Educational psychology

[16 abstracts]

1. Are girls really socially more competent than boys?  
Ajdišek N., Pečjak S.
First author's affiliation: Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Social skills include different behaviours which help an individual to enter and interact in interpersonal relations. On the other hand, these skills are also learnt through the very same experience. Social skills are also an important factor of students' acceptance and popularity among their peers, and also a factor of their academic achievement. In our research we were interested in the way teachers assessed students' social skills. 907 students participated in the study, of which 470 were 7th grade primary school students (231 boys and 239 girls), and 437 3th grade secondary school students (176 boys and 261 girls). Merrell's School Social Behaviour Scales (1992) were used for the assessment of students' social skills and class teachers filled in the questionnaire for each participating student. The questionnaire includes six subscales, of which the first three refer to adaptive, prosocial behaviour in school situations, e.g. students' social competence (peer relations, self management/compliance, and academic behaviour). Other three subscales describe socially incompetent behaviour which is directed against others and leads to socially negative outcomes (hostile/irritable behaviour, antisocial-aggressive behaviour, and defiant/disruptive behaviour). Results of the two-way ANOVA showed teachers assessed girls as socially more competent on all subscales regardless of their school level. Academic behaviour was the only subscale on which there were significant differences between primary and secondary school students – primary school students were assessed higher than secondary school students, although again at both levels girls scored higher. The results bring up a question whether girls are really socially more skilled or perhaps our findings just reflect teachers’ perceptions, which might be biased. Further on, the results lead us to think what is it that contributes to better (perceived) social skills of girls and how to form such learning situations which will support development of social competence for all students, boys and girls.

2. Social skills in psychology students  [presentation, ppt, 5249 kB]
Arnaudova S., Trajkov I., Denkova F.
First author's affiliation: Faculty of Philosophy, Skopje, Macedonia

The lack of information concerning the social skills in students of helping professions (psychologists, social workers, pedagogues, and special educators) is a very big problem. Students, as future experts in the helping professions, have to communicate appropriately with the people, community and social services, and institutions for being successful in their job and relations with their clients. In this research, we have used qualitative and quantitative methods to measure empathy, altruism, and assertiveness in psychology students. The results showed that there is a positive relation between the level of empathy and altruism, and a negative relation between the level of empathy and assertiveness in psychology students. Also, there are significant differences in the birth order, gender, year of study, the quality and the quantity of the education in the field (practical work) that they have participated in during the studies. The obtained results can not be generalized to all helping professions because of the sample limitation, but they are significant for seeing the current state in regards of the examined characteristics and for building a strategy for their improvement. At the same time, the results present a significant indicator that confirms the idea of redesigning the current study programs that would provide opportunities for the present students to get the needed competencies for providing their professional success.

3. The effect of motivational beliefs and strategies on study performance in elementary, middle, and high school students  
Cornoldi C., De Beni R., Meneghetti C.
First author's affiliation: Department of General Psychology, Padova, Italy

Many students present severe school difficulties and some of them are related with strategic and motivational factors. The present paper will illustrate a model for examining these issues and a study which was focused on study strategies. In both studies we used an Italian standardized instrument called AMOS 8-15 (Cornoldi, De Beni, Zamperlin, & Meneghetti, 2005) devoted to measure motivation, strategies, and study performance. The model analyzes how motivational beliefs and strategic aspects influence study performance and was tested, in a first series of studies, with students in elementary school (age 8-10), middle school (11-14), and first year high school (15). Results of multigroup analysis showed that in all students groups, the relations between motivational beliefs and strategic aspects were confirmed. However in elementary and middle school motivational beliefs have direct influence on study performance, whereas in high school they influence performance through strategy use. In a second series of studies devoted to examine the specific role of strategies, we selected groups of students, with good and poor study skills respectively, and we asked them to rate their knowledge and actual use of good and less adequate study strategies. Results showed that all students reported using strategies to a lesser extent that should be expected on the basis of their estimated importance, but they were all able to distinguish between poor and good strategies. However, students with poor study skills were less able to make this distinction and were less consistent in matching their knowledge to their use of strategies. It is concluded that strategic use and consistency play a crucial role in successful studying.

4. Doing it now or later? Correlates, predictors and prevention of academic, decisional and general procrastination among students in Austria  [presentation, pdf, 3035 kB]
Essau C. A., Ederer Fick E., O’Callaghan J., Aschemann B.
First author's affiliation: School of Human and Life Sciences, Roehampton University, Whitelands College, London, United Kingdom

Procrastination has been defined as the tendency to postpone what is necessary to reach some goal. Because of its negative consequences (e.g., poor grades, course withdrawal, engagement in self-handicapping behaviour, low self-confidence and self-esteem), higher education policy is called upon to deal with the problem of procrastination, especially in light of the increasing average duration of studies. This study, in which 480 Austrian students participated, is unique because of its inclusion of a wide range of psychological constructs found to be related to procrastination. The following set of questionnaires was used: Procrastination Assessment Scale-Students (Solomon & Rothblum, 1984), Decisional Procrastination Scale (Mann, 1982), General Procrastination Scale (Lay, 1986), Self-Regulation Questionnaire (Carey et al., 2004), Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (Frost et al., 1990), Ways of Coping Checklist (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) and Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995). Academic, decisional and general procrastination was found to be, to a significant degree, negatively correlated with self-regulatory behaviour, organization and problem-focused coping, whereas all three types of procrastination were, to a significant degree, associated positively with emotion-focused coping, depression and anxiety. Furthermore, self-regulation and organization were found to be the outstanding predictors of all three types of procrastination. Consequently, our prevention programme against procrastination is focused on project management tools (time and content planning and monitoring) on the one hand, and the strengthening of intellectual and motivational personal resources on the other hand. A progress plan for a thesis project will be introduced. Dividing the project into subtasks (modules), as it is common practice in project management, supports self-regulation, organization and problem-focused coping, thus facilitating the prevention of procrastination.

5. Food and sensory experiences: Testing the efficacy of an educational project in the primary school of Friuli Venezia Giulia Region   
Gellini G., Agostini T.
First author's affiliation: University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy

It is well known that individual food preferences are strictly dependent on social, cultural, and cognitive factors. More recently, the relevance of the genetic component in determining people taste has been shown as well (Bufe et al., 2005; Mennella et al., 2005). In children, it is quite frequent to observe food neophobia, an unwillingness to ingest unfamiliar foods (Birch, 1980; Pliner & Loewen, 1997), which appears to be especially strong regarding vegetables. In the present research, we have tested the efficacy of a food educational method to promote correct alimentation behaviour in children. A selected sample of 340 students of Friuli Venezia Giulia primary school has been treated for three months with a sensory-cognitive didactic approach. The intervention focused on three main treatments: sensory literacy, food and drink guided testing, and didactic vegetable garden. Ad hoc prepared questionnaire has been used in the test and re-test phases of the research. Data show that children significantly changed their alimentary preferences toward a more extensive choice of wholesome foods that were experienced during the didactic phases of the research. Furthermore, the re-test revealed that children, after the treatment, increase their capabilities to argue their own food preferences.

6. Psychological correlates of blended learning in higher education  
Kada O., Brunner E., Zwischenberger R.
First author's affiliation: Carinthia University of Applied Sciences (CUAS), Feldkirchen, Austria

Blended learning, a combination of traditional teaching and e-learning (Akkoyunlu & Yılmaz-Soylu, 2008), is becoming increasingly important in higher education. It can be assumed that psychological variables – like self-efficacy (Bandura, 1966), attitudes (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980) and past behaviour (Velicer & Prohaska, 2008) which have proven useful in the prediction of primarily health behaviour – play a role in the use of blended learning. This assumption was confirmed in several studies. In the context of e-learning Johnson et al. (2008) identified application-specific computer self-efficacy as a significant predictor of course instrumentality, performance and satisfaction. Furthermore, computer self-efficacy predicted nursing students’ intention to use online courses (Tung & Chang, in press, 2008). Computer self-efficacy also predicted attitudes towards computing as well as computing competence (Downey & McMurtrey, 2007). A positive attitude towards e-learning is correlated with a high intensity of computer use and greater experiences with computer-based and web-based training (Link & Marz, 2006). The association of these psychological variables in the context of blended learning in healthcare management study courses of the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences (CUAS) will be investigated. A questionnaire measuring the following aspects was developed: past experience with the blended learning tools of the CUAS, blended learning specific self-efficacy, attitudes towards blended learning, perceived usefulness for study and workplace, and intention to use web applications in the workplace. Students of healthcare management will be surveyed. Full-time and part-time students will be compared. The results will help to identify students in need for additional support. Offering students access to blended learning tools and helping them develop a positive attitude might encourage the use of such technologies in workplace learning.

7. Personal epistemology of students  [presentation, ppt, 88 kB]
Konrad E.
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Personal epistemology is the study of how individuals develop a conception of knowledge and knowledge acquisition, and how they use that conception to understand the world (Hofer, 2002). This study has become an area of growing interest in educational research, with far reaching implications for teaching and learning practices and knowledge management in different organizational setting. The underlying assumption has been that in learning situations where individuals are systematically confronted with the need to acquire new knowledge, the way in which they perceive and approach the process of knowing is, to some extent, influenced by their beliefs about knowledge, knowing, and learning. In early work, Perry (1970) concluded that the lack of congruence between the conceptions of learning held by university undergraduates and their teachers was responsible for some learning difficulties, particularly where students saw knowledge as simple, certain and authority based, while teachers stressed ambiguity and conflicting truths. Perry proposed a qualitative developmental framework of nine stages to describe the changes in epistemological positions of college student. This framework influenced the development of quantitative measures of personal epistemology that are more convenient for research. The central hypothesis of the present work is that personal epistemology of students develops from more naive to more mature state. To test this hypothesis, epistemological beliefs of samples of student before enrolment in university, the first psychology students and the fourth year psychology students were compared. Epistemological beliefs were measured with the adaptation of Schommer Epistemological Questionnaire (1990) which includes 12 characteristic beliefs that characterize the naive views about knowledge and learning. The resulting comparisons did not confirm the expected pattern of results. Such results are major challenge for considering the improvement in the quality of the psychology students study.

8. Interpersonal relationships and academic achievement – (how) are they interrelated in different periods of schooling?  [presentation, ppt, 2039 kB]
Košir K., Pečjak S.
First author's affiliation: Visoka poslovna šola Doba Maribor, Maribor, Slovenia

In the past, academic and social variables were considered as two completely separated aspects of motivation. Recently, these beliefs have been changing radically; namely, academic and social variables can be intertwined in a number of ways. Two most frequent and important forms of social relations that students form and maintain in school are relations to teachers and to peers. The main purpose of the study was to examine the relation between both kinds of social relations and academic variables in different school periods. 1159 students from three different periods of schooling covering the age range from late childhood through early to middle adolescence participated in the study. Different models of relations between social and academic variables were tested using structural equation modeling. The results show that the mediating variables included (well-being in school and academic engagement) do not explain the relation between social relations and academic achievement. In younger students, peer relations are related to students’ academic achievement, which does not hold true for both older age groups. Relations to teachers are related to students’ academic outcomes in all periods of schooling. The results also suggest that the method of data assessment is a very important factor of establishing the relations between variables. Self-report as a source used in a lot of educational research seems to be quite unreliable measure of students’ social and academic characteristics. Therefore, multiple sources should be used for the assessment of students’ characteristics.

9. How anxiety and self-efficacy affect school performance: Mediating role of learning and coping strategies  [presentation, ppt, 787 kB]
Loncaric D.
University of Rijeka, Faculty of Teacher Education, Rijeka, Croatia

Anxiety and self-efficacy are among best investigated correlates of academic achievement. There is considerable empirical evidence suggesting that self-efficacy is one of the best motivational predictors of learning and achievement outcomes. Anxiety has somewhat more complex relationship with academic achievement. Zeidner (1998) points out that high level of anxiety usually leads to less adaptive cognitive processing and lower achievement, while Garcia and Pintrich (1994) suggest that some students can be motivated by anxiety to try harder and study more, thus increasing their achievement. Numerous researches have also investigated different mediating variables, usually focusing on cognitive learning strategies. This research aims to broaden our understanding of self-efficacy and anxiety effects on academic achievement using both learning strategies and coping with school failure strategies as mediators. Croatian upper elementary students (213 boys and 238 girls; 11-14 years of age) participated in this investigation. The self-reports were gathered by the Self-Regulated Learning Components Scale and Academic Stress Coping Scale (Loncaric, 2006, 2008). The results showed that learning and coping strategies fully mediate anxiety and self-efficacy effects. Some inconsistent mediation effects were identified, explaining inconsistencies in previous empirical research. For example, test anxiety has negative effect on the school achievement via the increase in the use of the emotion-protective disengagement coping strategy and surface cognitive processing learning strategy, and positive effect on academic achievement via the increase in the use of the (meta)cognitive control circle learning strategy. Also, some artificial direct effects of self-efficacy onto academic achievement appear only in the models that do not consider coping strategies as mediators. This finding is discussed and interpreted as model misspecification error.

10. Conditions and effects of teachers’ motivation: Perspectives on self-determination theory  
Müller F. H., Hanfstingl B., Andreitz I.
First author's affiliation: University of Klagenfurt, Klagenfurt, Austria

The theoretical basis of the study is a multidimensional perspective of motivation, the so-called self-determination theory (SDT) of Deci and Ryan (2002). The theory proposes that perceived support of basic psychological needs (support of autonomy, support of competence, and social relatedness) are associated with intrinsic motivation or self-determined forms of extrinsic motivation. Accordingly, SDT proposes taxonomy of types of regulation for extrinsic motivation that differ in the degree to which they represent self-determination (continuum of regulation from controlled to autonomous, from amotivated to intrinsically motivated). Following this theoretical approach and taking the study of Pelletier and his colleagues (2002) into account the following research questions for our study can be formulated: (1) If teachers perceive their working conditions as supportive and feel free from pressure, will they be highly motivated (self-determined) and will they create supportive learning environments for their students?(2) If students’ basic needs in the classroom are satisfied, will they perceive themselves as self-determined?(3) Do self-determined students show more interest, a higher content-related self-concept, and less fear in classroom? The study was performed in mathematics and science classes. The sample includes about 1400 students and 60 teachers from Austrian secondary schools. The results of a structural equation model show that perceived pressure/support from the school system as well as from the single school is directly and indirectly associated with teachers’ self-determination, classroom instruction and students self-determined learning motivation. The study seeks to make both a theoretical and practical contribution.

11. Sociostructural, psychosocial, personality, and educational profile of students from different schools of Slovenian secondary education  
Musil B.
University of Maribor, Maribor, Slovenia

The contribution is aimed to present some results and findings from several studies, conducted among Slovenian secondary school students in years from 2005 to 2008. In all presented studies the students of different upper secondary, technical and vocational schools from public and private sphere were compared according to sociostructural variables (socioeconomic conditions, family size), psychosocial (parental closeness and control, anomy, alienation), personality (self-esteem, social anxiety, locus of control) and educational variables (school achievement, perception of past education, school attachment). In partial studies some other psychosocial and psychological variables were processed (values, achievement motivation, narcissism, intellectual ability). Distinctive patterns of students from different types of schools were further analyzed to gain more detailed picture of Slovenian secondary education sphere.

12. Primary and secondary school students’ academic motivation and achievement in math and Slovene language  [presentation, ppt, 245 kB]
Peklaj C., Puklek Levpušček M.
First author's affiliation: Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia

The aim of the study was to examine different aspects of students’ academic motivation and its effects on students’ achievement in two different school subjects (math and Slovene language). The sample consisted of 470 students (321 boys and 239 girls) who attended the seventh grade of the primary school and 437 students (176 boys and 262 girls) who attended the third grade of the secondary school in the school year 2006/07. Students’ academic motivation in math and Slovene language was assessed by different scales of PALS (Midgley et al., 2000): school related beliefs and strategies (academic self-handicapping strategies, scepticism about the relevance of school for future success), personal achievement goal orientations (mastery, performance-approach and performance-avoidance) and academic self-efficacy. Students’ grades in the previous academic year and their final grades in both subjects were also collected. The results showed negative and low correlations between self-handicapping and scepticism and achievement in both subjects in primary and secondary school students. Patterns of correlations between achievement goal orientations and self-efficacy and achievement in math and Slovene language were different for primary and secondary school students. Further analyses showed that students’ previous achievement was the best predictor of student current achievement at both school levels and in both subjects. In addition, school related beliefs and motivational dimensions added significantly to the prediction of the final grades. Among the motivational dimensions, self-efficacy was a significant predictor for the primary students’ final grades in math and Slovene language. On the other hand, mastery goal orientation significantly predicted the secondary students’ final grades.

13. Model of reading comprehension for primary school students  [presentation, ppt, 310 kB]
Pečjak S., Kolić-vehovec S., Ajdišek N., Rončević B., Podlesek A.
First author's affiliation: Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Reading comprehension is an indicator of reading literacy and it is also significantly related to the process of learning and students’ academic outcomes. There are different (meta)cognitive, motivational and emotional factors that contribute to reading comprehension. In our study 470 5th and 9th grade primary school students were included, of which 225 were boys and 245 girls. We proposed two confirmatory models of reading comprehension, one for younger and one for older students. Several factors were included in the models: (meta)cognitive factors (vocabulary, reading speed, summarizing, and metacognitive reading awareness), motivational factors (reading interest and reading competency), and emotional factors (feelings during recreational reading and academic reading). Models show direct and indirect effects of evaluated factors on students' reading comprehension which has further on important implications for educational praxis.

14. Reflective writing as a part of quality learning: Students’ perceptions of reflective writing task  [presentation, ppt, 54 kB]
Saric M.
Filozofska fakulteta Univerze v Ljubljani, Ljubljana, Slovenia

This paper explores the role of reflection in the learning process within a framework of the broader literature on theoretical approaches to reflection in learning, particularly on the experiential learning. There are different ways in which reflection is evidenced (e. g. conversation, learning journals) – the focus of this report is on reflective writing. This is followed by the presentation of an undergraduate experiential learning course, in which some elements of reflective writing have been used. The aim of this study was to explore written reflection in the learning process according to the learning objectives of the course. Additionally, we also wanted to examine the students’ perception of some of the elements of this task. The findings indicated that the students’ personal reflection of their own learning in written form is an important part of the learning process, and the students’ views supported the proposed usefulness of reflective writing. Some suggestions to change the future course design in order to enhance the effects of the task of reflective writing in terms of experiential learning are proposed. Furthermore, we address the question whether and/or how student written reflections should be assessed. It is concluded that by encouraging students to write reflectively about their own learning we can enhance the quality of learning.

15. Affective-motivational processes, parents’ behaviour perception and achievement in music theory  [presentation, ppt, 1653 kB]
Smolej Fritz B., Peklaj C., Bajec B.
First author's affiliation: Krsko Elementary Music School, Krsko, Slovenia

In the present study, we were interested in students’ achievement in Music theory (MT), which is a basic and obligatory subject in elementary music schools in Slovenia. It was supposed that students’ achievement should be related to different affective- motivational processes as well as to some factors of parent’s behaviour perception. 457 fifth and sixth grade students from elementary music schools in Slovenia (153 boys and 303 girls) participated in the study. Their mean age was 13 years and 8 months. Two questionnaires were constructed for the purposes of this study: The Music Theory Affective-Motivational Processes Questionnaire (MTAMPQ) and The Perception of Parents’ Behaviour Questionnaire (PPBQ) as well as The Music Theory Achievement Test (MTAT). Factor analysis of MTAMPQ revealed four different factors: perception of applicability and the importance of MTL, anxiety, competence and interest and perception of difficulty at auditory tasks. Factor analysis of PPBQ also revealed four different factors: help and encouragement, disapproval, lack of control and autonomy support. Final grades in Music theory were also collected. Results confirmed that affective-motivational processes as well as aspect of parents’ behaviour perception are positively related to measures of students’ achievement in MT. Anxiety and disapproval are important predictors of achievement accessed by MTAT, explaining 10% of its variance, while competence and interest, anxiety, help and encouragement, and disapproval are important predictors of final grades, explaining 36 % of its variance. We can conclude that affective-motivational processes and aspect of parent’s behaviour perception can better predict final grades in MT than achievement on MTAT. Possible reasons for such results were discussed as well as implications for further research and practice.

16. Identifying the patterns of students’ goal orientations  
Sorić I., Burić I., Vulić-prtorić A.
First author's affiliation: Department of Psychology, Zadar, Croatia

There are a number of different models of goal orientations in academic settings that have been developed by different researchers. The most of these models propose two general goal orientations that concern the reasons students are pursuing when approaching and engaging in a learning task. They are labelled learning and performance goals (Pintrich, 2003). Niemivirta (1996) distinguished a third type of goal orientation: work-avoidance goal orientation. The aim of this study was to examine classification of students into groups considering different goal orientations and to compare those groups in some other variables relevant for self-regulated learning process (gender, general self-esteem, academic self-efficacy, values, perceived academic control, academic achievement and expectancy of future academic achievement). The participants were 335 adolescents (aged between 13 and 17 years) which completed the questionnaires anonymously during a regularly scheduled classroom period. K-means cluster analysis was used to classify students into four groups according to their pattern of goal orientations: first group consisted of students with very low score on learning goal orientation and very high score on performance and work-avoidance goal orientations; second group consisted of students with very low score on learning and performance goals and very high score on work-avoidance goal orientations; third group included students with very high score on all goal orientations and fourth group included students with very high score on learning orientations and low score on performance and work-avoidance orientations. Obtained statistical analyses revealed differences between identified groups of students concerning their academic self-efficacy, learning task value, perception of academic control, and expectancy of future academic achievement. Particularly, the second group students have the lowest self-esteem, the lowest perceived academic control, the lowest expectancy of future achievement and they do not value learning tasks very highly.