Student Self-Efficacy, Classroom Engagement, and Academic Achievement: Comparing Three Theoretical Frameworks

  • E. OlivierEmail author
  • I. Archambault
  • M. De Clercq
  • B. Galand
Empirical Research


Student self-efficacy, behavioral engagement, and emotional engagement are key factors for academic achievement. Research has yet to identify the developmental cascades linking these four constructs. Three theoretical frameworks, i.e., Self-Efficacy Theory, the Self-System Model of Motivational Development, and Expectancy-Value Theory, suggest different nexus. Following 671 students (51.8% girls) from their 4th to 6th grade, this study aims to assess competing hypotheses from these three frameworks in math. Three cross-lag models were tested to test each theoretical framework. A fourth and final model was tested to include the significant paths from the previous models. Mediation paths were also tested. Results mainly support assumptions from Self-Efficacy Theory, that is student self-efficacy and academic achievement are mutually associated from 4th to 6th grades. Some of the propositions of Expectancy-Value Theory were also supported. Self-efficacy was associated with later emotional engagement and academic achievement. However, emotional engagement in 5th grade was negatively associated with achievement in 6th grade and was not associated with behavioral engagement. Assumptions from the Self-System Model were not supported by the data. Testing the fourth model revealed an unexpected developmental cascade: 5th-grade self-efficacy mediated the association between 4th-grade achievement and 6th-grade emotional engagement. This last finding may have great implications for young adolescents as emotional engagement is an indicator of student well-being and intrinsic value of learning. Implications for theory validation and intervention targets for adolescents are discussed.


Student engagement Self-efficacy Academic achievement Self-Efficacy Theory Self-System Model of Motivational Development Expectancy-Value Theory 


Authors’ contribution

EO conceived the study, analyzed and interpreted the data, and wrote the manuscript; IA provided the data, participated to the conceptualization of the study, to the analyses, and reviewed the manuscript; MD participated to the revision of the manuscript; BG participated to the conceptualization of the study and reviewed the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This research was supported by a grant from the Fonds québécois pour la recherche sur la société et la culture (FRQSC) (#131430), awarded to Isabelle Archambault and by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) (#756-2017-0223), awarded to Elizabeth Olivier.

Data sharing and declaration

The datasets analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request and with permission of Dr. Isabelle Archambault.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study were approved by the ethics committee of the University of Montreal. This research complies with APA’s ethical standards in the treatment of human samples and with the highest ethical standards.

Informed consent

Active informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study, both teachers and students. Parents also gave their active consent for their child to participate.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  2. 2.Université de MontréalMontréalCanada

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