Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications

Major Professor

Christopher T. Stripling

Committee Members

Christopher N. Boyer, Carrie A. Stephens


A student’s academic success is entwined with their perceived beliefs and strategies. However, the effects of personal factors have yet to be fully explored in undergraduate agricultural students. This study aims to investigate students’ academic efficacy (AE), academic self-handicapping (SH) and skepticism about the relevance of school for future success (SR). AE, SH and SR were measured according to three scales from the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales. The scales required students to rate their level of disagreement or agreement (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). A response rate of 24% or 303 usable responses were obtained from student in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at the University of Tennessee (N = 1,286). Based on the population parameter of gender, the data were weighted, because the sample population was skewed towards females. The weighted-averages were 4.17 for AE, 1.67 for SH, and 2.01 for SR. In addition, a low negative association was found between academic efficacy and self-handicapping, a negligible relationship was found between academic efficacy and skepticism about the relevance of school for future success, and a moderate relationship was found between self-handicapping and skepticism about the relevance of school for future success. This population of students do not self-handicap themselves, do not doubt the relevance of their degree, and believe they are able to meet academic expectations. The lack of skepticism about the future of students’ degrees may be due to the increasing pursuit of agricultural degrees, concurrent with a shortage of agricultural scientists. Since social cognitive theory proposes personal factors influence behavior and environmental events, these findings are promising. Therefore, instructors are encouraged to move past traditional lecture-based instruction and challenge their students at higher cognitive levels. This will allow students to realistically explore the complexities of agriculture.

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