, A. (1995). In the mind of the actor: The structure of adolescents' achievement task values and expectancy-related beliefs. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21(3), 215–225. doi:10.1177/0146167295213003

Gale, T., & Parker, S. (2014). Navigating change: A typology of student transition in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 39(5), 734–753.


German Rectors’ Conference [GRC] (2014). Higher education compass. Retrieved from (accessed 11 May 2018)

Heublein, U., & Wolter, A. (2011). Studienabbruch in Deutschland. Definition, Häufigkeit, Ursachen, Maßnahmen. [Attrition in higher education in Germany. Definition, frequencies, causes, actions]. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 57(2), 214–236.

Hidi, S., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2000). Motivating the academically unmotivated: A critical issue for the 21st century. Review of educational research, 70(2), 151–179.


Holder, B. (2007). An investigation of hope, academics, environment, and motivation as predictors of persistence in higher education online programs. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(4), 245–260. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2007.08.002

Jansen, M., Schroeders, U., Lüdtke, O., & Pant, H. A. (2014). Interdisziplinäre Beschulung und die Struktur des akademischen Selbstkonzepts in den naturwissenschaftlichen Fächern. Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie, 28, 43–49.


Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2005). Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 4, 193–212. doi: 10.5465/amle.2005.17268566

Krapp, A. (1999). Interest, motivation and learning: An educational-psychological perspective. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 14(1), 23–40. doi:10.1007/BF03173109

Malgwi, C. A., Howe, M. A., & Burnaby, P. A. (2005). Influences on students' choice of college major. Journal of Education for Business, 80(5), 275–282. doi:10.3200/JOEB.80.5.275-282

Marsh, H. W. (1990a). The structure of academic self-concept: The Marsh/Shavelson model. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(4), 623–636. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.82.4.623

Marsh, H. W. (1990b). Influences of internal and external frames of reference on the formation of math and English self-concepts. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(1), 107–116. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.82.1.107

Marsh, H. W., & Yeung, A. S. (1998). Top-down, bottom-up, and horizontal models: The direction of causality in multidimensional, hierarchical self-concept models. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(2), 509–527.


Mortimer, J. T., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Holmes, M., & Shanahan, M. J. (2002). The process of occupational decision making: Patterns during the transition to adulthood. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 61(3), 439–465. doi:10.1177/1069072710382616

Musu-Gillette, L. E., Wigfield, A., Harring, J. R., & Eccles, J. S. (2015). Trajectories of change in students’ self-concepts of ability and values in math and college major choice. Educational Research and Evaluation, 21(4), 343–370. doi:10.1080/13803611.2015.1057161

Nagy, G., Garrett, J., Trautwein, U., Cortina, K. S., Baumert, J., and Eccles, J. (2008). Gendered high school course selection as a precursor of gendered occupational careers: The mediating role of self-concept and intrinsic value, in (Eds.) H. M. G. Watt and J. S. Eccles, Explaining Gendered Occupational Outcomes: Examining Individual and Social Explanations Through School and Beyond (pp.115–143). Washington D.C.: APA books.

R Core Team (2015). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. URL:

Rosseel, Y. (2012). lavaan: An R Package for Structural Equation Modeling. Journal of Statistical Software, 48(2), 1–36. URL:

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary educational psychology, 25(1), 54–67. doi:10.1006/ceps.1999.1020

Seidman, A. (Ed.). (2005). College student retention: Formula for student success. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Shavelson, R. J., Hubner, J. J., & Stanton, G. C. (1976). Self-concept: Validation of construct interpretations. Review of Educational Research, 46(3), 407–441. doi:10.3102/00346543046003407

Schermelleh-Engel, K., Moosbrugger, H., & Müller, H. (2003). Evaluating the fit of structural equation models: Tests of significance and descriptive goodness-of-fit measures. Methods of Psychological Research Online, 8(2), 23–74. doi:

Schröder, M. (2015). Studienwahl Unter den Folgen Einer Radikalen Differenzierung [Choosing a Study Program Under the Terms of an Extreme Differentiation]. Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt.

Shernoff, D. J., & Hoogstra, L. (2001). Continuing motivation beyond the high school classroom. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2001(93), 73–88. doi:10.1002/cd.26

Steinmayr, R., & Spinath, B. (2010). Konstruktion und erste Validierung einer Skala zur Erfassung subjektiver schulischer Werte (SESSW) [Construction and first validation of a scale assessing subjective educational task values]. Diagnostica, 56(4), 195–211. doi:10.1026/0012-1924/a000023

Stinebrickner, T. R., and Stinebrickner, R. (2009). Learning about academic ability and the college drop-out decision (No. w14810). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. doi:10.3386/w14810

Tempelaar, D. T., Gijselaers, W. H., van der Loeff, S. S., & Nijhuis, J. F. (2007). A structural equation model analyzing the relationship of student achievement motivations and personality factors in a range of academic subject-matter areas. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 32(1), 105–131. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2006.10.004

Tempelaar, D. T., van der Loeff, S. S., Gijselaers, W. H., & Nijhuis, J. F. (2011). On subject variations in achievement motivations: A study in business subjects. Research in Higher Education, 52(4), 395–419. doi:10.1007/s11162-010-9199-7

Tolciu, A., & Sode, M. (2011). Mehr Studienanfänger: Mehr Studienabbrecher? HWWI policy paper, 61. URL:

Trautwein, C., & Bosse, E. (2017). The first year in higher education—Critical requirements from the student perspective. Higher Education, 73(3), 371–387. doi: 10.1007/s10734-016-0098-5

Vallerand, R. J., & Ratelle, C. F. (2002). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: A hierarchical model. In E.L. Deci & R.M. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of Self-Determination Research (pp. 37–63). Rochester Press.

Vispoel, W. P. (1995). Self-concept in artistic domains: An extension of the Shavelson, Hubner, and Stanton (1976) model. Journal of Educational Psychology, 87(1), 134–153. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.87.1.134

Yeung, A. S., Chui, H. S., & Lau, I. C. Y. (1999). Hierarchical and multidimensional academic self-concept of commercial students. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 24(4), 376–389. doi:10.1006/ceps.1998.0994

Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2000). Expectancy–value theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 68–81. doi:10.1006/ceps.1999.1015


Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

International Journal of Educational Psychology - IJEP | ISSN: 2014-3591

Legal Deposit: B.34286-2012 | |