Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School Psychology

Major Professor

Christopher H. Skinner

Committee Members

David J. Woehr, R. Steve McCallum, Richard A. Saudargas, Brian E. Wilhoit


There were several objectives associated with the following three-study dissertation. The initial study was designed to replicate and extend previous research on the partial assignment completion effect (PAC), effort, and students’ assignment choice behavior. Our focus was to determine if individual differences, specifically work ethic, may explain why some students chose to continue to work on a partially-completed assignment as opposed to completing a different, lower-effort assignment. Our experimental and correlational results extended research on PAC and effort by suggesting that individual differences in work ethic may influence students to choose to finish what they started, even when it requires them to do more work. Additionally, by demonstrating that scores on the Multidimensional Work Ethic Profile (MWEP) accounted for a significant amount of variance in academic assignment choice behavior we extended research on the MWEP across contexts (i.e., academic assignment as opposed to work).

The significant findings from Study I influenced us to pursue Study II which focused on the development and initial validation of an academically focused work ethic scale. The MWEP was used as a model to develop the 84 preliminary items. These items along with the MWEP were administered to college students. Five factors emerged with each dimension being reduced to 5 items. Significant correlations between our five academic work ethic factors and similar MWEP factors supported the validity of the Academic Work Ethic-Student (AWE-S) measure.

The AWE-S items were written at a fifth-grade reading level so that the measure could be completed by middle and high school students. With Study III we replicated Study I by using similar assignment choice procedures with younger students (grades five-eight) and assessing working ethic using the newly created AWE-S. Next, we analyzed student choice data to determine if AWE-S scores could account for student choice (i.e., choosing to complete either a partially completed assignment or a new assignment that would require approximately 10% less effort to complete). Students also completed a 35-item scale designed to measure perfectionism. Findings suggest that specific AWE-S factors explain some student choice variance within the sample; yet, psychometric findings suggest that additional work on the AWE-S scale is needed to enhance the internal consistency of the instrument.

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