(Re)Examining academic risk taking: Conceptual structure, antecedents, and relationship to productive failure

Sara Abercrombie, Kira J. Carbonneau, Carolyn J. Hushman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Academic risk taking occurs when students engage in tasks with the potential for failure in order to learn. Among other characteristics, it is related to preferring challenging tasks and a desire to master content or skills. Using the School Failure Tolerance (SFT) measure with three subscales—Affect, Preferred Difficulty and Action—we empirically explored the conceptualization of academic risk taking. In the first study, 236 undergraduate students completed a survey containing three versions of Academic Risk Taking (ART)—including an adapted version of the SFT and new items to better capture Actions associated with productive failure and proactive risk taking—Need for Cognition (NFC), and Achievement Goal Orientation (AGO). Confirmatory Factor Analysis provided evidence for the validity of scores produced by the NFC and AGO as well as splitting the Actions subscale into two dimensions: productive failure and proactive risk taking. In the second study, 719 undergraduates completed the improved ART, NFC and AGO with SEMs providing evidence that academic risk taking is multi-dimensional, predicted by need for cognition and achievement goals, and risk taking actions related to response to failure and proactive actions are distinct. These studies have important implications for our understanding of academic risk taking and its relationship to other constructs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102029
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Academic Risk Taking
  • Academic Risk Taking Scale
  • Achievement Goals
  • Need for Cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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