Approaches to learning, personality and academic performance

Åge Diseth,   University of Bergen,  Norway

Abstract: Several individual characteristics may influence learning and performance in an academic setting. This paper reports on the relation between approaches to studying (ASSIST), personality (NEO PI-R) and academic performance (examination grade) in two different samples - undergraduate psychology students and  ex.phil. students (an introductory course in philosophy and logic) - a total of 310 students. The relationship between these variables is interesting for several reasons: Approaches to learning as measured by the ASSIST have never been compared to a well established personality inventory, such as the NEO PI-R. But the NEO PI-R have been found to correspond with other inventories measuring motivation, which is a central aspect of the ASSIST. Furthermore, a comparison between these inventories may tell us something about the relationship between approaches to learning and personality, and whether the ASSIST may account for individual variance beyond the NEO PI-R. Finally, both the ASSIST and the NEO PI-R have been found to predict academic performance in different studies. But the ASSIST appears to be somewhat more relevant for an academic context, and should therefor predict academic achievement better than the NEO PI-R. In this study, a structural equation modelling, where both NEO, ASSIST and achievement are included, shows that approaches to learning appears to have a foundation in more or less stable personality factors. Furthermore, personality has an indirect effect on achievement via approaches to learning in this model. Substantial individual variance in approach remains unexplained by personality, however. As regards academic achievement, the results support that some variance in achievement may be accounted for by approaches to learning, but that the relationship between approach and achievement differs across samples. 

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