Trait complexes and academic achievement: Old and new ways of examining personality in educational contexts

Background. Although recent research has provided evidence for the predictive validity of personality traits in academic settings, the path to an improved understanding of the nature of personality influences on academic achievement involves a reconceptualization of both criterion and predictor construct spaces.

Aims. For the criterion space, one needs to consider student behaviours beyond grades and level of educational attainment, and include what the student does among other things outside of the classroom. For the predictor space, it is possible to bring some order to the myriad personality constructs that have been developed over the last century, by focusing on common variance among personality and other non-ability traits.

Methods. We review these conceptual issues and several empirical studies. Conclusions. We demonstrate the possible increments in understanding non-ability determinants of academic achievement that may be obtained by focusing on areas where there is a theoretical convergence between predictor and criterion spaces.