Promoting International College Students' Academic Adjustment from Self-Determination Theory

Hyun Jin Cho, Purdue University


When international students come to the U.S. to study, they are faced with unique needs and challenges that influence their academic success, adjustment, and well-being. In particular, international students’ academic adjustment determines their academic success during the transition to U.S. universities. This dissertation examined the validity of a new scale and international students’ academic adjustment from self-determination theory (SDT) in three different papers. The first paper examined the validity of a new instrument assessing students’ beliefs about assessment in the context of second language learning. Specifically, this study was conducted with international undergraduate students to examine their beliefs about a high-stakes standardized English proficiency exam and the use of their self-regulatory learning strategies in the context of second language learning. This study discussed implications for researchers to use an alternative scale to measure four different aspects of students’ beliefs about assessments and for educators’ intervention in students’ developing adaptive beliefs about assessment in the learning process. The second paper aimed to provide a comprehensive theoretical framework from a self-determination perspective that supports international students’ successful academic adjustment. This paper comprised of two phases: quantitative phase and qualitative phase. The quantitative phase explored the relationships between international students’ learning climates, basic psychological needs, discussion participation, beliefs about classroom assessments, and academic adjustment. The qualitative phase explored how international students perceive their learning environments and classroom experiences in more detail through semi-structured interviews. This study showed that SDT provides theoretical foundations to explain international students’ successful academic adjustment. Finally, the third paper investigated the relationships between self-determined motivation, beliefs about classroom assessments, and the use of different types of learning strategy through the lens of self-determination theory. It was proposed that students’ self-determined motivation may shape adaptive beliefs about classroom assessments, which in turn, contributes to use of higher level of learning strategies and eventually academic adjustment as a learning outcome. Also, this study explored whether there is a difference in students’ motivation, beliefs about assessments, and the use of self-regulated learning strategies in two different instructional environments (lecture-based and discussion-based classrooms). This paper discussed how international students’ adapt themselves to U.S. universities through motivation to learn, perspectives about classroom assessments, and different types of learning approach in different academic disciplines at the university level.




Levesque-Bristol, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational psychology

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server