Academic journal article College Student Journal

A Measure of Executive Processing Skills in College Students

Academic journal article College Student Journal

A Measure of Executive Processing Skills in College Students

Article excerpt

The purpose of the current study was to present preliminary data regarding the validity of a new scale, the Executive Process Questionnaire (EPQ), that purports to measure metacognitive skills of adolescents and college-age students. The relationship between the EPQ and other measures including Verbal and Math SAT scores, the Study Process Questionnaire (SPQ), locus of control, and college students' gpa were assessed. There was a significant relationship with internal/external locus of control and scores on the EPQ. Students with a more internal locus of control had higher scores on the EPQ whereas students with a more external locus of control had lower scores. There was also a significant positive relationship between the EPQ and end-of-semester gpa as well as students' gpa after a three year interval indicating a significant relationship to current level of functioning as well as a significant relationship with future academic performance. Regression analyses further indicated the EPQ along with Verbal SAT, Math SAT, Deep and Achieving Approaches of the SPQ were strong predictors for college grade point averages.


Metacognitive knowledge and effective use of metacognitive skills have been cited as being critical components in effective and efficient information processing (Perkins, 1995; Peterson, 1988; Schraw & Moshman, 1995). Given the importance of these factors in the learning process, it is surprising the number of students, college students included, that are unaware of metacognitive skills (Horgan, 1990; Knight, 1988; Ormrod & Jenkins, 1989).

Metacognition has been defined as an "awareness of their own cognitive machinery and how the machinery works" (Meichenbaum, Burland, Gruson, & Cameron, 1985, p. 5). It is used to regulate thinking and learning processes and includes planning, monitoring, and evaluation of learning tasks (Nelson, 1996; Woolfolk, 1998).

Some aspects of metacognition include:

Knowing the limits of one's own learning and memory capabilities.

Knowing what learning tasks one can realistically accomplish within a certain amount of time.

Knowing which learning strategies are effective and which are not.

Planning an approach to a learning task that is likely to be successful.

Using effective learning strategies to process and learn new material.

Monitoring one's own knowledge and comprehension -- in other words, knowing when information has been successfully learned and when it has not.

Using effective strategies for retrieval of previously stored information. (Ormrod, 1998, p. 348-349).

Zimmerman (1998) defined academic self-regulation as "not a mental ability such as intelligence, or an academic skill, such as reading proficiency; rather, it is the self-directive process through which learners transform their mental abilities into academic skills" (p. 1 - 2). This process is a personal one with both behavioral and environmental components. It also requires a constant reassessment in order to gauge effectiveness and make modifications if needed. Zimmerman and Paulsen (1995) stated "... perhaps the most important performance control process that distinguishes skilled from naive self-regulators is self-monitoring" (p. 46).

Closely tied to metacognition is locus of control. Students who adopt a more external focus believe that their grades are often not under their own control but that of some outside force whereas students who are internally oriented believe success is dependent on their efforts and may expend more effort for their own academic success (Ashkanasy & Gallois, 1987; Kishor, 1983) Studies have shown locus of control to be a significant predictor of academic performance with higher levels of academic performance being associated with a more internal locus of control (Kennelly & Mount, 1985; Rose, Hall, Bolen, & Webster, 1996).

Biggs (1987) postulated that the effective use of certain learning approaches required internal locus of control as well as high ability. …

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