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 Background to the Study

            Academic achievement is an important factor in education because it can be seen as an indicator of whether the education in a country is successful or not. Dambudzo (2009), states that over the p ast couple of decades society has placed more emphasis on the academic achievement of citizens. The academic achievement of students is an important indicator of academic succ ess at secondary school level. Students with higher levels of achievement at se  condary school are more likely to gain admission into the tertiary institutions. Test or examination scores predict success into the tertiary institutions (Joppke & Morawska 2003). In short, academic achievement is important because it promotes success later in life (Areepattamannil & Freeman 2008).

Education in every human community is an indispensible instrument for human progress and empowerment. Any nation that lacks a sound educational culture and philosophy stands the risk of decay because education whether at the primary, secondary or higher level, plays a vital role in the overall development of a country. Secondary education in particular has the broad aim of preparing students for useful living within the society and preparing them for higher education. One of the major roles of educators at the secondary level is to develop students’ skills and knowledge that will enable them function effectively in the society; hence students’ academic achievement is a major variable that interests both teachers and educational psychologists

Secondary education is mid way between primary education and tertiary education, thus it is the bridge that links the primary and tertiary institutions. It is organized to take care of the adolescent period of the learner‘s life which is the period of rapid development of those qualities recognized as necessary for the transition to adulthood. These qualities are physical, emotional, moral, intellectual and vocational development. The secondary level of education has a major role to play in the development of these qualities and the academic achievement of the student is often an indication of how well the student has adapted to the school and society. For many educators and parents, this success in school can be summed up in academic success which researchers have recognized to have a positive relationship with future higher education and economic success in later life (Zahra, 2010). The targeted goal of educational programmes is to ensure that the learner (student) achieves a desired outcome. One major variable that measures an individual’s success or failure in school activities is academic achievement (Balarabe & Dramanu 2011).

The concept achievement has several references, which could denote activity and mastery that makes an impact on the environment and competing against some standard of excellence. The under achieving student is one whose actual attainment as indicated by his scholastic attainment in school, does not measure up to his potential academic achievement as indicated by his abilities (Marsh, 2007).  Marsh also defined over achievers as students whose school attainment is in excess of expectations formed on the basis of their activities. The concepts of over and under achievement suggest that there are variables in addition to ability which have positive effects on the performance of the learner and consequently, there could be no perfect positive correlation between intelligence and attainment.

Academic achievement itself is the amount of knowledge derived from learning by the learner.  The learner gains knowledge from instructions he or she receives at school which is organized around a set of core activities in which a teacher assigns tasks to students and evaluates and compares the quality of their work. The school thus provides a wide variety of achievement experiences than does the family (Tucker, 2008; Zayco, 2002; & Sullivan, 2009). These variables are therefore important to educational researchers and other related disciplines. Currently, the focus of this study is on each student’s sense of self as a major component of academic achievement. According to Akomolafe (2010), academic achievement is based on several factors, such as the student’s attitude, interest, personal characteristics, self concept, motivation and social class which in addition to learning are known to influence their academic achievement. The attitude that is often used in conjunction with academic achievement is self-concept.

Self concept is a multi-dimensional construct that refers to an individual’s perception of self in relation to some characteristics, such as academic and non-academic (Marsh & Martin, 2011), gender roles and sexuality (Hoffman, 2004) and many others.  Researchers have identified seven features that are critical to any definition of self- concept. According to them it is organized, multifaceted, hierarchical, stable, developmental, evaluative, and differentiable (Marsh & Shavelson, 1985; Shavelson & Marsh, 1986).  Marsh & Shavelson (1985) differentiated between the self-perceptions that one has about oneself as an individual which involve the totality of one’s self-knowledge and the self-perceptions that one has in regards to specific areas or domains in one’s life.  General self-perceptions comprise the global self-concept, whereas the more bounded self-perception can comprise self-concepts about academic, social, emotional, or physical facets of the self. The hierarchy progressively narrows into more discreet types of self-concepts. Academic self-concept can be defined as student perception of self as learner and how she\he interates with the learning environment. Academic self-concept can be subject-specific, such as language arts, history, Mathematics, science, art, or music self-concepts. Social self-concepts can include self-perceptions regarding family, peers, or significant others.  People become increasingly aware of their differing domain-specific self-concepts as they grow older. This study however focuses on the aspect of academic self–concept as it relates to mathematics.

Motivation is a widely researched topic in both the fields of psychology and education. Achievement motivation can best be understood by examining the meanings of “achievement” and “motivation” separately. Achievement typically stress the importance of accomplishment and attainment with effort involved (Mandel & Marcus 2005). Motivation relates to the individual’s reason for engaging in an activity, the degree to which an individual pursues the activity, and the persistence of the individual (Graham & Weiner, 1996). Achievement motivation is an important issue for psychologists and individuals in the field of education because it has been correlated with academic self-concept (Marsh and Ayotte, 2003). Achievement motivation is defined as the need to perform well or the striving for success and evidence by persistence and effort in the face of difficulties, achievement motivation is regarded as a central human motivation. McClelland (1969) measured it by analyzing respondents’ narratives; rather more controversially he hypothesized that it was related to economic growth.  Atkinson (1964) states, “The theory of achievement motion attempts to account for the determinants of the direction, magnitude and persistence of behaviour, in limited but very important domain of human activities. In the words Dave and Anand (1979) “Achievement Motivation is a desire to do well in relative to some standard of excellence.” Colman (2006) has defined achievement motivation as a social form of motivation involving a competitive desire to meet standards of excellence.

Achievement Motivation in the school context can be defined as a driving force that accounts for students’ behaviour in achievement situations. It determines congnitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects of students’ attachment and contribution to the process of education in the educational subsector (Tucker, Zayco, & Herman, 2002). Not left out is the issue of gender concerning the extent and causes of sex difference in education, mainly covering the years of compulsory schooling.  However academic self–concept and achievement motivation are associated to gender with some studies showing that boys have higher achievement motivation than girls in areas of physical activities and mathematics, and girls do for music and reading (Marsh, 2005).

The term gender refers to the economic, social, political, educational, and cultural attributes and opportunities, associated with either being a male or a female. In most societies male and female differ in educational achievement motivation. The concept of gender gap has been introduced in recent years as examination achievement has become equated with school and student success. The gender gap indicates the ratio of girls and boys studying and passing examinations in specific subjects; where the size and nature of the gender gap differ according to subjects. Where gender policy is made it is aimed at reducing gender gaps overall and gaps have thus narrowed in some subjects in some countries (William, 2000). However, certain subjects continue to show a gap in favor of boys, for examples in science, technology and mathematics and a gap in favor of girls, for examples in languages and humanity subjects.

The gender of the student may also be a factor in determining student achievement. Childhood training and experience, gender differences in attitudes, parental and teacher expectations and behaviours, differential course taking and biological differences between the sexes may all be instrumental in giving rise to gender differences in achievement (Feingold, 2006).  The rather high gender disparity in various spheres of public life and the patriarchal social structure in many countries may also lead to poorer academic achievement among female secondary school students (Wester & Henriksson, 2000).

In Nigeria, the importance attached to academic success in secondary school education can be seen in the anxiety of educators, teachers and parents over the achievement of students in external examinations such as the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE). This is why the Federal Government of Nigeria places high premium on the Secondary level of education, which is evident in the establishment of National Examination Council (NECO) to conduct Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE) along the West African Examination Council (WAEC) for senior secondary school students in Nigeria. The same emphasis on education has led to the adoption of education as “an instrument par excellence” for effecting national development (Federal Government of Nigeria, (FGN, 2004).

In view of the high premium placed on educational attainment by government, teachers, parents and students, underachievement or poor achievement in examination is a very thorny issue that has attracted the attention of researchers and psychologists alike. The aim of psychologists and educators in this regard has been to determine variables (both internal and external to the students) which are related to their educational achievements. In Nigeria, some external variables such as overcrowded classroom, inadequate facilities, unmotivated teachers, poor family background etc have been identified as being negatively related to academic achievement of students (Cokley, 2005).

Apart from these external factors there are certain self-influence or self-image which are internal to the student and are also predictors of academic achievement of students. These variables are motivational in nature in that they determine the amount of learning that will take place. These variables are also associated with individual differences in achievement and could as well predict academic success for some. These relationships were well summed by Duesek (2004) when he opined that students who score high grade in school have good study habits and are usually interested in school, tend to be grade conscious, have relatively high level of self-confidence and self-acceptance, are highly motivated for academic achievement and set realistic goals for themselves. Self–concept and achievement are dynamically interactive and reciprocal, each is mutually reinforcing to the extent that a positive (or negative) change in one facilitates a commensurate change in the other and academic self–concept is more highly correlated with academic achievement than in general self-concept. Students with high self –concept tend to approach school related tasks with confidence and success in those tasks reinforces their confidence. The opposite pattern is likely to occur for students with low self –concept.

It follows then that certain needs and positive self-image must be met for students to achieve. It becomes necessary, therefore, to research into such self-limiting factors like lack of achievement motivation, and poor/low academic self-concept, which could be perceived as being negatively related to academic achievement. It is this concern that prompted the researcher to carry out this study.


Statement of the Problem

The poor academic achievement of  senior secondary school students (SSSS) within Nigeria educational system has been attributed to a number of factors including individual, family, community, cultural, and societal factors (Federal Ministry of Education, 2003).

The Nigeria nation and other nations of the world have shown tremendous concern about the poor academic achievement of senior secondary school students in mathematics (Akubiro and Joshua, 2004; Beyer Corporation, 2003).  This poor academic achievement of students in mathematics in Nigeria – a country that needs mathematics for its development – deserves the total attention of educational planners, teachers and researchers in Nigeria for a possible turnaround of poor academic achievement of students in mathematics .According to Marsh (2009), academic self-concept has been shown to be a very important educational achievement indicator as well as desirable mediating variable leading to other positive outcomes, such that educational policy statements throughout the world list academic self-concept enhancement as a central goal of education.

Research studies have also shown that mathematics in particular have witnessed alarming rate of poor performance of students over the years.  WAEC, (2008) gave a breakdown of students academic achievement in mathematics in May/June from 2004 to 2006. From the breakdown 33.94%, 38.20% and 41.12% of students that enrolled for the examination passed at A1-C6 grade levels in 2004, 2005 and 2006 respectively.  Fajemidagba, Salman & Ayinla (2012) also gave a breakdown of student’s academic achievement for 2006 – 2010 as released by WAEC for A1 – C6 grade levels at 41.12%, 46.75%, 57.27%, 49.09% and 41.95% in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively.  In 2008 there was a slight improvement in students’ academic achievement at credit pass in mathematics with 57.27%.  In 2011, 75% of the students that took the examination failed the May/June examination. The results showed that only 451,187 candidates of the 1,351,557 who sat for the examination obtained credit pass in mathematics (Vanguard, Thursday 6 March, 2014). The result also reveals that 77,168 students had their result withheld for fraud. This is due to the fact that WAEC intensified effort to stop examination malpractices. Hence the percentage of students who passed at credit level in mathematics is 30.91% (Vanguard, Thursday 6, 2014). The academic achievement in the subject was also bad when in 2012 only 38.81 passed at credit level in mathematics.  Then in 2013 only 36.57% had credit pass in mathematics. The failure became very embarrassing in 2014 when only 31.28 recorded pass in mathematics out of the 1,692,435 that sat for the examination in May/June 2014, the number of students that failed was 1,162,010 while 8.61% was involved in examination malpractices (about 145,719 students) (Vanguard, Thursday 6 March, 2014). The report for 2011 as represented by Ossai (2012) is not too different from other years as 38.93% pass at A1 – C6 levels. This poor academic achievement of students from year to year has been of great concern to well meaning Nigerians and to the education sector as it has negative impact on a developing nation aspiring for scientific and technological advancement (Osarumwense, 2014). Poor academic achievement of students in mathematics has been attributed to student’s attitude towards the subject, lack of motivation, negative self-concept, lack of good study habit, lack of interpersonal support, feeling of inadequacy, unavailability of learning material, anxiety, shortage of qualified mathematics teacher and large students number to teacher ratio (Tella, 2007).  Despite the fact these factors have been researched into and efforts made to arrest the situation by parents, students, and even teachers, the situation has not experienced a positive change and this has become a great concern. Suffice to say that in Nigeria, few researches have been carried out on this subject matter. This is an important gap which this study intends to fill.  The problem of the study, therefore, is to find out whether the academic self-concept and achievement motivation correlate with academic achievement of Senior Secondary School Students (SSSS) in Edo State.





Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between academic self-concept and achievement motivation as correlates of academic achievement of Senior Secondary School Students in Edo State.

Specifically the study seeks to determine:

  1. The level of Students’ academic self-concept in Mathematics among Senior Secondary Schools’ Students’ in Edo State.
  2. The level of Students’ achievement motivation in Mathematic among Senior Secondary Schools’ Students’ in Edo State.
  3. The level of Students’ academic achievement in Mathematics among Senior Secondary Schools’ Students’ in Edo State.
  4. The relationship between academic self- concept and academic achievement in Mathematics of Senior Secondary School students in Edo State.
  5. The relationship between achievement motivation and academic achievement in Mathematics of Senior Secondary school Students in Edo State.
  6. The relationship between achievement motivation and academic achievement in Mathematics as mediated by gender of Senior Secondary School Students in Edo State.
  7. The predictiveness of academic self–concept and achievement motivation to academic achievement in Mathematics




Research Questions

The following research questions guided the study:

  • What is the level of academic self–concept among Senior Secondary School Students in Mathematics in Edo State?
  • What is the level of achievement motivation among Senior Secondary School Students in Mathematics in Edo State?
  • What is the level of academic achievement in Mathematics among Senior Secondary School Students Edo State?
  • Does relationship exist between academic self-concept and academic achievement of Senior Secondary Schools’ Students’ in Mathematics in Edo State?
  • Does relationship exist between achievement motivation and academic achievement of Senior Secondary Schools’ Students’ in Mathematics in Edo State?
  • What is the relationship between academic self-concept and academic achievement in Mathematic by sex among Senior Secondary Schools’ Students’ in Edo State?
  • What is the relationship between achievement motivation and academic achievement in Mathematic by sex among Senior Secondary Schools’ Students’ in Edo State?
  • What is the predictive ability of academic self–concept and achievement motivation in Mathematics among Senior Secondary School Students in Edo State?



The following null hypotheses were tested in this study:

  1. There is no significant relationship between academic self-concept and academic achievement in Mathematics among Senior Secondary School Students in Edo state.
  2. There is no significant relationship between achievement motivation and academic achievement in Mathematics among Senior Secondary School Students in Edo State.
  3. There is no significant relationship between academic self-concept and academic achievement in Mathematics by sex among Senior Secondary School Students in Edo State.
  4. There is no significant relationship between achievement motivation and academic achievement in Mathematics by sex among Senior Secondary School Students in Edo State.
  5. Academic-self-concept and achievement motivation do not significantly predict academic achievement in mathematics among Senior Secondary School Students in Edo State.

Significance of the Study

This study seeks to find out whether academic self-concept and achievement motivation correlates with academic achievement of Senior Secondary School Students in Edo State. The results will therefore be useful and beneficial to stakeholders in educational sectors, namely students, parents, teachers, principals and policy makers as follows:

The outcome of this study would be of assistance to students in increasing self-understanding as a sense of personal responsibility and positive behavioural change. Students would understand the need or role of counselling which is aimed at developing the potential of the individual to the highest degree possible. With the help of these outcomes, students will be motivated towards better adjustment to secondary school environment, especially in the areas of improved academic achievement, good initiative and creativity relevant to national development. The outcome would be relevant to students in the building of positive academic self-concept in their academic pursuit in the course of students’ participation as subjects, their level of academic self-concept will be enhanced, and this would help them to build or develop independent thinking ability and to look inwards for solution to academic problems. If they discover that they can tap from their inbuilt potentials and that they can pass examinations without stress, study to them will be fun. Understanding of this study will make students admit psychological problems if need be and be able to ask for help.  This will uplift students’ desired academic self-concept that is related to good career decision.

The outcome of this study would be relevant and beneficial to parents who are anxious about their children’s academic achievement. Parent-child relationship in the home is very important in developing a child academic self-concept and achievement motivation. The outcomes would also help parents in developing a healthy and positive attitude, encouraging them to take responsibilities and accepting that outcome is related to their effort. The child also needs a loving stable home. The parents will therefore help to improve their children’s academic achievement armed with the knowledge of the relationship between their role as parents, children’s psychological makeup and their academic achievement. Parents must also partner with the school in developing the child’s potential and not their inadequacies.

It is hopeful that the findings of this study would be useful to teachers in the teaching/learning situation by helping them recognize their individual student’s performance would be related to their different levels of achievement motivation and academic self-concept. This knowledge will help the teacher understand his or her student better and so plan the teaching accordingly. Teachers can also create a learning environment that articulates a passion to perform to the best of one’s ability individually and collectively towards the acquisition of a good goal.

The findings would also be useful to principals of schools who have responsibility for teachers, counselors and the students. By understanding the issues involved in children’s psychological makeup, the principal would be able to provide the co-operation, the time and the necessary support to teachers and counselors to enable them help students improve on their academic achievement. The principal would also be in a position to provide a safe and stable environment for study and encourage academic self-concept and achievement motivation of students, thereby contributing to the academic success of the students. The principal can also motivate teachers by providing seminars, staff development and training on current research and best practices in the field of student achievement motivation, provide teachers with the opportunity to visit other successful teachers in their classroom or neighboring schools to visualize what a motivated classroom embodies and acknowledge student success.

The findings would also serve as a useful guide to policy makers and educational planners in developing and implementing policies and strategies that would help in alleviating problems of students thereby fostering the academic success of students. The government and the Ministry of Education would understand the need for provision of facilities for schools and would work with parents /teachers associations and the counselors to promote activities that would enhance the psychological wellbeing of students and in this regard their academic achievement.

Scope of the Study

This study covered the students in public senior secondary schools in Edo state.  Emphasis was on the three variables under discussion: self-concept, achievement motivation, and academic achievement. For academic self-concept, the study covered mostly the academic and intellectual aspect of academic self-concept. This investigated students self reflection, attitudes and opinions which they hold to be true about themselves educationally and intellectually that involve learning and problem solving. For achievement motivation, it concentrated on intrinsic, extrinsic aspect of motivation. This investigated students self-report, interest and enjoyment of the activity; while the extrinsic investigated the activity engaged in, not for reasons inherent in them, but for instrumental reasons. Measurement of students’ academic achievement was limited to Mathematics



Limitation of the study

The focus of this study is on academic self-concept and achievement motivation as correlates of academic achievement. One major limitation of this study is that the researcher decided to use only public (state) schools students in the study. This can be a limitation when one considers the number of private schools; it will spare the researcher the problem of controlling for the differences that are apparent between the state and private schools. For example, the provision of facilities, infrastructures and availability of resources are very different for state and private schools. Secondly, the study did not measure all aspects of the psychological variables possible; instead it is limited to the study of academic self-concept, achievement motivation as defined by this research. This study only covers the senior secondary 11 students’ other studies should cover other classes and more subjects than mathematics should be covered. Another limitation of this study was that out of 698 questionnaires that were administered, 683 questionnires were returned and 15 questionnire were not recovered.


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