Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to build on the foundational theories of personality and motivation to explore the role of competitiveness and of ethnicity in relation to student academic performance. Survey data from 328 students across four sites (Australia, Denmark, Hong Kong and Korea) provided self-rated responses to items measuring personality, motivation, competitiveness and ethnicity.
Design/methodology/approach: Stepwise multiple regression was used to identify the variables that predicated student academic performance, including testing for interaction effect of ethnicity. Both student self-reported data and independently assessed performance measures were used to avoid common method variance.
Findings: This study affirmed that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are significantly associated with academic performance. The personality traits of conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion and neuroticism are significantly associated with a student’s competitiveness. The interaction of competitiveness and ethnicity is significantly and positively associated with performance.
Research limitations/implications: The variable of student competitiveness requires further research to better understand its role in academic performance. Researching ethnicity at the micro level allows the acknowledgement and investigation of “intra-national diversity” (Tung, 2008; Tung and Baumann, 2009).
Originality/value: This study is original in its approach in that it combines the concepts of motivation, personality, competitiveness and ethnicity in relation to student academic performance. While previous studies have explored these concepts individually and often at the macro level, a crucial contribution of this study is that competitiveness and ethnicity (as opposed to national culture) are examined at a micro level. The authors demonstrate the combined importance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (carrot and stick) in driving performance and introduce the new motivation, competitiveness and performance model which recognises that competitiveness, as a driver of performance, is moderated by the learners’ ethnicity.
- Confucian orbit
- Student academic performance