Student’s academic performance does not improve over time without instruction or practice outside of school. When we looked at those students who improved their academic performance, we found that they generally spend more time on their homework and quizzes than those college students who did not improve.
Other research shows that teachers can help their students by giving them specific instructions as to how to study for a test, choosing material tailored to the student’s learning style, and providing encouragement.
In order to help all students succeed academically, teachers must look at where they can improve and what type of support they need for different types of learning.
We conducted a case study involving students from 5 different college institutions in the U.S. It was found that the students did not improve their academic performance over the course of a year. We concluded that this may be due to a lack of instruction or a lack of time for practice outside of school. However, some students who did not improve their test scores did show improvement in other areas, such as work on homework and quizzes.
We surveyed 60 different college students enrolled in a wide variety of courses and asked them to respond to the survey by answering 2 questions:
Our sample consisted of students from various majors at 5 different schools located across the U.S.: California State University, Fresno; Chapman University; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; New York Institute of Technology; San Francisco State University
When we compared all responses we found that most people did not improve their test scores over the course of a year. Out of those who did show improvement on tests, they generally spent more time on homework and quizzes. The same was true for improvement in writing skills: if students did improve their writing scores, they generally also said that they spent more time on assignments written at home.
Looking at academic performance by major, we found that some majors showed more of an improvement than others. Business students were the most likely to show an improvement in academic performance with 50% of them reporting an increase in test scores over the course of a year.
Those majoring in engineering or computer science were less likely to report any change in performance (35%). Communication majors showed the least amount of improvement (25%) followed closely by humanities majors (20%). We found no significant difference regarding gender, age, or whether or not they were studying full-time.
Aside from more time spent studying and on homework, some students (8%) reported using other techniques to improve their academic performance. Nearly all those who improved their test scores said that they listened carefully in class and had more free time for sleep and exercise. A few also talked about how they had more motivation after the first semester and were more organized at home and in school.
Other techniques for improving academic performance included: reading notes more often (8%), taking smaller classes (6%), getting private tutoring (4%), paying attention during lectures (3%), asking classmates or friends about their notes more often (2%), being able to read faster better focus concentration on the material being discussed in class (-), complaining less (-), having a stronger motivation (-), have positive thinking (-), and not procrastinating on the readings or assignments (-).
None of these techniques, except taking more time to study, can explain why some students improve while others do not. In order to help all students succeed academically, teachers must look at where they can improve and what type of support they need for different types of learning. They should also focus on creating a positive classroom environment that helps students think critically about what is being presented in class and how it will impact their lives.
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