Study Strategy Predictors of Performance in Introductory Psychology

Article excerpt

In this study, the relationship between student study strategies and performance in Introductory Psychology was examined. Eighty-eight students in three sections of Introductory Psychology at a Midwestern university in the United States completed a demographic questionnaire and the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory-2nd edition (LASSI-2) during class time within the first two weeks of the semester. The relationships between LASSI-2 subscales and a variety of achievement variables (high school GPA, college GPA, ACT score) as well as final grade in the course were explored. A discriminant analysis indicated that the Motivation subscale was the most important discriminator between students who were successful in Introductory Psychology (as measured by a grade of A and B) versus those who were unsuccessful (as measured by a grade of D or F). These results highlight the importance of considering motivational factors in introductory courses.

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Considering the challenges many students face during the transition from the high school to the college academic environment, it is important for educators to be able to identify those students who are most likely to struggle during this transitional period. Typically, global measures of academic achievement such as standardized achievement test scores (ACT, SAT) and high school grade point average are used to identify students who may be at-risk during the transition to college academics. Although useful, the identification of other characteristics (study skills, learning styles) that are predictors of difficulties in transition is an important research goal.

In this study, we examined the usefulness of a popular study skills instrument, the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI)--2nd Edition (Weinstein & Palmer, 2002), for predicting performance in a common first year course, Introductory Psychology. Only a few studies have examined the LASSI--2nd Edition (Prevatt, Petscher, Proctor, Hurst, & Adams, 2006; Proctor, Prevatt, Adams, Hurst, & Petscher, 2006), and Cano (2006) notes that studies examining the relationships between the LASSI and academic performance are especially needed.

Research on the Relationship between Study Skills and Academic Performance

The relationship between various predictors and academic success in college has been examined in a number of studies. In a recent meta-analysis, Robbins et al. (2004) examined the influence of psychosocial and study skills factors on academic performance (GPA). The best predictors of performance were academic self-efficacy and achievement motivation. In addition, study skills such as time management, utilizing information, and taking notes in class were important for academic success.

Although study skills are obviously an important precursor for academic success, effective studying is actually a complex activity. Plant, Ericsson, Hill, and Asberg (2005) reviewed research indicating that study time alone is a poor predictor of how well students will perform in college courses. Instead of study time, a combination of factors including previous achievement, academic ability, self-regulation, and quality of study appear to be crucial for predicting college course performance. Rather than merely exhorting students to "study more," it seems imperative to help students study more effectively during their actual study time.

Predicting Academic Performance in Introductory Psychology

Researchers have studied a number of variables that may help predict performance in introductory psychology, although none of these studies have used the LASSI as a measure of study skills. Gurung (2005) surveyed students in Introductory Psychology regarding their use of 11 different study techniques. The three most frequently used study techniques were reading the text, reading notes, and using mnemonics. Although these techniques were correlated with exam performance, they were not the strongest predictors. …