Choice Of A Major And Students’ Appreciation Of Their Major

Choice Of A Major And Students’ Appreciation Of Their Major – Statistical Data Included

David M.S. Kimweli

In this study, the interrelationships of students’ choice of a major (art), selection of a career, role model/parental push (expectations/aspirations) and students’ perception of a major (art and art education) as improving quality of life, were examined. Three hundred and twenty one students from various universities participated in this study (N=321). Results indicate that as students mature, they tend to appreciate their major (art) more and to perceive their major as improving quality of life. The effects of advisement, exposure to a major (art), parental push and role models, choice of a career and the Implications of this study are discussed.

Late adolescents/young adults undergo a tumultuous process in deciding whether or not to attend college. This choice of attending college depends on several factors, some of which include the following: sense of self-efficacy on a particular domain and hence a major, parental push or role modeling, aspirations to secure a good job and ultimately make money and improve the human condition. The ramifications of these factors extend to all fields of study, but particularly to art-infused curriculums. Art education has been viewed as a frill and not as a part of the American educational enterprise such as mathematics. Art has been seen more as a avenue for private enjoyment and development but not as useful as a public activity or an economical or political utility (see Pankratz & Morris, 1990). The factors mentioned above that influence students’ choices to attend college are driven, at least in part, by developmental changes and need for self identity. Developmental theorists such as Erikson, see adolescence/young adulthood as a turbulent time and a period in which a sense of integrated self must be developed in order to be successful in establishing a vocation later as an adult (Havighurst, 1979). This establishment of a vocation depends, in part, on modeling or socialization (Bandura, 1993).

Therefore, unlike earlier studies on college students’ selection of a major, this study, by intertwining Erikson’s view of integrated self and Bandura’s social learning theory as the theoretical framework, examines students’ exploration of a major (art), students’ appreciation of the major as improving quality of life, and the role played by external forces (through socialization) such as role models, parental push and income in the student’s selection of a major. This study is guided in part, by the question posed by Pearson and Dellmann-Jenkins (1997) that further study is needed “on who or what influences incoming college students’ selection of a college major” (p.310).

Integrated Serf and Selection of a Major- an Application of Eriksonian View

Erikson, in his study of adolescents’ search for self, advocated that development of identity provides a firm basis for adulthood (Erikson, 1968). Identity development may not be fully accomplished by the time adolescents graduate from high school, but may linger and progress through the first years of college (Acher, 1982). When deciding on college majors, students who are still struggling with identity formation may base their decisions on interests carried forward from high school. Consequently, such students may not have had the opportunity to explore their strengths, weaknesses and the career opportunities available to them (see Marcia, 1987; Waterman, 1985; Marcia, 1980; Schiedel & Marcia, 1985). Such a lack of opportunity to explore may lead not only to foreclosing one’s choice of a career early in their educational process, but to a lack of appreciation of one’s choice. Exploration of either self or career choices allows for development of a philosophy of life and self-concept (Erikson, 1980; Marcia, 1987). Self concept, the composite of ideas, feelings and attitudes people have about themselves (Hilgrard, Atkinson & Atkinson, 1979) may increase as one’s bank of self knowledge increases, thus, giving the individual a sense of control over his/her life. Indeed, “individuals who feel in control of what occurs in their lives, or who receive social support from others (such as role models/parents) report feeling better about their lives than other individuals” (Abbey & Andrews, 1985, p.25-26). This feeling better about one’s life is a major psychological determinant of one’s quality of life (see Abbey & Andrews, 1985). According to these authors, feeling better about “one’s life is a positive determinant of well-being” (p.27). Subsequently, concerns that are more central to an individual have a high relationship to the individual’s sense of well being and quality of life (Chamberlain, 1985). Indeed quality of life lies in the experience of life (Campbell, 1976). Thus, in choosing a major or a career, be it in art-infused curriculums or any other field, consideration should be given as to how central a concern to the individual the career or major is (Chamberlain, 1985). Indeed, Chamberlain (1985) argues that such a consideration could improve the relationship between life concerns or domains and general well-being (quality of life).

Choosing a Major in Art-infused Curriculums.

Bourdieu (1984), who sees participation in art education as an investment in cultural capital, supports Chamberlain’s argument. Indeed, Hubbard and Zimmerman (1982), in their introduction to their work entitled “Artstrands”, call for the participation of undergraduates in art education in order to advance their education. Additionally, since these undergraduates, just like other students, bring with them their inborn talents, they need to see models and also be nurtured not only to learn to think critically, but to appreciate art (Stout, 1997) and to achieve levels of excellence that are within their own reach (Zimmerman, 1997). Therefore, in choosing a career, art/art education students should be cognizant of not only how central a concern art/art education is to them, but also art’s/art education’s potential to improve their own and others’ quality of life. Thus, (using art as a proxy for any other major) the purpose of this study is to examine variables that relate to student’s perception of art as improving quality of life and their choice of (an art major/teaching career) major.

Students’ demographical variables. Although demographically minority groups such as Hispanics, African Americans and Native Americans are underrepresented at the nation’s universities and colleges (Carter & Wilson, 1993), that should not be the case in art-infused curriculums. Art education is enriched by variety and by incorporating other views (Green, 1966). In spite of this drawback, students’ academic status regardless of race or ethnicity, from a social learning perspective, affects the students’ self-efficacy. A student’s self-efficacy is a belief about his/her personal competence in a given area (see Bandura, 1986, 1993). In this study, it is hypothesized that high academic standing i.e., a grade point average of B or better in art education, correlates highly with appreciation of a major (art) and the major’s (art’s) capacity to improve quality of life. Consequently, art students with a good sense of self-efficacy in art and art education who have at least a “B” average are hypothesized to perceive art as improving quality of life.

Aspirations for a Job. According to Bandura (1993) and Schunk (1991b), sense of self-efficacy is related to attributions, expectations, motivation, and outcomes. Thus, it can be hypothesized that students with a high sense of self-efficacy in a particular major such as art education who aspire to secure a job in their major (an art related field) would appreciate art and perceive it as improving quality of life not only for the art students (prospective employees), but for consumers of services emanating from the art industry.

External participatory influences and choice of a major. Bandura’s social learning theory (Bandura, 1986) emphasizes external factors such as role models as influencing learning and consequent behaviors. Modeling can have a great influence in learning. Parental modeling, parental push, or parental encouragement (see Pearson & Dellmann-Jenkins, 1997; Stage, 1993), as well as instructors’ and educators’ modeling through their involvement in the student’s selection of a major, can shape not only the students’ willingness to pursue a particular major, but also their appreciation of the major’s potential to improve quality of life. Indeed, Csikszentmihalyi (1993), paraphrasing Confucian philosophy, states that”only through ritual, the right music, and worthy role models could individuals hope to be improved” (p.29).

Quality of life. Many artists and art educators have not only traditionally taught, studied, and practiced art for its aesthetic qualities and for its aesthetic experiences (Smith, 1986), but also see art as improving quality of life. Quality of life is the idea that there is something qualitatively special about art that puts us in touch with the most original, creative, subtle, and intense inspiring aspects of our lives (Duncum, 1997). Quality of life according to Veenhoven (1991) is not only happiness, but it is also satisfaction with life. Consequently, individuals that appreciate art/art education should find happiness in it and see art as improving quality of life. Gardener (1993) puts this concept in glowing terms. In discussing multiple intelligences, Gardner (1993) asserts: “perhaps if we can mobilize the full range of human intelligences and ally them to an ethical sense, we can help to increase the likelihood of our survival on this planet, and perhaps even contribute to our thriving” (p.12). Therefore, perception of college students’ choice of a major in art-infused curriculums as increasing quality of life may be a good indicator of how other majors may be perceived.

Subsequently, using college undergraduates from several universities across three states, this study examines the collective effects of demographics, students’ academic status, aspirations for a job, and external participatory influences such as role models/parental push on the students’ perception of art as improving quality of life, and consequently choice of a major and a career.

Method

Sample

Data for this study was obtained from undergraduate students from universities in Kentucky, Idaho and California. The sample included 150 white students and 171 minority students (all non-white students were coded minority), 86 male and 235 female students. A questionnaire (see appendix) was administered to the students by their instructors during class. Questionnaires with missing information were eliminated from the analysis.

Construction of Dependent Variables

Three dependent variables were used from the questionnaire administered. The dependent variables represent the frequency of endorsement of the items that indicate students’ perception of art and art education as necessary in improving quality of life, choosing a career in education and deciding on an art major early in a student’s undergraduate years.

Quality of life. Students gave Likert-type responses (strongly disagree 1–strongly agree 4) to this item, stating “art improves education and quality of life”.

Career in teaching. Students responded as to whether they agreed with a statement stating that they “are interested in a career in teaching”. Their responses were in a Likert-type scale (strongly disagree 1–strongly agree 4).

Art major. This is a dichotomous variable to which students responded “Yes” and “No” to an item asking “are you an art major or non-major?

Construction of the Independent Variables

Four sets of predictor variables were developed (see Table 3). Demographic variables included age, gender, minority status (all non-white students were classified as minority) and family income. Student status predictors were whether a student is part time or full time, student’s class level, GPA, and whether a student has already decided that they are an art major. Aspiration predictors were whether a student decides to choose a career in art or choose art major based on job selection or a need to make money. Participation in art predictor variables were presence of role models and parental push. Construction of these items from Likert-type responses was guided by factor analysis and demonstrated a good internal consistency, Cronbach’s Alpha [is greater than] .54 for the role model item, Cronbach’s Alpha [is greater than] .68 for art appreciation item, and a Cronbach’s Alpha [is greater than] .89 for student/instructor matched ethnically (see Table 4 for variables and questionnaire).

Table 3 Standardized regression coefficients for students’ demographics. Academing standing, future lively life, external influencing variables predicting appreciation of art and involvement in art education.

Quality of life

Model 1 Model 2

Step 1-Demographics

Age .18(**) -.01

Gender .09 .08

Minority -32(***) -.10

Family Income -.10 -.11

Step 2-Status

Full/part .01

Class Level .04(***)

GPA -.03

Art Major -.14(*)

Step 3-spirations

Job Selection

Making Money

Step 4-participation

Role Models

Art Appreciation

Matched

[Delta][R.sup.2] .101

[Delta][F.sup.2] 8.28(***)

Total Adjusted R2.132(***) .233(***)

Quality of life

Model 3 Model 4

Step 1-Demographics

Age -.01 .01

Gender .06 .05

Minority -.11 -.07

Family Income -.09 -.06

Step 2-Status

Full/part .01 .01

Class Level .36(***) .27(**)

GPA -.04 -.01

Art Major -.11 .13

Step 3-spirations

Job Selection -.043 -.05

Making Money -.13(*) -.11

Step 4-participation

Role Models .05

Art Appreciation .36(***)

Matched -.01

[Delta][R.sup.2] 60 .10

[Delta][F.sup.2] .10 .004

Total Adjusted R2.132(***) .036 .243(***)

Career in teaching

Model 1 Model 2

Step 1-Demographics

Age .11 -.01

Gender .14(*) .11

Minority .04 .20(**)

Family Income -.15(*) -.18(**)

Step 2-Status

Full/part -.09

Class Level .42(***)

GPA .01

Art Major .01

Step 3-spirations

Job Selection

Making Money

Step 4-participation

Role Models

Art Appreciation

Matched

[Delta][R.sup.2] 0.73

[Delta][F.sup.2] .344(***) 3.747(**)

Total Adjusted R2.132(***) .054(***) .167(***)

Career in teaching

Model 3 Model 4

Step 1-Demographics

Age -.035 -.024

Gender .066 .059

Minority .167(*) .159

Family Income -.202(**) -.184(**)

Step 2-Status

Full/part .081 .085

Class Level .366(***) .33(***)

GPA .029 .036

Art Major .063 .135

Step 3-spirations

Job Selection .138(*) .131(*)

Making Money -.27(***) -.28(***)

Step 4-participation

Role Models .015

Art Appreciation .106

Matched .072

[Delta][R.sup.2] -.02 .002

[Delta][F.sup.2] 2.1(***) .92

Total Adjusted R2.132(***) .230 .228

Major Predictor

Model 1 Model 2

Step 1-Demographics

Age .020 .261(**)

Gender -.24(***) -.23(***)

Minority .120 .095

Family Income .118 .122

Step 2-Status

Full/part -.137

Class Level -.36(***)

GPA -.001

Art Major .179(*)

Step 3-spirations

Job Selection

Making Money

Step 4-participation

Role Models

Art Appreciation

Matched

[Delta][R.sup.2] .91

[Delta][F.sup.2] 1.4 3.650(**)

Total Adjusted R2.132(***) .052(***) .143

Major Predictor

Model 3 Model 4

Step 1-Demographics

Age .272(**) .290(***)

Gender -.21(**) -.221(***)

Minority .073 -.080

Family Income .152(*) .153(*)

Step 2-Status

Full/part -.149(*) -.149(*)

Class Level -.37(***) -.391(***)

GPA -.031 .023

Art Major .176(*) .209(*)

Step 3-spirations

Job Selection -.175(**) -.181(**)

Making Money .062 .057

Step 4-participation

Role Models -.004

Art Appreciation .042

Matched .008

[Delta][R.sup.2] 29 .008

[Delta][F.sup.2] .163 .020(***)

Total Adjusted R2.132(***) .155(**) .136(***)

Note: 1=male, 2=female, 1=white, 2=minority, 1=part time, 2=full time, 1=art major, 2=none art major, 6=A, 5=B, 4=C, 1=art, 2=other,

p<.05(*),

p<.01(**),

p<.001(***)

Results

Means and standard deviations are presented in Table 1 and bivariate correlations are displayed in Table 2. Multiple regressions were run to examine clusters of predictors for the three predictors of quality of life, choosing a career and art major. Results are displayed in Table 3.

Table 1 Means and Standard Deviations for predictor variables

Variable Mean SD

Art appreciation 4.7 1.1

Student/Instructor ethnicity match 3.5 1.6

Role models’ influence 9.1 2.2

Age 24.5 7.2

Full/Part Time 1.1 0.3

Class Level 2.8 1.1

GPA 4.6 1.0

Income* 4.2 1.7

Quality of life and education 3.4 0.6

Job major reason for selection 1.9 0.9

Making money 2.0 0.9

Art Major 1.8 9.3

Art Education 1.6 0.4

Note: Mean income is >30,000.00 <40,000.00 (coded for less than 10,000.00 to 7 for over 100,000.00)

Table 2 Bivariate Correlations Between Variables

Variable 1 2 3 4 5

1. Art appreciation –

2. Ethnicity match -.11 –

3. Role models .51 .04 –

4. Age .21 -.14 .07 –

5. Gender -.06 .05 .06 .01

6. Minority -.33 .35 -.22 -.22 .10

7. Full/Part Time -.02 -.03 -.04 .47 -.03

8. Class Level .37 -.17 .26 .46 .08

9. GPA .10 -.06 .08 .27 .10

10. Income -.02 -.21 .11 -.07 -.09

11. Quality of life .45 -.09 .29 .25 .04

12. Job major -.11 .14 -.02 -.14 .04

13. Making money -.24 .21 -.16 .20 -.17

14. Career Teaching .07 .07 .06 .12 .17

15. Art Major -.47 -.68 .17 -.20 .06

16. Art Education -.12 .01 -.14 -.08 -.18

Variable 6 7 8 9 10

1. Art appreciation

2. Ethnicity match

3. Role models

4. Age

5. Gender

6. Minority –

7. Full/Part Time -.01 –

8. Class Level -.47 .14 –

9. GPA -.23 .16 .27 –

10. Income -.36 -.05 .11 .13 –

11. Quality of life -.25 .06 .47 .21 .03

12. Job major .13 -.11 -.16 -.19 .06

13. Making money .17 -.11 -.34 -.21 .04

14. Career Teaching .11 .10 .26 .13 -.16

15. Art Major .41 -.06 -.03 -.23 -.19

16. Art Education .04 .04 -.21 .11 .07

Variable 11 12 13 14 15

1. Art appreciation

2. Ethnicity match

3. Role models

4. Age

5. Gender

6. Minority

7. Full/Part Time

8. Class Level

9. GPA

10. Income

11. Quality of life –

12. Job major -.12 –

13. Making money -.29 .21 –

14. Career Teaching .29 .01 -.30 –

15. Art Major .15 .26 .01 -.22 –

16. Art Education -.18 -.10 .11 -.45 -.23

Relations between variables

Correlations of the predictor variables are presented in Table 3. An examination of the correlations reveals that perception of art as improving quality of life is associated with art appreciation, class level, and selecting a teaching career. A career in teaching is positively related to age, to gender, to minority class level, and perception of art/ art education as improving quality of life. Majoring in art is negatively related to art appreciation, age, and ethnicity match, while it is positively related to minority and selection of a job in art related fields. Desire to make money and to select a job in art related fields is negatively related to age and class level and positively related to minorities and unrelated to perception of art as improving quality of life.

Multiple Regression Analysis

Older students are more likely to perceive art and art education as improving quality of life ([Beta]=.18, p [is less than] .001) and are more likely to major in art education ([Beta]=.29, p [is less than] .001) and are less likely to choose a teaching career.

Gender is unrelated to the perception that art and art education improves quality of life, female art students are more likely to choose a teaching career ([Beta]=.14, p [is less than] .05). Gender is negatively related to choosing art as a major ([Beta]=.24, p [is less than] .001)

Minority status is negatively related to perception of art and art education as improving quality of life ([Beta]=-.32, p [is less than] .001), positively related to choosing a career in teaching ([Beta]=.20, p [is less than] .001), but unrelated to choosing art as a major.

Family income is unrelated to perception of art and art education as improving quality of life, negatively related to choosing a teaching career ([Beta]=-.20, p [is less than] .001), but positively related to choosing art as a major ([Beta]=.15, p [is less than] .05).

Student status such as part/full time is unrelated to improved quality of life and career in teaching, but negatively related to choosing art as a major ([Beta]=-.14, p [is less than] .05). Senior art students are more likely to perceive art and art education as improving quality of life ([Beta]=.36, p [is less than] .05), more likely to choose a career in teaching ([Beta]=.42, p [is less than] .001), and most interestingly, senior students are less likely to choose art as a major ([Beta]=-.39, p [is less than] .001). GPA is unrelated to any of the measures of art appreciation or involvement in art education.

Interestingly, students who decide to major in art education early in their lives are less likely to perceive art and art education as improving quality of life ([Beta]=-.14, p [is less than] .05). However, majoring in art is related to choosing a career in teaching. Job selection within art fields is unrelated to improved quality of life, positively related to choosing a career in teaching ([Beta]=.13, p [is less than] .05), but negatively related to choosing art as a major ([Beta]=-.18, p [is less than] .01).

Making money or aspiration for a job is negatively related to perceiving art and art education as improving quality of life ([Beta]=-.13 p [is less than] .05), to choosing a career in teaching ([Beta]=-.28, p [is less than] 0.001), and unrelated to choosing art as a major. Role models in art education are unrelated to all of the three dependent variables. Art students who appreciate art see art and art education as improving quality of life ([Beta]=.36 p [is less than] .001). Finally, matched student/instructor ethnically is unrelated to any of the dependent variables.

These multiple regression models explained significant proportions of the variance in the dependent variables, with the model for predictors of perceiving art and art education as improving quality of life explaining 24% of the variance, the predictors for choosing a career in teaching explaining 23% of the variance, and the model for choosing art as a major explaining only 16% of the variance.

Discussion

Results of the present study indicate that choosing a major (such as an art major), a career (such as a career in teaching), and perceiving a major (art) as improving quality of life is associated with certain identifiable variables that are of interest to university administrators, recruiters, advisors, and instructors/teachers. Specifically, findings of this study indicate that as students progress through their college years, gain more seniority and get older, they tend to appreciate their major (art) more, decide to major in a particular major(such as art education) and are more likely to choose a career within their major (such as teaching for these art students). Possibly because they are more frequently exposed to that particular major with time. Notwithstanding the findings of Chase and Keene (1981) that early major declarers accomplish higher levels of academic achievement, later major declarers seem to appreciate their major more. An interesting finding of this study is that females and minorities who choose teaching as a career are less likely to choose art as a major and do not perceive art as improving quality of life. It is, therefore, plausible that minority students early in their student lives are not fully exposed to the lustrousness of art and opportunities in art education (and perhaps other majors as well).

Indeed, results indicate that students who have early cemented or (to use Ericksonian term) foreclosed their choices of a major in their undergraduate years, have less appreciation for the major as improving quality of life, possibly because they have not assimilated or fully understood the effectiveness of the particular major and the opportunities inherent thereof. Students seem to need time for their choices of a major to flower, Indeed, students who have been exposed to art/art education not only appreciate art more, but perceive art/art education as improving quality of life.

Implications

Since the results of this study indicate that students tend to appreciate their major and perceive their major as improving quality of life with age and class seniority, educators and advisors to students need to encourage students to explore opportunities in their major before deciding on their choices–Erikson’s moratorium (Erikson, 1980). We refer to this phenomena as letting the students’ choice of a major to flower through the guidance of advisors and role models. Similarly, since minority and women seem not to perceive art/art education as improving quality of life and to also not choose art as a major, art educators, university policy makers, and student recruiters may need to make deliberate efforts to target, attract, and recruit minority students and women to art education. Furthermore, once recruited, efforts must be made to expose them to opportunities available to them in art/art education.

In summary, although this study has limitations since it’s a correlational study and a reliable instrument for measuring quality of life or subjective well being such as the one developed by Diener, Emmons, Larsen and Griffin (1985) would have been more appropriate, the findings are important. Specifically, the findings indicate that students seem to need exposure to the lustrousness of their major and opportunities available in their fields of study, time to declare a major, and the influence of role models. The implications are therefore clear that counselors, advisors, and instructors of undergraduate students need to play a more central role in guiding students in the decision making process of declaring a major. Students need guidance in order to make well informed decisions regarding their majors. Preferably such decisions should be deffered till the students have had considerable exposure to their intended majors. The junior year seems to be the preferable time to declare a major.

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DAVID M. S. KIMWELI & ALLAN G. RICHARDS The University of Kentucky

COPYRIGHT 1999 Project Innovation (Alabama)

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group