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Detecting uncertainty, predicting outcome for first year students

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journal contribution
posted on 05.04.2022, 15:59 by Lalage Sanders, Carolyn Mair, Rachael James
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the use of two psychometric measures as predictors of end of year outcome for first year university students. Design/methodology/approach – New undergraduates (n=537) were recruited in two contrasting universities: one arts based, and one science, in different cities in the UK. At the start of the academic year, new undergraduates across 30 programmes in the two institutions were invited to complete a survey comprising two psychometric measures: Academic Behavioural Confidence scale and the Performance Expectation Ladder. Outcome data were collected from the examining boards the following summer distinguishing those who were able to progress to the next year of study without further assessment from those who were not. Findings – Two of the four Confidence subscales, Attendance and Studying, had significantly lower scores amongst students who were not able to progress the following June compared to those who did (p < 0.003). The Ladder data showed the less successful group to anticipate a poorer performance at graduation relative to their year group than did the other group (p < 0.05). Originality/value – The results suggest that these two psychometric measures could be instrumental in predicting those at risk of non-completion; such identification could enable the targeted use of limited resources to improve retention. Given the background of limited resources in which institutions are exhorted to improve retention rates, this approach, facilitating the early identification of those at risk of non-completion, could enable focused use of additional support to reduce attrition.


Published in

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education




AM (Accepted Manuscript)


Sanders, L.D., Mair, C. and James, R. (2016) 'Detecting uncertainty, predicting outcome for first year students', Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, 8(3), pp. 346 - 359

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Cardiff Met Affiliation

Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences

Cardiff Met Authors

Sanders Lalage

Cardiff Met Research Centre/Group

  • Applied Psychology and Behaviour Change

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