Since there is limited research on the applicability of the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) model in educational contexts, the current cross-national comparison study aimed to investigate how non-cognitive factors, specifically, the TPB model components, affect students’ math outcomes in USA and their peers in three other countries, Germany, Japan, and Korea. Using internationally representative samples from the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) data, various structural equation models (SEM) were employed to examine the TPB applicability in the academic domain across four national groups.
One key strength of the current investigation was the use of two random samples from each country (the derivation and cross-validation samples). The results of the factor structural analyses from both the derivation (N = 10681) and cross-validation (N = 10682) samples indicated that the measurement of the TPB model components were invariant across four countries. From both 1st/2nd samples, two findings were consistent with “West vs. Asia” contrast: (a) the influence of Attitude, among the TPB model components, on Math Achievement was much stronger in Japan and Korea than USA and Germany; (b) the estimated effect size of Math Achievement was much greater in Japan and Korea than USA and Germany.
However, most other findings were contrasts showing that one Western country or one Asian country differed from the other three countries, inconsistent with a generic “West vs. Asia” cultural comparison model: (a) the influence of Control on Math Intention in USA was distinctively greater than for the other three countries; (b) the direct effect of Control on Math Achievement was strong in USA, Germany, and Korea, but weak in Japan; (c) lastly, the influence of Attitude on Math Intention and Math Intention on Math Achievement in Korea were much stronger than in the other three countries. In addition, among three Subjective Norm factors (Friend, Parent, and Teacher), the effect of SN-Teacher on Math Intention was much stronger than the other two SN factors in all four countries. The present cross-national comparison study concluded with implications for math education and future research directions.