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The Impacts of Self-Esteem and Resilience on Academic Performance: An Investigation of Domestic and International Hospitality and Tourism Undergraduate Students a



Anna Kwek PhD , Huong T. Bui PhD , John Rynne PhD & Kevin Kam Fung So BBus (Hons) a

Department of Tourism, Sport, and Hotel Management, Griffith University


College of Asia Pacific Studies, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University



School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University Published online: 17 Sep 2013.

To cite this article: Anna Kwek PhD , Huong T. Bui PhD , John Rynne PhD & Kevin Kam Fung So BBus (Hons) (2013) The Impacts of Self-Esteem and Resilience on Academic Performance: An Investigation of Domestic and International Hospitality and Tourism Undergraduate Students, Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 25:3, 110-122, DOI: 10.1080/10963758.2013.826946 To link to this article:

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Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 25: 110–122, 2013 Copyright © The International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education ISSN: 1096-3758 print / 2325-6540 online DOI: 10.1080/10963758.2013.826946

The Impacts of Self-Esteem and Resilience on Academic Performance: An Investigation of Domestic and International Hospitality and Tourism Undergraduate Students Anna Kwek, PhD

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Department of Tourism, Sport, and Hotel Management, Griffith University

Huong T. Bui, PhD College of Asia Pacific Studies, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University

John Rynne, PhD School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University

Kevin Kam Fung So, BBus (Hons) Department of Tourism, Sport, and Hotel Management, Griffith University

The rise in student demand for international education has presented many challenges to tourism and hospitality educators and institutions, as well as students. A critical concern for 1st-year undergraduates, and for international students in particular, lies in academic adjustment issues, which may be related to student self-esteem and resilience and may ultimately affect academic performance. Although investigators have made many attempts to discern the problems students face when studying in English as a second language, very little is known about the influence of self-esteem and resilience on academic performance, particularly that of tourism and hospitality students. This research explores the impacts of self-esteem and resilience factors on the academic performance of international students compared to domestic Australian students. The results suggest that for both groups, self-esteem and resilience are significant predictors of academic performance. Pedagogical implications and suggestions for teacher–student interaction are discussed. Keywords: self-esteem, resilience, academic performance, international students, tourism and hospitality

INTRODUCTION In Australia, as in many Western countries (e.g., the United Kingdom and United States), the education of international students has become a major industry for the nation (Barron, 2002a). The extensive economic benefits derived from international full-fees-paying students have created a market

Correspondence should be addressed to Anna Kwek, Department of Tourism, Sport, and Hotel Management, Griffith University, Gold Coast campus, Queensland 4222, Australia. E-mail: [email protected]

that makes Australian tertiary institutions attend closely to increasing the international student enrollment in their study programs. For example, one of the strategic goals of Australia’s Griffith University is to raise its international student load to 25% of the university’s total enrollment (Griffith University, 2009). The majority of international students in Australia originate from Asian countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, China, and Hong Kong. Owing to the rapid development of the tourism and hospitality industry in these countries, as well as the industries’ economic significance, demand for tourism and hospitality education is increasing (Hobson, 2008). This trend suggests

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that the number of international students from these countries will also grow. The growth in international student enrollment in Australian universities has substantially changed the higher education demographic. Although it has added diversity to Australian universities, this growth is not without problems (Arkoudis & Tran, 2007; Hobson, 2008). Previous research indicates that international students undertaking Australian undergraduate degrees face more complexities and adjustment challenges than their domestic counterparts (Andrade, 2006; Hechanova-Alampay, Beehr, Christiansen, & Van Horn, 2002; Rajapaksa & Dundes, 2002; Zhao, Kuh, & Carini, 2005) and that international students of hospitality and tourism in Australia have to make substantial adjustments to be academically successful (Barron, 2002b). Previous research has highlighted how perceptions of cultural differences by domestic students and academics can create integration issues for international students (Cross, 1995; Knight & De Wit, 1995; Volet & Ang, 1998). When academic institutions fail to acknowledge these challenges, international student academic performance will suffer for reasons other than intellectual ability. As international students become a significant part of a university’s student body, student learning and teaching become critical issues in students’ academic performance (Hobson, 2008). Quality assurance is important in tertiary tourism and hospitality education. Universities should not merely act as service providers but should also become institutionally competitive, whereby the academic qualification of the graduates is the product. At one time, universities’ only risk from students who failed to achieve satisfactory academic outcomes was reputational damage. However, with international students now successfully suing universities for failing to deliver a suitable outcome, universities must now be able to legally prove that their product is worthy of the fees charged and that they deliver the pedagogical outcomes on which they sell their product internationally (Inman, 2012). This changed educational landscape places a burden on universities to increase their understanding of how students—particularly first-year domestic and international undergraduates—achieve satisfactory academic performance. Of particular importance is the need to gain greater insight into how first-year undergraduates cope with adjustment issues that potentially affect their self-esteem and resilience and how these challenges influence academic performance (Friedlander, Reid, Shupak, & Cribbie, 2007). Although many studies have explored self-esteem and resilience in educational settings (Borman & Overman, 2004), no study seems to have compared how these factors influence the academic performance of domestic and international students in an Australian context. The increasing number of international hospitality and tourism students in Australia gives weight to the question of what issues international students face when studying in Australia, and


the current study aims to shed light on the influence of self-esteem and resilience on the academic performance of international students compared to domestic students. The purpose of this research is twofold. The first aim is to address the aforementioned knowledge deficit by developing an understanding of how self-esteem and resilience affect the academic performance of a large cohort of firstyear tourism and hospitality undergraduate students. The second aim is to distinguish between domestic and international students as to self-esteem and resilience and discern whether the two groups differ in terms of the relationships of the two factors with academic performance. The outcomes of this research further the understanding of psychological factors influencing students’ performance, and the pedagogical implications of the results may enhance the experience of first-year undergraduates. This article is organized into four sections. The first section reviews the prior literature on self-esteem and resilience, providing a theoretical foundation for the current study. The next section describes and justifies the methodological approach of the study. The third section presents the research results. The article concludes with a discussion of findings, practical and research implications, and limitations.

LITERATURE REVIEW Self-Esteem Self-esteem refers to an individual’s sense of self-worth— that is, the extent to which the individual values and appreciates himself or herself (Rosenberg, 1989). This sense of worth results from individuals’ perceptions of how other people evaluate them (Rosenberg, 1979, 1989). Given the influence of others’ evaluations on an individual’s own perception, self-esteem theory has been the basis of substantial research in tertiary institutions (Crocker, Luhtanen, Cooper, & Bouvrette, 2003), suggesting that a student with a positive self-concept would perform better than someone with a lower self-concept. Educators often assume that students with high selfesteem are more likely to strive academically as a way of maintaining feelings of self-worth. That is, those who feel good about themselves will do better in school (Ross & Broh, 2000). Conversely, students with low self-esteem may feel less in control and are more likely to perform poorly (Peixoto & Almeida, 2010). In fact, investigators have found positive feelings about the self—in other words, high selfesteem—to be an instrumental influence on psychological well-being and academic performance (Peixoto & Almeida, 2010), adjustment to university (Friedlander et al., 2007), and academic achievement (Valentine, DuBois, & Cooper, 2004). Other research attests to the effects of low selfesteem on a variety of outcomes, including not only academic performance, achievement, and motivation but also

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aggression and substance abuse (Donnellan, Trzesniewski, Robins, Moffitt, & Caspi, 2005). The complexities surrounding self-esteem and universitylevel student performance were further described by Vaez and Laflamme (2008), who suggested that the transition to university poses a form of stress to first-year undergraduates as they learn to cope with their new learning and social environments. Research has revealed that first-year undergraduates are at the greatest risk of attrition from university for a variety of reasons, including prior academic performance, poor academic integration, and psychological readiness (Long, Ferrier, & Heagney, 2006; Willcoxson, Cotter, & Joy, 2011). The greater the level of stress, the greater the negative effect on academic performance. However, students with high self-esteem, who are more likely to set higher expectations for themselves than are those with low self-esteem, may be more resilient when confronted with a difficult task or failure (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003). Although the literature indicates the conceptual relationship between self-esteem and academic performance, empirical research into the linkage between the two concepts has produced conflicting findings. Whereas some studies have found that academic achievement is both a cause and an outcome of self-esteem (Trautwein, Ludtke, Koller, & Baumert, 2006), other studies have claimed that the relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement is bidirectional. Despite popular beliefs that high self-esteem facilitates academic achievement, empirical research indicates that self-esteem is only a weak predictor of academic achievement (Pullmann & Allik, 2008), and several researchers have claimed that little reason exists for believing that feeling good about oneself could improve one’s academic performance (Ross & Broh, 2000). Indeed, high self-esteem may actually cause academic underachievement (Stout, 2001), because holding beliefs about oneself without a substantive basis in actual skills could lead to poor learning strategies in school. That is, people who feel good about themselves may invest less effort in their work and subsequently fail to meet higher standards of accomplishment (Hewitt, 1998). In addition, inconsistencies trouble the assumption that achievement influences self-esteem. According to most selfevaluation theories (e.g., social comparison theory and social identity theory), students who perform well generally have higher self-esteem and vice versa. However, scholars have noted that racial and ethnic differences can influence the way one self-evaluates achievement (van Laar, 2000). Specifically, African American students have high selfesteem despite performing below average (Osborne, 1999, 2001). African American students tend to blame poor academic achievement on structural inequalities that identify them as members of a disadvantaged minority group, creating dissociation between self-evaluation and performance (van Laar, 2000). Academic disidentification, or the lack of

association between one’s academic performance in comparison to significant others, has also been cited to explain this phenomenon (Cokley, 2000). Possible reasons underlying this lack of association include making in-group social comparisons to similarly stigmatized individuals rather than making out-group comparisons (Crocker & Major, 1989), discounting the validity of academic feedback as an indicator (Major & Schmader, 1998), and devaluing academics as a self-protective mechanism (Steele, 1997). Self-esteem studies with Asian students have demonstrated how sociocultural values can affect the relationship between academic performance and self-esteem. The collectivist nature of Asian culture often places one’s family as a higher priority than the individual (Yang, 1997). Striving to fulfill parental expectations of academic achievement can supersede one’s own standard, indicating the impact of parental expectations on the relationship between academic achievement and self-esteem (K. T. Wang, 2012). Similarly, South Korean adolescents experienced a significant boost in their level of self-esteem when academic achievement improved (Lee, 2012). South Koreans consider education to be a determinant and predictor of personal success and a source of familial pride and hold high academic expectations for their children. Consequently, one’s academic performance and self-esteem are conceptually related (Kim & Park, 2006). As mentioned earlier, first-year undergraduates face a daunting challenge in the transition to university. International students have the additional burden of coping with language difficulties as well as changes in living and learning environments. This study contributes to the literature by exploring the influence of self-esteem on academic performance between first-year domestic and international tourism and hospitality undergraduates. Resilience Resilience comprises a set of attributes that provide people with the ability to thrive, mature, and confront significant adversity in life (Campbell-Sills, Cohan, & Stein, 2006; Rouse, 2001; Sagor, 1996). Resilience is a personal characteristic that represents an individual’s ability to survive and adjust after experiencing traumatic events, and individuals with high levels of resilience are more likely to bounce back from adverse experiences than those with lower levels of resilience. Resilient people tend to possess personality traits like social competence skills, a positive outlook that perceives change or stress as a challenge, a sense of humor, perseverance, and self-reliance (Connor & Davidson, 2003). Highly resilient people are social, optimistic, energetic, cooperative, inquisitive, and attentive (Sagor, 1996). The concept of resilience has received increased research attention in the past three decades, with findings published in a number of disciplines, including child development, pediatrics, and psychology. More recently, research has examined resilience in the demanding university environment

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(Hartley, 2011, 2012; Leary & DeRosier, 2012). Educational resilience is the ability to succeed academically despite the presence of stress and obstacles that make success difficult (Benard, 1991; Bryan, 2005), and it is particularly important in the environment of a large university, which is characterized by growing academic pressure, decreased provision of academic support to students, potential social isolation, and long-term financial debt (Hartley, 2012). How well students adjust to their new educational environment depends on the protective and risk factors that operate in the students’ circumstances. Those who benefit from strong protective factors tend to be more resilient, experience fewer adjustment issues, and cope better with challenges. Protective factors are deemed moderators of risk, stress, and adversity that may enhance positive outcomes by lessening the negative effects of hardship (Werner, 1990). These factors include sociability, strong motivation to achieve, positive self-concept, and supportive family and friends. A recent study revealed social connections and cognitive style to be the most important predictors of students’ stress during the transition to university (Leary & DeRosier, 2012). Social relationships acted as buffers from stressful situations, as having someone to discuss stressful situations with decreased the perceived salience of the stressor, distracting one from the stressor (Pressman & Cohen, 2005). Individuals with positive cognitive style demonstrate optimism and better personal control over events in their lives, and as a result they are better equipped to adapt and manage difficult situations at university (Multon, Brown, & Lent, 1991). From this perspective, optimistic students are more resilient and have higher levels of self-esteem, which flow to better academic achievement (Rouse, 2001). In contrast, students who are prone to risk factors may be less resilient and less tolerant of the changes in their lives. Risk factors are conditions that may increase an individual’s vulnerability to changes in the environment and/or encourage problem behavior (Jessor, Van Den Bos, Vanderryn, Costa, & Turbin, 1995), such as the inability to cope with stress and changes (Werner, 1990). As mentioned, of international students in Australian universities, the largest group is made up of Asian students, yet research on resilience among Asian students in higher education is rare. Major adjustment issues for Asian students relate to English language proficiency, academic skills, and acquisition of social skills and behaviors (Briguglio & Smith, 2012; Smith, Miller, & Crassini, 1998). Inability to cope with these issues may lead to increased stress. In particular, understanding lectures and assessment requirements are major concerns for first-year Asian students in Australian universities (Ramsay, Barker, & Jones, 1999). Difficulty in understanding lectures is attributed to students’ underdeveloped English language proficiency, their reluctance to ask questions, and a lack of skills for participating in class discussion (Andrade, 2006). In assessing the concept of resilience, several measures have contributed to the understanding of this concept. One


such instrument, the Connor–Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC), has been well received and acknowledged for its established psychometric properties (Singh & Yu, 2010). Scholars have found that the resilience construct comprises five distinct underlying factors: (a) personal competence, high standards, and tenacity; (b) trust in one’s instincts, tolerance of negative affect, and the strengthening effects of stress; (c) positive acceptance of change and secure relationships; (d) control; and (e) spiritual influences (e.g., Campbell-Sills et al., 2006; Connor & Davidson, 2003). The first factor focuses on traits such as personal competence, high standards, and tenacity. These traits refer to one’s ability to self-regulate, a process that “enables an individual to guide his or her goal directed activities over time, across changing circumstances” (Porath & Bateman, 2006, p. 185), termed goal orientation. Research has attested to the importance of goal orientation (Elliot, 1999) and its association with positive patterns of learning (Pajares, 1996). The second factor involves trust in one’s instincts, tolerance of negative affect, and the strengthening effects of stress. This factor reflects the cognitive-behavioral strategies an individual possesses that enable him or her to identify and change maladaptive thinking (Steinhardt & Dolbier, 2007). The third factor, positive acceptance of change and secure relationships with others, reflects one’s ability to adapt to change and maintain secure relationships. The fourth factor, control, refers to the control one has in achieving one’s own goals. The fifth factor, spiritual influences, reflects one’s faith in one’s religion (Connor & Davidson, 2003). Although prior resilience research is extensive, no study has investigated the impacts of resilience on academic performance among first-year undergraduates, which suggests that the present investigation has strong potential to improve researchers’ knowledge of this population and provide insight into possible interventions. Self-Esteem, Resilience, and Academic Performance Resilience is complex and multidimensional in nature (Miller & Daniel, 2007). It can be viewed as an outcome against the odds (Gilligan, 1997) and an adaptation process of adversity (Luthar, 2003). Miller and Daniel (2007) identified two possible sets of factors to build resilience: external and intrinsic factors. Based on their observation, external factors, such as family, friends, or school experiences, can create adversity or provide secure support and protection. In contrast, intrinsic factors include a sense of security that leads the individual to either vulnerability or resilience. Many studies have illustrated that self-esteem is a significant intrinsic factor (Fergusson & Horwood, 2003; Gilligan, 1997; Masten & Coatsworth, 1998). Consequently, self-esteem has been viewed as a personal characteristic of individuals who survive, or even thrive, in the face of adversity (Jindal-Snape & Miller, 2008). As stated by Miller and Daniel (2007), the links between self-esteem and resilience

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are more numerous and more important than has previously been acknowledged. Within the school context, a wealth of research has demonstrated that resilient adolescents gain positive outcomes in their academic performance and psychosocial processes (Luthar, 2006; Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000; Taylor, 2010; M. C. Wang & Gordon, 2012). Furthermore, extant research highlights the fact that resilient students tend to have high self-esteem. Miller and Daniel (2007) proposed a two-dimensional model of self-esteem as a theoretical framework to revisit a range of factors frequently associated with internal resilience and argued that the links between self-esteem and resilience may have been underestimated. In line with the discussion of these theoretical issues, they provided suggestions for teachers and schools to help inform resilience-based approaches to support vulnerable children. Later on, Jindal-Snape and Miller (2008) used theoretical perspectives from the literature on resilience and self-esteem to examine key aspects of the process of the transition from primary to secondary school. The results indicated that teachers and schools needed to focus on the way in which social and personal experiences were interpreted in order to help vulnerable students cope with, and even benefit from, the period of transition. Cunningham and Swanson (2010) conducted an empirical study and examined factors within the school context that facilitate educational resilience among African American high school students. Results supported their expectation that academic self-esteem is positively associated with academic achievements and further associated with educational resilience. The implications of this study could help educators promote educational resilience in high school students. It would appear that to date, the relationship between resilience and self-esteem has received little attention (Jindal-Snape & Miller, 2008), particularly in terms of how these factors influence the academic performance of domestic and international students in an Australian context. The current study extends previous research regarding differences between domestic and international students in academic performance for tourism and hospitality students. Prior research predicted differences between domestic and international tourism and hospitality students in academic motivation with subsequent impacts on academic performance (Rynne, Kwek, & Bui, 2012). However, the investigators did not find the expected relationship between academic motivation and performance (i.e., when a student is highly motivated, he or she is expected to perform academically). The transition from high school to university undoubtedly presents many challenges and uncertainties that can affect students’ academic performance, and the increased levels of stress international students experience while studying in Australia (Brown, 2008; Wan, Chapman, & Biggs, 1992; Yeh & Inose, 2003) can further influence academic performance. Self-esteem theory and resilience theory offer a foundation for understanding this group of students and

provide insight into possible strategies to improve their academic performance. However, no studies to date have explored the linkages between self-esteem, resilience, and the academic performance of this important group of students. To better understand the unexpected outcomes in explaining academic performance among first-year undergraduate students enrolled in a hospitality and tourism program, this study relied on the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Marsh, Scalas, & Nagengast, 2010) and, as mentioned, the CD-RISC (Connor & Davidson, 2003). In the course of this research, analysis determined the structural suitability of these two instruments as measures of self-esteem and resilience, respectively, to formally investigate the influence of self-esteem and resilience on first-year undergraduates’ academic performance, to test for intergroup differences on each factor, and to compare the strengths of the relationships between domestic and international students. On the basis of the previous discussion, four hypotheses are proposed: H1: H2: H3: H4:

Resilience is positively related to self-esteem. Self-esteem is positively related to academic performance. Resilience is positively related to academic performance. Domestic and international students differ on the relationships between self-esteem, resilience, and academic performance.

METHOD Instruments The questionnaire for the online survey was divided into four sections. The first section measured self-esteem using the 10-item Likert-type Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, in which five items were negatively worded. The Rosenberg SelfEsteem Scale has been conventionally used to measure this construct (e.g., Pelham & Swann, 1989; Scheier, Carver, & Bridges, 1994) and therefore was considered appropriate. The selection of this widely used scale was also based on its ability to provide a global assessment of self-esteem (Rosenberg, 1965). Participants were asked to indicate the extent of their agreement or disagreement with the 10 items on a 7-point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree). The five negatively worded items were recoded prior to subsequent data analysis. The second section measured resilience using the multidimensional CD-RISC, which comprised 25 items that measured the capacity to change and cope with adversity. As with self-esteem, respondents were asked to indicate their responses on a 7-point Likert scale, with higher scores indicating greater resilience.

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The third section was designed to measure students’ academic performance with three assessment items comprising assignments or measurements within the course. The first item was a qualitative assignment, which assessed students’ ability to code qualitative data collected from interviews and write a qualitative report based on their own interpretation of the data. Following a similar approach, the second item, a quantitative assignment, required students to use basic descriptive and inferential statistical techniques to analyze quantitative data collected from survey questionnaires and to subsequently present a written report of their analysis results. Each of the two assignments was worth 30% of the total marks awarded for the course. The end-ofsemester exam included two equally weighted components, a multiple-choice section and a short-answer section, each worth 20%. Such a measure of academic performance has been used successfully in previous research (Rynne et al., 2012) and therefore was deemed appropriate for this study. The final section consisted of a range of questions used to obtain a demographic profile of the respondents, including questions on age, gender, nationality, and study majors. In this study, the factor structure of resilience was assessed before we included this construct with self-esteem and academic performance in the overall confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). Analysis Analysis entailed a two-step process. The initial step involved testing the factor structure of the multidimensional construct of resilience and unidimensional construct of selfesteem by means of a CFA. With confirmation of the measurement model from the CFA and assessment of construct validity and reliability, a structural model was estimated to examine the influences of resilience and self-esteem on students’ academic performance. The second step tested the significance of the hypothesized relationships using structural equation modeling (SEM). In addition, statistical tests were conducted to identify any group differences in the three constructs as well as the strengths of the paths between domestic and international students. The analysis compared the hypothesized model across the two groups of students (i.e., domestic and international). A measurement invariance test was conducted prior to the interpretation of the differences in the path coefficients between the two groups. Unlike conventional multivariate analysis techniques such as multiple regression, in which only a single relationship between the dependent and independent variables can be estimated at a time, SEM provides the appropriate and most efficient estimation technique for a series of separate dependence relationships to be estimated simultaneously (Hair, Black, Babin, Anderson, & Tatham, 2005). This approach allows a hypothesized dependent variable to be used as an independent variable in a subsequent dependence relationship, which is the case in this study (e.g., resilience predicts


self-esteem, which in turn predicts academic performance). Furthermore, as a latent variable estimation technique, SEM allows the researcher to estimate relationships among unobservable latent factors represented by multiple indicators and therefore was considered the most appropriate approach for this study.

RESULTS Demographic Characteristics of the Participants The research was conducted with first-year students in a large research methods course offered by the tourism and hospitality school at two campuses of a large Australian university. The course has an annual enrolment of approximately 1,200 students. All students enrolled in the first semester (n = 427) were invited to participate in the research by completing an online survey accessed through the university’s computer-based course site. Prior to participating, each student gave online informed consent. In all, 420 surveys were completed, comprising 247 international students (58.8%) and 173 domestic students (41.2%). The majority of the international students were from Asia: 40.1% were from China, 7.4% were from South Korea, and 3% were from other countries in Southeast Asia. The remaining 8.3% were from the United States, Canada, and Europe. Domestic students were Australian citizens or permanent residents. Within the sample, 63.8% of the participants were female. The percentage of female students in the international student group was higher (68%) than that in the domestic group (56%). In terms of age, the majority of the domestic students were between 17 and 21, whereas more than 60% of the international group was older than 22 years old. Investigation 1: Dimensionality of Resilience and Self-Esteem In the original work of Connor and Davidson (2003), resilience is a multidimensional construct measured by 25 items, while Rosenberg (1965) identified the scale for self-esteem as a unidimensional construct with 10 measurement items. Prior to modeling the effects of resilience and self-esteem on the academic performance of students, we assessed the dimensionality of the two independent variables, resilience and self-esteem, by CFA. Multidimensional resilience scale. Connor and Davidson (2003) theorized the resilience scale (CD-RISC) with five factors. Factor 1, personal competence, has eight items. Factor 2, measured by seven items, corresponds to one’s tolerance of negative affect. Factor 3, composed of four items, relates to positive acceptance of changes. Factor 4 is related to control, represented by three items, and Factor 5 to spiritual influences, with two items. To confirm this


KWEK ET AL. TABLE 1 Factor Structure of the Connor–Davidson Resilience Scale

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Factor/Item Factor 1. Personal Competence Res12. When things look hopeless, I don’t give up Res11. I believe I can achieve my goals Res25. I take pride in my achievements Res23. I like challenges Res17. I think of myself as strong person Factor 2. Tolerance of Negative Affect Res20. I have the ability to act on a hunch Res15. I prefer to take the lead in problem solving Res14. When I am under pressure I focus and think clearly Factor 3. Positive Acceptance of Change Res1. I have the ability to adapt to change Res4. I can deal with whatever comes my way Res5. Past successes gives me confidence for new challenges Factor 4. Control Res22. I feel in control of my life Res13. I know where to turn for help Res21. I have a strong sense of purpose

factor structure, we conducted a CFA with the five latent variables measured by 25 items based on the original work of Connor and Davidson. The model did not produce satisfactory fit indexes, and therefore modification indexes were inspected. The results suggested that the fifth factor, spiritual influences, was problematic. Furthermore, the Cronbach’s alpha of this dimension was .47, indicating a low level of scale reliability. On the basis of these results, this dimension was deleted for further analysis. In addition, several poorly performing items contained in the other four original factors were removed based on the criteria recommended in the literature. Finally, a four-factor model measured by 14 items was established, resulting in good model fit indexes (χ 2 /df = 2.359, root mean square error of approximation [RMSEA] = 0.055, standardized root-mean-square residual [SRMR] = 0.037, goodness-of-fit index [GFI] = 0.942, Tucker–Lewis index [TLI] = 0.947, comparative fit index [CFI] = 0.958). Table 1 shows that the reliability of the scale is satisfactory and all factor loading are significant, thus confirming the convergent validity and reliability of the resilience scale. Discriminant validity was also assessed. All pairs of constructs were tested in two-factor CFA in which each model was estimated twice, once constraining the correlation between the constructs to be 1 and the other time allowing free estimation of the parameter. This analysis resulted in eight comparisons of the constrained and unconstrained measurement models. Discriminant validity is established if a significantly lower chi-square value is obtained for the model in which the correlation is not constrained to unity (Bagozzi & Phillips, 1982). As indicated in Table 2, all combinations resulted in significant differences in chi-square values between the unconstrained and constrained models, thus supporting discriminant validity. Upon confirmation

Reliability (Cronbach’s α)

Factor Loading


0.74 0.73 0.68 0.65 0.75

17.58 17.09 15.62 14.68 17.92

0.67 0.66 0.60

14.04 13.82 12.33

0.69 0.73 0.64

15.52 16.81 14.08

0.73 0.64 0.76

16.60 14.01 17.52





of the measurement model, four composite variables were computed using the mean value of their respective items to represent the four factors of resilience. Unidimensional self-esteem scale and academic performance. The self-esteem scale was designed as a unidimensional construct measured by 10 items (Rosenberg, 1965). Similarly, Gray-Little, Williams, and Hancock (1997) investigated the structure of the scale using item response theory and identified a single common factor. The CFA model with χ 2 /df = 8.713, RMSEA and SRMR greater than 0.05, and comparative indexes being far below the threshold of 0.90 suggested respecification. Measurement items were assessed on criteria such as standard covariance residuals, square multiple correlations, and modification indexes, as suggested by Hair et al. (2005). To ensure the unidimensionality of the self-esteem constructs, we

TABLE 2 Discriminant Analysis for the Connor–Davidson Resilience Scale χ 2 Difference Comparison Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Factor 4 Factor 2 Factor 3 Factor 4 Factor 3 Factor 4

χ 2


Discriminant Validity

137.20 124.37 123.98

1 1 1

Yes Yes Yes

208.56 161.18

1 1

Yes Yes





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removed poorly performing items one by one. The remaining three best performing items represented self-esteem as a unidimensional scale with acceptable reliability (α = .70). The third construct of the study was student academic performance. Considering the actual values of the measurement, no further modification of the factor structure of the model was made, making the academic performance a unidimensional construct. Specification of a measurement model. A measurement model was specified by three latent constructs: resilience, self-esteem, and academic performance. Given the good fit of the comparative indexes (greater than 0.95), the error estimation indexes (RMSEA and SRMR) less than 0.05, the performance of the measurement model was confirmed. As such, a structural model was subsequently developed to estimate the impacts of resilience and self-esteem on student academic performance. Investigation 2: Hypothesis Testing The structural model examining the hypothesized relationship between the constructs identified previously was established for the total sample. The model indicated a good fit to the data, with χ 2 /df = 2.26, SRMR = 0.04, RMSEA = 0.05, GFI = 0.97, TLI = 0.97, CFI = 0.96. The R2 of the dependent variable (academic performance) was 0.8, suggesting that 8% of the variance in academic performance was explained by two independent variables. Results of the structural model and testing of hypotheses are shown in Table 3. H1: Resilience is positively related to self-esteem. Resilience had a positive impact on self-esteem, as the path coefficient (β) between the two constructs was positive and strong (β = 0.56, p = .00). The positive relationship was significant, with t = 9.96 and p < 0.05, thus supporting H1. H2: Self-esteem is positively related to academic performance. At a level of α = .05, self-esteem was found to have a positive impact on student academic performance. TABLE 3 Results of the Path Analysis (Overall Sample) Path Resilience → Self-esteem Self-esteem → Academic Performance Resilience → Academic performance Note: H = hypothesis. ∗ p < .05.

Path (β)




0.56 0.17

9.96 2.07

.000∗ .038

H1 is supported H2 is supported




H3 is supported


Both t = 2.07 and p = .038 indicated a significant relationship between these two constructs, providing evidence for H2.

H3: Resilience is positively related to academic performance. A weak relationship was detected when we measured the impact of resilience on student academic performance, with t = 2.01 and p = .044. Thus, at p < .05, H3 was confirmed.

H4. Domestic and international students differ on the relationships between self-esteem, resilience, and academic performance. To disentangle group differences between domestic and international students in self-esteem, resilience, and academic performance, we tested the structural model across the two groups to identify any differences in the structural relationships. A multiple group analysis approach was used, simultaneously including a sample of 247 international students and 173 domestic students. First, an invariant test of the model was conducted to examine whether the measures were constant across the groups. Because the factor loadings were invariant across the two groups (p > .05), evidence for factor invariance across different groups was provided. Accordingly, the strengths of the path estimates among the variables were deemed comparable across the studied groups. Second, three sets of relationships were compared between the groups of domestic and international students. Even though a positive relation for resilience and self-esteem was found in both groups, the t value was not significant (t = –1.736), leading to a conclusion of no significant difference between the two groups. Furthermore, both resilience and self-esteem were found to have no significant impacts on academic performance in both groups of students (see Table 4). Thus, H4 was not supported.

DISCUSSION The purpose of this research was to extend knowledge of factors that influence the academic performance of tourism and hospitality undergraduate students. The study examined the impact of two important psychological factors—self-esteem and resilience—on academic performance, as well as the differences in these relationships between domestic and international students. Research data collected using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and the CD-RISC formed the basis for a structural equation model to estimate how self-esteem and resilience explain academic performance, thereby extending the current understanding of the relationship among these factors.


KWEK ET AL. TABLE 4 Comparison of Domestic and International Students Group Domestic students Resilience → Self-esteem Self-esteem → Academic performance Resilience → Academic performance International students Resilience → Self-esteem Self-esteem → Academic performance Resilience → Academic performance ∗p




0.667 0.128 0.173

7.43 1.17 0.84

.000∗ .240 .390

Significant Nonsignificant Nonsignificant

0.43 0.13 0.14

5.51 1.12 1.30

.000∗ .269 .193

Significant Nonsignificant Nonsignificant

< .05.

Self-Esteem and Academic Performance

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Path (β)

The results of this study show a significant relationship between self-esteem and academic performance, a finding in line with previous studies indicating a correlation between academic achievement and self-esteem among college students (Stupnisky et al., 2007) as well as Grade 12 students (Ross & Broh, 2000). Some researchers suggest that students who are academically weak tend to adopt compensatory strategies, such as inflating their general self-esteem and thus insulating and protecting their self-efficacy (Rosenberg, 1982). Alternatively, academically stronger students may have higher evaluations of their academic abilities yet set lower performance expectations to protect themselves should they fail. However, the results of this research show that the selfesteem of tourism and hospitality students is a significant and positive predictor of academic performance. The findings of this study suggest that having high selfesteem leads to higher grades for tourism and hospitality students. On this basis, investing in and promoting selfesteem in higher education can lead to better grades, which are assumed to reflect mastery of academic subjects and therefore also reflect a student’s qualification. This finding is consistent with research that argues that students who feel good about themselves will perform better academically compared to those who exhibit low self-esteem (Peixoto & Almeida, 2010; Ross & Broh, 2000). Similarly, one’s academic achievement also influences one’s self-esteem (Kim & Park, 2006). Performing well academically increases an individual’s self-esteem. The transition to university places first-year undergraduates at a higher risk of attrition (Long et al., 2006; Willcoxson et al., 2011). As a measure to further self-esteem and correspondingly better grades among students, higher education institutions are encouraged to implement alternative forms of teaching orientations and strategies as part of the curricula and teaching design. For first-year undergraduates, facilitating higher levels of interaction between students and the teaching team in both lectures and tutorials will provide students with more opportunities to connect with staff, engage in varied information exchange techniques, and

develop comfort with an interactive lecture environment. Such strategies are student focused, aimed at establishing positive and active learning and participation that may boost self-esteem.

Resilience and Academic Performance The concept of resilience in this study was represented by factors such as personal competence, tolerance of negative affect, positive acceptance of change, and control. Personal competence includes beliefs in one’s own abilities and capabilities to achieve goals and accept challenges, focusing on traits such as personal competence, high standards, and tenacity. Tolerance of negative affect reflects an individual’s capacity to work under pressure despite facing difficult situations. Positive acceptance of change demonstrates one’s ability to look at the positive side of thing and ability to adapt to change as it comes. The last factor is control, which measures one’s confidence in taking control of one’s life as well as social resources. These abilities, which are clear reflections of one’s positive adaptive behaviors to adverse situations, are positively associated with academic achievement. Students who exhibit these attitudes and behaviors tend to be able to cope better in difficult times and to understand and value effort. The current study supports the notions of positive self-beliefs and behaviors, as students who adopt positive attitudes tend to perform better academically than those who adopt maladaptive attitudes when faced with an adverse situation. Our findings are consistent with Hartley (2011, 2012), highlighting the importance of resilience on academic performance. Other researchers have suggested that as students cope with the increasing pressures of college education, to achieve college success they are encouraged to draw on protective factors such as social support and resources (Masten, 2001). Social support can be particularly important for students during this transitional period, as friendships can act as protective factors for those at risk. Social isolation can often increase the perceived salience of a bad situation for vulnerable individuals. Students who are less adaptable are reported to be at higher risk for dropping out of college


(Friedlander et al., 2007). Understanding how resilience and risk factors affect students’ academic performance can influence the way in which teachers create learning environments that are student centered, focused on helping students cope with the academic, social, and emotional demands of university learning.

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Resilience and Self-Esteem Consistent with previous research, resilience was a significant predictor of self-esteem (Cunningham & Swanson, 2010; Jindal-Snape & Miller, 2008; Miller & Daniel, 2007). In this study, findings revealed that resilient students tend to have high self-esteem. Students who have stronger self-beliefs and feel good about themselves are generally expected to have better control over their lives and be better able to deal with the adjustment issues related to transition. Feeling competent allows students to better manage adjustment issues, which may lead to improvements in adjustment over time (Friedlander et al., 2007). Conversely, those who lack confidence in themselves tend not to perform academically and may struggle more with the transition process. Implications for Higher Education The transition from high school to university can be challenging for both domestic and international students. In addition to coping with the social changes around them, first-year undergraduates must deal with a different learning environment. In their first year of higher education, students encounter academic, social, and emotional adjustments. Accordingly, achieving high academic performance in their first year is challenging and requires universities’ ongoing commitment to strategic and pedagogical curriculum review, which can ensure student learning and sustain the long-term efforts of the tertiary education sector to attract students. The results of this investigation show that self-esteem and resilience are significant predictors of academic achievement for both domestic and international students. In general, students with high self-esteem and resilience are better able to engage in tasks and perform academically. One explanation for this finding is that resilient students are academically motivated and possess higher personal competence, standards, and tenacity. They are more concerned with developing abilities and competence to accomplish required tasks. On the basis of our findings, we are encouraged to focus on developing strategies for lower achieving students. It is important that universities develop and implement a range of intervention programs to assist lower achieving students to become more engaged in their learning through setting learning goals, developing strategies to cope with stress, and overcoming difficulties at this transitional stage. At the teaching level, these intervention programs can include (a) equipping teachers with skills that can stimulate and enable


effective self-regulated learning in students and (b) providing teachers with strategies to identify at-risk students. In addition, teacher and student interactions should incorporate effective and frequent feedback (Caraway, Tucker, Reinke, & Hall, 2003). Feedback should be given regardless of the level of performance to encourage greater student engagement and provide positive reinforcement. Prior research has suggested that to be effective, feedback to students should be based on the task outcome of a particular learning goal as opposed to person-oriented praise (Dweck, 1999). Teachers’ behaviors influence students’ learning, and the extent to which teachers support a positive learning culture can be a strong predictor of student learning (Skinner, Wellborn, & Connell, 1990). Although encouragement may not directly improve academic performance, it can improve self-esteem and confidence and thus foster positive attitudes in students toward their studies and the university experience (Chemers, Hu, & Garcia, 2001). At the student level, universities can implement orientation programs that introduce first-year undergraduates to the availability of student services such as counseling and academic study skill development, as well as specialized workshops that support students’ development of stress coping strategies (Davidson, Beck, & Milligan, 2009). Although large Australian universities with high international enrollments provide international students with English language assistance or copyediting services, in the long run this support may not be as effective as programs that engage students in active interaction with the English language. Other essential academic skills students need to successfully complete university studies can include academic writing and information literacy, which can be gained through assessmentspecific assistance. Limitations and Future Research Several inherent limitations of this study need to be acknowledged. First, because this study adopted a cross-sectional design, which does not involve cause-and-effect relationships, the results can imply only an association among the constructs under investigation rather than a causal relationship. Second, the sample of this study comprised only first-year students, and the findings may not be generalizable to all tourism and hospitality students. Third, using surveys as the method of data collection may have resulted in measurement error, which could have potentially affected the study results. Furthermore, the weak prediction regarding self-esteem, resilience, and academic performance may be attributable in part to the use of a general self-esteem scale rather than a specifically academic self-esteem scale (Stupnisky et al., 2007). Despite these limitations, the study results suggest a number of areas for future research. First, because this investigation was conducted in the first-year course of a tourism and hospitality program, further examination of the

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model with more advanced students may increase the generalizability of the findings. Second, the use of qualitative research methods would be useful to gain a contextual meaning of self-esteem and resilience among domestic and international students, and future studies might consider adopting a longitudinal design to explore this area. Finally, future research should attempt to improve both the self-esteem and resilience scales to achieve better prediction. Both scales can also be adjusted to cater to a non-Western population. Overall, this study has provided important insights into the relationships between self-esteem, resilience, and academic performance among hospitality and tourism students. In particular, the findings suggest a statistically significant, even if weak, link between self-esteem, resilience, and academic performance. Although the current study is exploratory, it contributes to the literature on tourism and hospitality education by extending current knowledge of the role of these two important psychological factors in determining the academic performance of first-year tourism and hospitality undergraduates.

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