Research indicate that students generally fail to benefit from study skills courses and show resistance to this course in higher education level. The purpose of this research is to investigate reasons why students show resistance to the course of study skills and habits. In this research, a qualitative design utilizing retrospective interviews was employed. Students who showed resistance to the course of study skills and habits were interviewed. The results of this research indicated that reasons of students showed to resistance behavior are: do not want to change their study habits, can not change their study skills, believe the new study skills meaningless, and perceive that teaching study skills to the students in schools is not the responsibility of their career. It was proposed that the instructors of this course should have opportunities to practice these study skills instead of giving students theoretical knowledge.
Educational research and development efforts largely relate to the development of instruction. In these efforts, teachers are seen as the most important element of instruction. But, learning occurs inside to the student's head. The teacher is a person who provides convenient conditions for students' learning. However, learning is the responsibility of the students.
Students must use study skills which are convenient to be successful. Students generally use some study skills developed by students during their education from elementary to higher education level. These study skills are generally inefficient and inappropriate to the student. For this reason, study skills which inappropriate to the student are needed to be taught to the students. If these skills aren't taught students as planned, they can't learn to use these skills (Gall, Gall, Jacobsen & Bullock, 1990).
Higher education institutes provide supplement services for students to develop their study skills. These institutes implement courses and programs on study skills. Because students generally are incompetent and unprepared for standards at higher education, higher education institutes offer supplement services and programs (Weinstein, 1988). Those services and programs generally consist of these models: (1) learning -to- learn courses, (2) supplemental instruction, (3) required programs for unprepared students, (4) courses integrating the processes of reading and writing, and (5) learning assistance centers (Simpson, Hyndt, Mist & Burrell, 1997). Uludag University (UU) Department of Guidance and Counseling (DGC), where this research was conducted, give a course named "Study Skills and Habits" to only this department's students at university. In this viewpoint, this service seems to be appropriate to the model of supplemental instruction. This course is compulsory for all of DGC students and it aims to prepare the students to be better counselors in the future. Briefly, students get both academic assistance on study skills and also knowledge and skills to use in their careers. For this reason, the course of "Study Skills and Habits" is considered a different model than program models.
There are number of researches on the effectiveness of services and programs. These researches, generally investigated the effectiveness of these programs, according to student's cumulative grade-point averages. Finally, researches found that all programs generally positively affect the students (see for detailed information on these researches Bednar & Weinberg, 1970; Kirschenbaum & Perri, 1982; Simpson, Hyndt, Mist & Burrell, 1997). But they interpreted that these programs are effective only according to student's cumulative grade-point averages. A few researches found in-depth information about these programs. For example, the students, especially low ability students don't readily receive these services (Friedlander, 1980; Karabenich & Knapp, 1988), and students resist these services when they get them and they do not change their study skills and habits (Dembo & Seli, 2004). It is interesting that students show resistance to this course which would benefit them.
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the undergraduate students' resistance to the course of "study skills and habits". The concept of "student resistance" is especially used in education and sociology literatures. Resistance theorists have made respectable contributions to the invention and development of this concept (see for more information: Anyon, 1980; Apple, 1982; Giroux, 1981a, 1981b, 1983a, 1983b; Mac Leod, 1995; Willis, 1977). Resistance theorists start with the ideas of the social reproduction theory that states that schools reproduce the social divisions. According to resistance theory, students show behaviors that denote various creative reactions against the school's hegemonic practices. Resistance theorists state that there is conflict and antagonism in schools and they draw attention to the contestation and resistance behavior of students. Student resistance refers to student's behavior that reflects the conflict to deviate from the presented knowledge and practices. But any deviant behavior is not an example of resistance. Resistance behavior is intended and planned deviant behavior. For a behavior to be resistance, the behavior consciously must be intended and planned. Deviant behaviors generally are not intended or planned and they occur suddenly (Erickson, 1984; McFarland, 2004). Students' main purpose is generally to sabotage the lesson, to make teacher nervous, and to cause the teacher's lack of control in class. Research on student's resistance show that students' resistance is caused by reasons such as physical characteristics of school and classroom, peer relations, group to which student belongs, student's parental problems, student's self-concept, the difficulty of subject-matter, and personal dislike of teacher(Alpert, 1991; Brookfield, 1990; Cusick, 1992; Garber, 2002; McFadden, 1995; McFarland, 2001; Pauly, 1991). Briefly, either successful or unsuccessful students show resistance.
This research investigated why students show resistance to a course of study skills and habits. In literature, research on study skills generally investigated that these courses or programs affect the students' cumulative grade-point averages. A few researches provide in-depth information about students who participate in these programs. Especially, a new research investigated that students show resistance to study skills courses in higher education (Dembo & Seli, 2004). In this study, the study skills course not only is a helping program to students, it is also given to students in order that they be better counselors to help children in the future. With this viewpoint, I hope that this research contributes to the literature on study skills and increases educators' and administrators' interest in this topic.
In this research, a qualitative design utilizing retrospective interviews was employed. Data was obtained from sophomore students who take the course of "study skills and habits" in Department of Guidance and Counseling (DGC) at Uludag University (UU) which is a large university in the west of Turkey. This class was consisted of 41 students (28 female-68.3%, 13 male- 31.7%). Most of these students are from the middle socio- economic class (35- 85.3% students from middle socio-economic class, 4- 9.8% students from higher socio-economic class, and 2- 4.9% students from middle socio economic class). The course of study skills and habits included those study skills which they need while they are studying in college. Additionally, because these students will be counselors in schools after graduating from the department, they will learn how to help their students in the future. That is, students will utilize the study skills in their careers. Although the course is beneficial to them, they generally express negative opinions about this course and show resistance to it.
In first phase of the research, the instructor of this course was asked the names of students who show resistance in his/her classroom. It was determined that 12 students showed resistance to this course. The research included only those resistance behaviors related to the content of this course. Two students were eliminated from the study because it was determined that they only resist to the instructor of this course. Finally, interviews were conducted with 10 students (7 female, 3 male). The students were asked why they show resistance to the content of the course although the course is beneficial to them. An open-ended interview was used with the students. Each interview was conducted in a face to face format and ranged from 30 minutes to 45 minutes.
Data were analyzed after transcribing all interviews and coding. Finally, four key themes were identified and developed that transcended each of the coding categories (Miles & Huberman, 1994)
Four key themes emerged from the analysis of the interviews as a result of their resistance behavior. These themes are examined below.
1. Some students do not want to change their study habits:
Some students stated that they resist to the course of Study Skills and Habits since they merely do not want to change their study skills and habits. These students are satisfied with their study skills and they have negative attitudes towards the new study skills and habits imposed by this class. For this reason, the content of the class is meaningless for them. This leads students to show resistance behaviors. One students explained why s/he does not need to learn new study skills:
"I am very happy with my study skills and habits. If my study skills were not working, I could not be in college. I have got a high score at the University Entrance Exam. I am also successful at my courses. I do not need to use new study skills."
Another students stated similar thoughts:
"Ever student has some study skills which are appropriate for her or him. Since I and my classmates studying at the college level, our study skills worked well. In my opinion, it is wrong to teach students study skills and there is no need for this class. Even if students learn this study skills, they do not practice these study skills at their life."
These students are very satisfied with their study skills since they have won the University Entrance Exam (UEE) which is very difficult and only 10% of all the students passes UEE (OSYM, 2004). They think that their study skills help them to be successful. For this reason, they do not even want to learn new study skills. When interviewees were told that they could be more successful with these new study skills or they could obtain the same level of success by spending less energy, they give the same answer: "What is important is that I am successful in my courses and this is enough for me." These findings show that the successful students attribute their success to their own study skills. For this reason, they do not want to change their study skills and they show resistance to the class.
2. Some students can not change their study skills:
Although some students desire to change their study skills and habits, they do not try to change them. Since these students can not change their study skills, they have negative attitudes towards this class and they show resistance behaviors. A student explained why s/he can not change his her study skills:
"I have been using the same study skills since I was 6 years old. I have used these study skills about 15 years. How can I change them now?"
Another students stated his/her experience about trying to change his/her study skills:
"While studying, I only read my class notes and the textbook. This is the way I prepare for the exams. I usually get an average grade. I want to receive higher grades. For this reason, I wanted to change my study skills and habits. I tried the method of making summaries that I have learned in this class. However, I received a lower grade. For this reason, I stopped using this new study skill and now I am using my own study skills."
As this student stated, it is difficult to change study skills since they were used for years by students and these skills became habits. For this reason, even if students want to change their study skills that they have been using since they started schooling, students can not succeed in changing these skills. As Dembo and Seli pointed out (2002) when students meet some difficulties or have unsuccessful attempts to change, they easily abandon their efforts to change their study skills.
3. Some students believe the new study skills meaningless:
Some students do not accept the study skills, since they think that those study skills taught by this course are meaningless. One student said that:
"The only way to success is to study in time according to a plan and try to have in-depth knowledge about the topics you want to learn. Another way is to study superficially. Those using the later method are unsuccessful while those using the former are usually successful. I find meaningless the study skills taught in the classroom. I think that I waste my time with this class."
Another student had similar ideas:
"This class seems to be unimportant. As everybody has different finger prints, they have different study skills. Even if these study skills are attempted to be taught to the students, they do not practice these study skills."
Students believe that the study skills can not be taught. These students claim that these study skills are innate and they are modified by the environment. For this reason they find the class unproductive and they show resistance behavior in this class.
4. Some students perceive that teaching study skills to the students in schools is not the responsibility of counselors:
Some students showing resistance behaviors in the course of Study Skills and Habits believe that they can not help students on this topic when they start working at schools as counselors. For this reason, they find this class useless. One student pointed out that:
"None of the students can practice these study skills taught in this class. Students develop these study skills by trial and error. I can not do anything about this issue. Students also will not take into consideration my suggestions about study skills."
Another student also claimed that counselors are not responsible for teaching students the new study skills.
"A counselor can not examine all the student files in a school and help them with their study skills. This is not the responsibility of the counselors. This is the responsibility of teachers."
Having the idea that study skills can not be taught, these interviewees stated that counselors can not give guidance to students about study skills. Some of them also claim that this is the responsibility of teachers.
This study identified a number of reasons why students showed resistance behaviors to the study skills course. Students resist learning new study skills which will enable them to develop their study skills and which are important for their vocation.
This research revealed that some students do not believe in changing study skills via a course as well as some of them can not change their study skills. To some extend, it might be considered normal that some students can not change their study skills. In fact, these students developed their study skills by themselves without getting any help. It is impossible to change these skills by a course given one semester two hours a week. For this reason, this kind of course should be given starting from elementary school and it should be repeated according to the students' level of development. In this way, students can develop effective and useful study skills.
The most important and provocative finding in this research is that some students do not believe in the concept of study skills or think that these study skills can be taught nor there a need to teach these study skills. This finding shows that this course is not useful to students. If students think this way, how can they help their students when they start working as counselors at schools? The answer to this question is that the students taking the course of Study Skills and Habits probably will not be able to help their students. Study skills should be taught to students when they are young. However, the personnel should be provided to teach students study skills. For this reason, there should be some adjustments about teaching this course at those colleges that prepare educators to help students in this issue. First of all, this course should be given at the colleges that prepare teachers for elementary and high school. In this way, those college students who will be teachers or counselors in the future can help their students with their study skills. However, it is not enough to place such a course in curriculum. This course should be structured in such a way that it should be useful to students. The instructors of this course should be prepared such a way that s/he can help those students who do not want to learn new study skills. Instead of giving students theoretical knowledge, they should have opportunities to practice these study skills. Students should be presented examples from real life and findings obtained by researches. This class can be useful only if instructors are more active and dedicated to teach study skills and have their students believe in the benefits of learning these study skills and habits. If this course can serve its purposes, the students in elementary and high schools can have help with their study skills.
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SEDAT YUKSEL, PHD
Assistant Professor, Uludag University, Education Faculty.
16059 Gorukle, Bursa, Turkey…