Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

Personality Traits, Learning and Academic Achievements

Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

Personality Traits, Learning and Academic Achievements

Article excerpt


There has been an increased interest in personality traits (especially the five-factor model) in relation to education and learning over the last decade. Previous studies have shown a relation between personality traits and learning, and between personality traits and academic achievement. The latter is typically described in terms of Grade Point Average (GPA). This review paper gives an overview, based on previous research, of highly relevant factors that might explain the relation between personality traits and learning on the one hand and the relation between personality traits and academic achievement on the other hand. Motivation, goals and approaches to learning are important factors that are associated with some personality traits. Two conclusions can be made from this review: (1) intrinsic motivation, a deep approach to learning and learning goals are associated with general knowledge and good test results, all linked together by the openness trait; (2) extrinsic (in combination with intrinsic) motivation, an achieving (in combination with deep) approach to learning and performance goals (in combination with learning goals) are associated with high grades in general linked together by the conscientiousness trait. Openness is associated with learning and general knowledge while conscientiousness is associated with academic achievement.

Keywords: five-factor model, personality traits, learning approaches, academic goals, intelligence, grades

1. Introduction

From behavioristic and sociocultural theoretical perspectives, individual differences are not central to learning and academic achievement. A Piagetian, constructivist perspective considers individual differences but mainly based on developmental and age-related aspects. During the last few decades individual differences have also been of interest to the study of learning and academic achievement from a personality psychology point of view. The most popular and empirically solid model within personality research, the five-factor model, focuses on five categories or dimensions, or so-called personality traits. These traits are easily distinguishable from each other and are stable over long periods of time. The personality traits, often called the Big Five, are named Openness to experience (O), Extraversion (E), Conscientiousness (C), Agreeableness (A), and Neuroticism (N).

Because the five big traits are so stable and easily distinguishable from each other, it has become rather successful to relate/correlate these traits with abilities, behaviors, methods, strategies and achievements. Within the field of educational research some researchers have tried to combine personality traits, especially the big five, with some typical academic or school related factors/aspects. Within the field of personality studies researchers have become interested in factors and aspects that are relevant to learning and academic achievement. Sometimes independent of each other, results and tendencies have been produced that may be of benefit for educational theory building, education application, improvement of practices and so on. Based on the interest in combining personality traits with learning and academic achievement and the rather large amount of empirical studies, it is time to get an overview of the findings.

Hattie (2009) has concluded that personality traits and learning have a low relation. Only the personality trait conscientiousness has an impact on learning in school. The phenomenon is just briefly discussed. Even if this conclusion is true it is an interesting finding. Why is only one trait related to learning and academic achievement? Is that not a bit suspicious? A deep review of existing studies is needed to find out what is going on underneath the surface.

1.1 The Purpose

The purpose of this review paper is to (1) examine studies on learning in relation to personality traits, (2) examine studies on academic achievement and Grade Point Average (GPA) in relation to personality traits, (3) show the possibility to understand individual differences from a personality perspective, (4) find out how and if important factors like motivation, goals and approaches to learning might affect learning and academic achievement, (5) find out how and if these important factors are related to personality traits as mediators to learning and academic achievement, and (6) discuss possible systematic patterns in relation to the traits. …

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