The Relationship Between Faculty Characteristics, Perceptions of a Study Skills Program and Adjustment to College

Paige Chamberlain

Saint Anselm College


Acknowledgements
Abstract
Introduction
Method
Results
Discussion
References
Links of Interest

Acknowledgements

First, I would like to thank Professor McKenna for instilling the drive in me that I needed to start this paper. Without her support and the lending of materials, I would still be trying to find a suitable topic. Next I would like to thank Professor Gonsalves for her understanding and patience concerning my five hundred questions asking, ďAm I doing this right?Ē Her whit, charm and crazy sense of humor has kept us both focused and calm through the whole process.
Thank you Mom, Dad, Pat, and Babci for your belief in me, You have always been my biggest fans. Through your patience, love, and constant support, I am finally finished with this huge undertaking. Without your faith in me, and knowledge that I would survive these past four years, I would be lost. I love you all very much, this is for you.
Lastly, thank you Jay. From the start, you knew that one of these days my thesis would begin to take all of my time and attention, and you patiently took backseat to my work. Through your love and faith in me, and all I am able to accomplish, you have made the writing of this paper bearable. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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Abstract

This study investigated the relationship between studentsí perceptions of faculty characteristics, perceptions of the helpfulness of Study Skills programs and how these are related to adjustment to college life.It was hypothesized that positive faculty characteristics including their warmth, availability outside the classroom, and approachability will assist their students in achieving academic success, attachment to the college, social adjustment, and emotional adjustment. It was also hypothesized that students who were enrolled in the Study Skills Program will be more favorably academically adjusted to college. It was found that the better students perceived their Study Skills professor, the higher their score for academic adjustment. It was also found that the better students liked all of their professors, the higher social adjustment they had.


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Introduction

When asked what troubles them the most about college life, one of the top concerns reported of high school and college students is their inability to study effectively (Robyak, 1978). Because efficient study skills are needed to perform well academically, those skills must be taught to students so they are able to perform at their best (Robyak, 1978). So how do we increase the likelihood that students will be prepared for college, stay enrolled and earn a degree? At the college level, research has focused on study skills or development of student life issues. Blake (1956), and Braxton, Bray, and Berger (2000) looked at what amount of study skills the students had and how social adjustment affected their success at school. Belch, Gebel, and Maas (2001) noticed that academic performance made a difference in the retention of students. Also, they found the more adjusted into the institution the student is and the higher their grade point average, the higher their success in college. The shift between high school and college can be challenging and many changes occur in emotional, social and academic adjustment (Gerdes & Mallinckrodt, 1994). Sidle and McReynolds (1999) did a study from 1993 to 1996, which found that non-classroom interactions between faculty members and college studentsí increase studentsí likelihood of remaining at the institution and being better adjusted to the academic sphere within that college. These types of investigations concerning faculty-student relationships have only begun to surface in the last quarter century.Upcraft and Gardner (1989) believed that success in college is greatly hinged on experiences and opportunities during a studentís freshman year. There is a lot more to college than studying and grades. For example, sports, clubs, socialization with peers, and other extra curricular activities. Braxton et al. (2000) cite social integration as the amount of congruency between the student and the social structure of the school. To become integrated into a college or university, the contact with a student's peers, their extracurricular activities, and their contact with faculty and staff. Many adults outside the college sphere do not realize how instrumental faculty and staff are for students. They play a wide range of roles to a struggling student, such as counselor, academic advisor, or even just a mentor.
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Method

Participants
The participants were seventeen freshman students enrolled in General Psychology classes at a small, Liberal Arts College in New England. There were three participants that were not enrolled in the Study Skills Program and fourteen participants who were enrolled in the program. There were five males and twelve female participants, who were all between the ages of eighteen and nineteen. Four testing sessions occurred to accommodate the participantsí schedules, with approximately four students in each section. The participants received class credit for their participation in the experiment.
Materials

A number of self-report measures were used to gather the information about perceptions of faculty characteristics, perceptions of the helpfulness of Study Skills programs, and healthy adjustment to college life. A demographic questionnaire included some basic biographical questions: sex, college major, and student athlete, and whether they live on or off campus (Insert Appendix A here). Baker and Sirykís (1989) Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (SACQ) was used as a measure of student adjustment to college. It was used to assess the participantsí adjustment in four categories: academic adjustment, social adjustment, personal-emotional adjustment and attachment styles (Insert Appendix B here).

Course evaluations were used to obtain information about faculty characteristics and scores of the course grading and structure (Insert Appendix C here). The course evaluation used was adapted from the Saint Anselm College Psychology Departmentís Course Evaluation (Hechtl, 1978) (Insert Appendix D here). Participants completed one course evaluation sheet for each of their five classes, and one for the Study Skills Program itself (Insert Appendix E here).

Procedure

Participants were asked to complete an informed consent form, and return it to the experimenter at the start of the testing session (Insert Appendix F here). The informed consent had an identification number on the top right hand corner that coordinated with the identification number on all the pages of the test packet. The experiment was administered on four separate sessions on three different evenings to fit into the schedules of the participants. The Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire was reverse scored on some of the questions, and had standard scoring on the others. The scores were entered into the computer with each of the four sub-scales and the full scale having one score for each participant. Faculty evaluations were scored separately for each participant. The mean score was found on each evaluation for each individual class. Then the means for each of the seventeen participants were combined and the overall mean across classes. That was the overall mean for the sections of classes. The score for the last Likert-scale question, about the class overall, was entered into the spreadsheet.

The last question was open ended and the responses were coded into five categories, which were; Prep Core Classes, Testing Skills, Personality of Professor, Organizational Skills and No Response. Those answers to the questions were then entered into the computer (Insert Figure 2 here).

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Results

The first set of analyses done were t-tests comparing those students who were enrolled in the Study Skills Program and those who werenít on the subscales of the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire. Multiple t-tests revealed that there were no statistically significant differences between the scores of students enrolled in the Study Skills program and those not enrolled in the program for any of the four subscales (Insert Table 1 here). As one can see in Table 1, no group differences were found to exist between students enrolled in the Study Skills Program and students who are not enrolled in the program for Academic adjustment or Full scale adjustment. Furthermore, there are no significant group differences.

Significance was found when the evaluation scores of the Study Skills professor and Academic adjustment were correlated

(r= .584, p= .036). As the mean academic adjustment score rose, so did the mean rating of the Study Skills Program professor (Insert Figure 1 here).

The second analysis focused on the studentsí perceptions of their faculty and overall adjustment to college. There were no significant correlations between the overall mean of each students classes and the Full Scale of the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire. The overall mean faculty evaluation score and the social scale of the SACQ were moderately correlated, and that correlation approached significance(r= .427, p= .088). Multiple correlations did not reveal significant relations between academic adjustment, and personal-emotional adjustment to college and overall faculty ratings.

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Discussion

Multiple t-tests revealed that there were no statistically significant differences between the scores of students enrolled in the Study Skills program and those not enrolled in the program for any of the four subscales (Insert Table 1 here). Significance was found when the evaluation scores of the Study Skills professor and Academic adjustment were correlated (r= .584, p= .036). As the mean academic adjustment score rose, so did the mean rating of the Study Skills Program professor (Insert Figure 1 here).

There were no significant correlations between the overall mean of each students classes and the Full Scale of the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire. The overall mean faculty evaluation score and the social scale of the SACQ were moderately correlated, and that correlation approached significance(r= .427, p= .088). Multiple correlations did not reveal significant relations between academic adjustment, and personal-emotional adjustment to college and overall faculty ratings.

Why a correlation was found between the mean academic adjustment of freshman and the mean rating of the Study Skills Professor could be due to a number of possible explanations. One is that the course itself mattered. That the Study Skills Program helps students get adjusted to college. The findings by Robyak (1978), who stated that efficient study skills are needed to perform well academically, those skills must be taught, supports my hypothesis that students who were enrolled in the Study Skills Program will be better adjusted to college by being motivated to succeed, learning organizational skills and test taking strategies that will help them in the classroom throughout their four years at their institution.

Another explanation could be that students who elected to take the study skills program were already academically prepared for the expectations of college work. The Study Skills program is not required at the institutions I investigated, so possibly the students who are more motivated to succeed took the class voluntarily.

A third explanation as to why students in the program had higher academic adjustment, and viewed their Study Skills professor as deserving a high rating could be because the better students do in the classroom, attaining higher academic adjustment, leads to liking their Study Skills professor more. Possibly even attributing their ability to succeed to their professor.

Why a correlation was found between the mean academic adjustment of freshman and the mean rating of the Study Skills Professor could be due to a number of possible explanations. One is that the course itself mattered. That the Study Skills Program helps students get adjusted to college. The findings by Robyak (1978), who stated that efficient study skills are needed to perform well academically, those skills must be taught, supports my hypothesis that students who were enrolled in the Study Skills Program will be better adjusted to college by being motivated to succeed, learning organizational skills and test taking strategies that will help them in the classroom throughout their four years at their institution.

Another explanation could be that students who elected to take the study skills program were already academically prepared for the expectations of college work. The Study Skills program is not required at the institutions I investigated, so possibly the students who are more motivated to succeed took the class voluntarily.

A third explanation as to why students in the program had higher academic adjustment, and viewed their Study Skills professor as deserving a high rating could be because the better students do in the classroom, attaining higher academic adjustment, leads to liking their Study Skills professor more. Possibly even attributing their ability to succeed to their professor.

Because correlation does not imply causation, there could have been a third variable that was the cause of the correlation between the mean rating of the Study Skills professor and mean academic adjustment. The type of personality a student possesses, such as being very optimistic and congenial, is related to their preferences for certain types of classes or school in general.

In the present study a significant correlation was found between positive faculty evaluation and social adjustment. Amount of socialization and what role it plays in the lives of students may have accounted for the near significant correlation between social adjustment and overall evaluation of their professors from their core classes. Some students choose to attend college for the social opportunities college life creates, and the academics are only a bonus to the endless parties, adventures and late night bonding with friends and roommates. There are a number of possible explanations for the finding that the scores approached significance. One cause may have been that students who are more social (i.e. extroverted, friendly) may be more open to asking questions in class, which facilitates better learning, or they may be more apt to attend a professors office hours to talk about their progress in class or other topics. Another explanation could be that a halo effect came into place where the better you are adjusted socially, the better you view your professors, and therefore report higher scores.

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References

Baker, R.W, and Siryk, B. (1999). Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.

Belch, H.A., Gebel, M., and Maas, G.M. (2001).Relationship between student recreation complex use, academic performance, and persistence of first-time freshman. NASPA Journal, 38(2), 254-268.

Blake, W.S., Jr. (1956). A basic study skills program for colleges and universities. The Personal and Guidance Journal, 34(5), 289-291.

Braxton, J. M., Bray, N.J., and Berger, J.B. (2000). Faculty teaching skills and their influence on the college student departure process. Journal of College Student Development, 41(2), 215-227.

Capella, E., and Weinstein, R.S. (2001). Turning around reading achievement: Predictors of high school studentsí academic resilience. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(4), 758-771.

Chamberlain, P. (2002). Demographic survey.

Gerdes, H., and Mallinckrodt, B. (1994). Emotional, social, and academic adjustment of college students: a longitudinal study of retention. Journal of Counseling & Development, 72(3), 1-14.

Hakala, C. M. (1999). Some observations of the current state of high school psychology. Teaching  of Psychology, 26(2), 122-123.

Hechtl, R. (1978). Course Evaluation. Saint Anselm College, Manchester, NH.

Robyak, J.E. (1978). Study skills verses non-study skills students: a discriminate analysis. The Journal of  Educational Research, 71(3), 161-166.

Saint Anselm College (2002). Academic Resource Center:Study Skills Workshop. Saint Anselm College.

Sidle, M.W., and McReynolds, J. (1999). The freshman year experience: student retention and student success. The Journal of Student Affairs Administration, Research, and Practice, 36(4), 288-300.

Upcraft, M.L., Gardner, J.N. and Associates (1989). The Freshman Year Experience. San Francisco:

Jossey-Bass.

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Links of Interest

Saint Anselm College

www.anselm.edu

Wentworth Institute of Technology

http://www.wit.edu

The Other Woman, Contemporary corsetry and boned fashions for men and women

http://otherwomanwear.com/

The Dalmatian Club of America

http://www.thedca.org/

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For further questions, or to request appendicies, tables and figures e-mail me at psych52@hotmail.com