Learning Style, Academic Belief Systems, Self-report Student Proficiency

and Academic Achievement in Higher Education



Simon Cassidy and Peter Eachus

Department of Health Sciences, University of Salford. Salford, UK



Both learning style and academic belief systems have been identified as significant factors contributing to academic achievement. This paper evaluates the relationship between student's assessment of their own academic proficiency (in this case Research Methods Proficiency [RMP]), learning style, academic locus of control, academic self-efficacy and academic achievement. First and second year undergraduate student's RMP was measured before and after completing modules in Research Methods. Students also completed measures of approaches to learning, academic self-efficacy and academic locus of control. Academic achievement (module mark) was also recorded.

Results showed that perceived proficiency increased after completing the taught modules and that perceived proficiency was positively correlated with academic performance. Students taught under the current programme - recently modified to cultivate feelings of personal control, academic competence, optimistic yet realistic expectations, independence from academic staff and acceptance of the course content and assessment - reported significantly higher perceived proficiency than students taught under previous programmes. Perceived proficiency was positively correlated with a strategic learning approach and negatively correlated with a surface learning approach and external locus of control beliefs. Academic achievement was also positively correlated with a strategic learning approach and negatively correlated with an apathetic learning approach. A deep learning approach failed to be associated with either RMP or academic achievement. It is concluded that; (i) a belief in ones capabilities and actual academic performance are associated with a strategic learning approach, (ii) the adoption of a surface or apathetic learning approach and a belief in external factors, such as luck and powerful others, leads to weaker beliefs in ones own proficiency and poorer academic performance - at least within the domain of research methods. It is suggested that these findings confirm, to some degree, the suggestion that there is an emphasis in later education on performance rather than learning (Lyddy, 1998).

Return to Abstracts Page