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Academic success from an individual perspective: A proposal for redefinition


The examination of academic achievements is common in educational research literature, with most studies referring to grades (marks) as measures of success. In addition, outside the realm of research, a student’s grades are usually the main criteria for admission to education programmes, nomination for honours (passing above ordinary level), award of scholarships and so forth. However, scholars have put forward several arguments against the use of grades as the sole or most important measure of academic success. This research note focuses on a specific aspect of this problem, namely the failure to consider learners’ personal perspective regarding their own achievements. Many approaches to evaluating achievements call for their examination in light of previously defined goals. However, each learner defines her or his aspirations and goals differently, while achievements are usually measured on a uniform scale. This research note reviews this problem and considers alternative models (including both their advantages and their shortcomings) for defining academic success in terms of expectations and motivation. In addition, the author proposes a measure to enable the evaluation of academic achievements in terms of an individual student’s goals and aspirations.


La réussite des études d’un point de vue personnel : proposition d’une redéfinition – Il est courant que les ouvrages de recherche éducative se penchent sur les résultats scolaires et universitaires, ces travaux mesurant souvent la réussite des études à l’aune des notes. Cependant, en dehors du domaine de la recherche, les notes sont généralement aussi le principal critère pour être admis à des programmes d’études, se voir proposé pour des distinctions (à un niveau se situant au-delà de l’ordinaire), obtenir des bourses, etc. Toutefois, les chercheurs ont avancé différents arguments contre l’utilisation des notes comme moyen unique ou principal d’évaluation de la réussite des études. Cette note de recherche est axée sur un aspect particulier du problème, à savoir le fait que l’on omet de prendre en compte le point de vue personnel des apprenants sur leurs propres résultats. Nombre d’approches utilisées pour évaluer les résultats nécessitent d’être examinées à la lumière d’objectifs fixés au préalable. Néanmoins, chaque apprenant ne définit pas de la même façon ses aspirations et ses objectifs, alors que pour mesurer les résultats scolaires et universitaires, on applique d’ordinaire un barème uniforme. Dans cette note de recherche, l’auteur étudie ce problème et examine d’autres modèles (y compris leurs avantages et leurs inconvénients) pour définir la réussite des études en termes d’attentes et de motivation. Il propose en outre aussi une mesure pour permettre d’évaluer les résultats scolaires et universitaires à l’aune des objectifs et aspirations individuels des élèves.

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  1. Formal education systems refer to traditional schooling followed by university, college or other adult training, generally recognised with a qualification or certificate.

  2. Aptitude tests measure work-related skills and abilities; knowledge tests assess cognitive ability; and psychometric tests measure an individual’s overall suitability for a job role.

  3. In an academic context, the term honours refers to a degree which has been completed above an ordinary pass mark.

  4. In an educational context, constructivism refers to the experience of finding out how elements of knowledge are “constructed” and how they are related to items of knowledge the learner is already familiar with.

  5. Pedagogy refers to teaching methods and practices.

  6. According to its own website, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which is conducted in Canada and the United States, is administered by “a self-supporting auxiliary unit within the Center for Postsecondary Research (CPR) in the Indiana University School of Education” ( [accessed 30 October 2020]).

  7. The Freshman Survey (TFS) is administered by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) within the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), For more information, visit [accessed 30 October 2020].


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Correspondence to Oz Guterman.

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Guterman, O. Academic success from an individual perspective: A proposal for redefinition. Int Rev Educ 67, 403–413 (2021).

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