Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Criticisms of secondary schooling invariably highlight four unresolved issues; weaknesses and deficits in graduates' proficiency, subject area failure rates, disorder in the classroom, and dropout rates. These issues persist despite the efforts of educators, periodic reforms imposed by governments, and a seeming abundance of school learning and achievement research. However, this research primarily concerns either pre- or post-secondary schooling. The limited secondary school research mainly has focused only on particular subject areas and, moreover, has considered relatively few of all the potentially relevant variables. Yet the issues clearly implicate the student as a functional entity of biological, cognitive, and affective characteristics relevant to learning and achievement across as well as within subject areas.;To investigate this implication, a general model that places the student within a framework of learning milieux, contexts, and outcomes was developed from earlier research and learning model designs. Data were collected to provide 43 major variables for three grade nine samples; 237 and 122 Canadian students in advanced and general stream classes respectively, and 137 Scottish students in mixed ability classes. The purpose of the study was to determine which variables distinguished the most successful learners from less and least successful learners in overall annual achievement.;Each data set first was analysed by a multivariate profile analysis procedure. Meaningful distinctions were found between the profiles of the most, less, and least successful learners in each sample. Significant distinctions between the most and least successful learners for the Canadian advanced and Scottish samples were obtained on 24 and 20 variables respectively, while 12 variables distinguished between these learners in the Canadian general stream sample. In addition, the results indicated particular characteristics common to all of the most successful learners. To link the study to more typical research, learner profiles also were obtained for subject areas including English, Mathematics, and Science.;LISREL analyses then were used to test each data set against a causal model of school learning that incorporated all study variables. The significant paths obtained for each test indicated that the model provided a plausible cause-effect explanation.;It is argued that progress toward resolution of the issues has been hindered by an incomplete view of individual differences relevant to instruction. A focus for interventions to address the issues more effectively is discussed.



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