Higher Education

, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 283–300 | Cite as

Facilitating academic performance in college: understanding the role of clear and organized instruction

  • Josipa RoksaEmail author
  • Teniell L. Trolian
  • Charles Blaich
  • Kathleen Wise


Extensive research on college impact has identified a range of practices that enhance students’ academic outcomes. One practice—clear and organized instruction—has received increasing attention in recent research. While a number of studies have shown that clear and organized instruction is related to a range of postsecondary outcomes, researchers have not considered the mechanisms that link this educational practice to student outcomes. In this study, we draw on the constructivist theory of learning to identify potential mechanisms that may explain the relationship between clear and organized instruction and academic performance. Results from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education, including an analytical sample of 7116 students attending 38 four-year institutions in the USA, indicate that three mechanisms examined—faculty interest in teaching and student development, academic motivation, and academic engagement—explain almost two-thirds of the relationship between clear and organized instruction and first-year GPA. When students experience greater exposure to clear and organized instruction, they perceive their faculty as being more invested in their learning and development, and they report being more academically motivated and engaged in their studies. Moreover, students who enter college less academically prepared benefit more from exposure to clear and organized instruction.


Good practices in undergraduate education Clear and organized instruction Academic performance Academic motivation Academic engagement 



The authors thank the Spencer Foundation for the support of this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josipa Roksa
    • 1
    Email author
  • Teniell L. Trolian
    • 2
  • Charles Blaich
    • 3
  • Kathleen Wise
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Educational Administration and Policy StudiesUniversity at Albany, State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA
  3. 3.Center of InquiryWabash CollegeCrawfordsvilleUSA

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