The Better Grades

Flipped open the most recent issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science today. The first study grabbed my attention: it's about factors related to students getting higher grades. Does it have your attention now, too?

This study was a meta-analysis, which is an analysis of previously published studies. This means it's probably going to give a pretty accurate big picture on academic performance. It's obvious that a good predictor of how you're going to do in a given course is how well you've done in previous courses. Unfortunately, but it's a bit of a circular argument. (Why did you perform at the level you did in the previous course? Because of how you did in the previous course, etc.) So this study helps break out of that circle.

This study found three factors that are really important contributing factors. First, study motivation was found to be a reliable predictor of GPA. Translation: the more enthused you are about a course, the better you're likely to do. OK, so how do you do that? Choose your courses carefully, and take courses that you want to take, as much as possible. If you're in law school and hating every second of it, how much fun is it going to be when you're a lawyer? (Granted, there are also external or "extrinsic" motivators. Getting filthy rich is an extrinsic motivator for some people. Hmph.)

Study skills include your time management skills, your ability to handle demands, and your capability to organize, summarize, and integrate material. If all you do is memorize stuff, your study skills could use an upgrade. Can you see the big-picture, or patterns in the things you're trying to learn? Study skills also had strong relationships with GPA and individual class grades. (Didja know you can get help with this?)

Next, study habits were also found to be predictive of performance. This includes having discipline in how you study: how often, whether your review, and even your choice of an environment that's conducive to studying (i.e., iPod turned off, no TV or computer, no other distractions).

Lastly, I wanted to mention that having study anxiety was a negative predictor of performance; that is, if studying or writing an exam freaks you out, you're less likely to do well. (Didja know you can get help with this, too?)

Here's the reference for this study:
Crede, M., & Kuncel, N. R. (2008). Study habits, skills, and attitudes: The third pillar supporting collegiate academic performance. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 425-453.

Why aren't you studying?


Anonymous said...

Awesome post! I'm really enoying your class, as well as your blog. Thanks for keeping me entertained both in and out of the classroom!

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