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Operational Definition: What is Quality Focus?

Quality Focus deals with a student’s emphasis on high-quality work and avoidance of errors, and relates to concepts such as precision, attention to detail, and even “perfectionism.” Such factors have been consistently identified as elements of conscientiousness (e.g., Goldberg, 1990; MacCann, Fogarty, & Roberts, 2012), the domain of personality largely related to performance-related behaviors and dispositions, such as organization, perseverance, dependability, efficiency, and dutifulness.


Empirical Relationship to Success (Does it Predict Student Success?)

Poropat (2009) identified conscientiousness as a significant predictor of academic performance in higher education, with nearly identical predictive efficacy as intelligence. Interestingly, no other personality domains were significantly correlated with success at the tertiary level. 

O’Connor and Paunonen (2007) found similar results in their meta-analysis of the relationship between Big Five personality factors and post-secondary success. However, they noted variance in the relationship of conscientiousness depending upon the sample. This could be due to an examination of conscientiousness at the domain level - which is broad and complex - rather than an exploration of facets specifically related to student success.

Ultimately, there is little research on the specific relationship of such facets (e.g., Quality Focus) to student outcomes. The inclusion of Quality Focus in the ISSAQ framework is thus based on its relation to the well-support factor of conscientiousness, as well as input from subject matter experts. Additionally, there are practical arguments supporting its inclusion.

Practical Relationship to Success

The concept of “grit” (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly; 2007) has received significant attention among both scholars and practitioners as a potential paradigm shift in understanding student success. However, more recently, some have criticized grit as being multi-faceted (i.e., not one single construct as its label may suggest), highly correlated with conscientiousness, modestly related with student outcomes, and unimpacted by interventions (see Credé et al., 2017; Meunks et al., 2017). Particular attention to these criticisms is warranted, as they point to both potential problems with the measurement of grit as well as difficulties in providing actionable, valid interventions. 

A more granular factor, such as Quality Focus, may play an important role in better understanding such a construct and reducing measurement error. For example, grit is commonly referred to as having at least two dimensions: perseverance of effort and consistency of interest. Both Meunks et al. and Credé et al. found perseverance of effort to be a stronger predictor of student success.
But what might “perseverance of effort” look like in a student? It could include checking and rechecking one’s work, maintaining effort until one’s standards of quality are met, and taking the time to effectively plan and execute one’s work - all qualities addressed by Quality Focus.


Another popular theory, “growth mindset” (Dweck, 2007; 2008) points to the importance of Quality Focus. Dweck (2008) explained that, once someone believes they can get smarter, they (a) emphasize learning as a goal and (b) persist longer in the face of difficulties, and (c) value their own efforts as a mechanism of that improvement. Subsequently, these beliefs manifest as increased time and attention on task (i.e., Quality Focus behavior) that lead to higher achievement.​

How do I help students improve in Quality Focus?

Quality Focus is a Strategy Factor.

This means that providing direct feedback, tools, and resources can help students build this skill.

While some might view Quality Focus as an attitudinal factor (e.g., "some students just don't care about the quality of their work"), interventions are more likely to be effective when emphasizing the behavioral aspects of quality.


For example, it may be harder to instruct a student to "care" about the quality of their work than to ask them to proofread their work one extra time, ask for feedback on a draft, or make sure to read the instructions. This and other tips can be found in the Student Resource Hub.

Continued conversations with students can monitor if and how they implement these approaches and how they've been helpful to their broader success.



Credé, M., Tynan, M. C., & Harms, P. D. (2017). Much ado about grit: A meta-analytic synthesis of the grit literature. Journal of Personality and social Psychology, 113(3), 492.

Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of personality and social psychology, 92(6), 1087.


Dweck, C. S. (2007, January 12). The Growth Mindset. Retrieved March 23, 2020, from


Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House Digital, Inc..


Goldberg, L. R. (1990). An alternative" description of personality": the big-five factor structure. Journal of personality and social psychology, 59(6), 1216.


MacCann, C., Fogarty, G. J., & Roberts, R. D. (2012). Strategies for success in education: Time management is more important for part-time than full-time community college students. Learning and Individual Differences, 22(5), 618-623.


Muenks, K., Wigfield, A., Yang, J. S., & O'Neal, C. R. (2017). How true is grit? Assessing its relations to high school and college students’ personality characteristics, self-regulation, engagement, and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(5), 599.


O’Connor, M. C., & Paunonen, S. V. (2007). Big Five personality predictors of post-secondary academic performance. Personality and Individual differences, 43(5), 971-990.

Poropat, A. E. (2009). A meta-analysis of the five-factor model of personality and academic performance. Psychological bulletin, 135(2), 322.

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