Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 2007, 3(4), 363-370 Correlates of Academic Procrastination and Mathematics Achievement of University Undergraduate Students Mojeed Kolawole Akinsola University of Botswana, Gaborone, BOTSWANA Adedeji Tella Osun State College of Education; Ila-Orangun, NIGERIA Adeyinka Tella University of Botswana, Gaborone, BOTSWANA Received 3 November 2006; accepted 19 April 2007 Procrastination is now a common phenomenon among students particularly those at the higher level. And this is doing more harm to their academic achievement than good.
Therefore, this study examined the correlates between academic procrastination and mathematics achievement among the university mathematics undergraduate students. The study used a total sample of 150 part 3 and 4 students in the department of mathematics and mathematics education students in the university of Ibadan and university of Lagos, Nigeria. The 35 items academic procrastination scale developed and validated by Tuckman (1991) was used for the collection of data, in conjunction with the subjects GPA scores till date in mathematics.
Findings indicates that: a significant correlation was found in the academic procrastination and academic achievement of the subjects in mathematics, significant difference also exists in the levels of procrastination and mathematics achievement of the subjects, with low procrastinators performing better than the moderate and the high procrastinators. Results further reveals the subjects procrastinate the same way irrespective of their gender. Implications of procrastination on academic achievement of students at all levels generally and some effective ways of remediation of procrastination were suggested.
Keywords: Academic Procrastination, Mathematics Achievement, Academic Achievement, Gender, Undergraduates. INTRODUCTION The issue of procrastination is no more something to toy with in academics but something to deal with. This is because procrastinatory behaviour is now a common Correspondence to: Mojeed Kolawole Akinsola , Dr. in Education, University of Botswana, Faculty of Education, Department of Primary Education, P/Bag 00702 Gaborone, Botswana E-mail: [email protected] ub. bw Copyright © 2007 by Moment E-ISSN: 1305-8223 henomenon among students particularly at the college and university levels. This is recognised to be doing more harms than good to the academic achievement of the Undergraduate Students most especially the mathematics major. It is worthy to note that the lives of university students are characterized by frequent deadlines given by university teachers and administrators to carry out various responsibilities such as registration for courses, completion of course forms and submission of class assignments or term papers (Popoola, 2005). A M. K. Akinsola et al. ommon form of academic procrastination among students is waiting until the last minute to turn in papers or to study for an examination (Migram, Batin & Mower, 1993). According to (Oweini and Haraty, 1993) college students are notorious for procrastination. They refer to procrastination as the acts of needlessly delaying a task until the point of some discomfort. Procrastination is a behavioural problem that many adults experience on a daily regular basis (Jansen and Carton, 1999) particularly on task which should be completed by a specific deadline (Oweini and Haraty, 2001).
Mathematics is an important school subject because it is associated with more academic and or career opportunities (Akinsola and Tella, 2003). Burton cited in Agwagah and Usman (2003) relates the importance of mathematics to the scientific, industrial, technology and social progress of a society. It is a science that studies numbers, shapes, objects and their properties which are needed as basic requirement for all sciences. That mathematics is an important subject is undebatable.
But it is very sad to note that the performance by undergraduate students particularly the majors in the subject in recent time are not encouraging. This can be attributed to the fact that majority of mathematics undergraduate students has been observed to be procrastinators. This is confirmed by the observation by (Ferrari and Beck, 1998) that over 70% of college students engaged in frequent academic procrastination, most commonly with writing term papers. Procrastination is probably the single most common time management problem (Learning Common Fastfacts Series, 2004).
One basic thing about procrastination is that everyone procrastinates to some extent. However, some reasons can be put forward why university students rank highly among those mostly vulnerable to procrastination (Learning Commons Fastfacts Series, 2004). The reasons according to this group are: (i) there is always a tremendous amount of work to do. Regardless of how much time the students spend studying, it can seem impossible to get finished; (ii) for most students, only a few hours each day are spent in class and labs.
The majority of time is unstructured, and students are responsible for deciding what to do and when to do it; and (iii) in the university environment, particularly in residence, there is usually something more enjoyable to do than studying. Many activities compete for a limited number of hours in a week, and studying is often pushed to the bottom of the list. It also recognized that many mathematics students refer to the subjects as being difficult.
And the (Learning Commons Fastfacts Series, 2004) have already asserts that procrastination often results when a task seems difficult, unpleasant, or overpowering. It seem reasonable to realise at this point that if the college or university mathematics students continue to procrastinate, definitely the weak manifestation of academic achievement in the subject will as a matter of fact continue. In the light of this, the present study is design to examine the correlates of academic procrastination and mathematics academic achievement of undergraduate students.
It will also find out whether there is gender difference in academic procrastination of the students before finally come out with possible ways of remediating the behaviour for effective academic achievement in mathematics courses. Literature Review Lay (1986) conceived procrastination as a frequent failure at doing what ought to be done to reach goals. Ellis and Knaus (2002) perceive procrastination as the desire to avoid an activity, the promise to get it late, and the use of excuse making to justify the delay and avoid blame.
Popoola (2005) considered procrastination as a dispositional trait which has cognitive, behavioural and emotional components. Noran (2000) defines the term as avoiding doing a task which needs to be accomplished. He explains that one would rather be spending time socializing with friends or relatives rather than working on an important work project that is due soon; or one would rather be watching an exciting movie at the cinema or television rather than study for upcoming quiz or test.
Popoola (2005) describes the procrastinator as someone who knows what he wants to do in some sense, can do it, is trying to do it, yet doesn’t do it. Solomon and Rothblum (1984) posited that people tend to avoid tasks which they find unpleasant and engaged in activities which are more rewarding, especially with short term over long term gain. Ferrari and Emmons (1995) found that procrastinator have low self esteem and delay task completion because they believe they lack the ability to achieve a task successively.
While Popoola (2005) further asserts that an individual postpones doing things that make him or her anxious, apprehensive, or likely to lose face in the presence of peers (Milgram, Dangour and Raviv, 1992). Effert and Ferrari (1989) demonstrate that procrastinators lack self-efficacy, self-esteem and are publicly self-conscious and highly self-critical. The researcher added that procrastinator often have perfectionism expectations, and are over-conscious. They display irrational fear of success or failure which may lead to neurotic avoidance.
They may also be emotional, overwhelmed and anxious, having less need for cognitive complexity and are more likely to attribute success to external and unstable factors (Solomon and Rothblum, 1984). Furthermore, Noran (2000) considers a procrastinator as someone who knows what he/she want to do, is equipped to perform the task, is trying © 2007 Moment, Eurasia J. Math. Sci. & Tech. Ed. , 3(4), 363-370 364 Academic Procrastination and Mathematics Achievement and planning to perform the task, but does not complete the task, or excessively delays performing the task.
To him, the procrastinator will work on less important obligation, rather than fulfilling the more important obligation, or (s) he may use his or her time wastefully in some minor activities or pleasure. In most cases, procrastinators’ keep themselves ready to work but avoiding the activity. Procrastination has been found to result from cognitive distortions of faulty thinking (Ellis and Knaus, 1977) and also related to problems of perceiving and estimating time (Aitken, 1982). Noran (2000) explains that procrastinator in the first category often has perfectionist expectations and is over-conscious.
They believed to fear success or failure which eventually leads to neurotic avoidance. They lack self-efficacy and self-esteem, and are self-conscious and self-critical. While however, impulsive procrastinators’ may fail to pick up cues from the environment (Ferrari and Emmons, 1994). Reasons put forward as relate to this category of procrastination include the inability to delay gratification of pleasure lacking self-control, lacking motivation for achieving targeted goals, and lacking energy or organizational abilities.
Ferrari and Emmons (1995) emphasized that researchers have identifies different types of academic procrastination, such as low conscientiousness and anxiety-related procrastination. Academic procrastinators typically make four cognitive distortions which promote and maintain their task avoidance. These are: overestimation of time left to perform task, underestimation of time require completing tasks; overestimation of future motivational states; misreliance on the necessity of emotional congruence to succeed at task, and belief that working when not in mood to work is sub-optional (Noran, 2000).
This review will not be completed without stating the causes of procrastination. According to Noran (2000) the literature has reveals several causes for procrastination. He identifies the following as the possible causes. Time Management-To him, someone who procrastinates suggests he/she is unable to manage time wisely. It implies uncertainty of priorities, goals and objectives. There is also a feeling of overwhelms doing a certain task. Subsequently, one postpones doing academic assignment for a certain data, while focusing on unproductive activities.
Inability to concentrate or having low levels of conscientiousness or ones work is a second reason for procrastination- This difference may be due to distortions in the environment, such as noise, cluttered study desk or trying to do an assignment on a bed. A third factor for procrastinating is the fear and anxiety related to failure. A person in this category would spend more time worrying about forthcoming tests and projects rather than plan for it and completing them. © 2007 Moment, Eurasia J. Math. Sci. & Tech. Ed. , 3(4), 363-370 Negative belief about ones capability is another reason to procrastinate. Unrealistic expectation and perfectionism may also be another blocking hurdle for procrastination. Tucuman’s (1990) review summarized research findings on causes of procrastination as follows: “disbelieving in ones own capability to perform a task; being unable to postpone gratification, and assigning blame to external sources’’ p4). Procrastination is also associated with high levels of stress, low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, self-denigration, lower level of resourcefulness’, higher levels of self-conscouiousness, self-handicapping and depression (Flet, Blankestein, & Martin 1995).
Research findings on the proportion of students who procrastinate have not been consistent (Popoola, 2005). For instance, while Solomon and Rothblum (1984) estimated that at least half of all students consistently and problematically procrastinate, Ellis and Knaus, (1977) found that the number of students who procrastinate at some point approaches 95%. Similarly a review by Ferrari and Beck (1998) reveals that students engage in frequent procrastination and this occurs regardless of race or gender.
In a study of 374 undergraduate students by the procrastination research group at Carleton University in Ottawa, it was found that procrastination is related to not only higher stress and poor coping strategies, but also avoidance behaviours (Sirois and Pychyl, 2002). It was reveals from the study that students who suffer from these avoidance coping styles resist completing assignments and addressing other deadlines that evoke tension and anxiety. Tuckman (2003) research on study skills demonstrates that by teaching students’ specific learning and motivational strategies it is possible to modify avoidance behaviour.
The study compared a group of 397 students who completed Tucuman’s semester long course, Individual Learning and Motivation (ILM) to a group of 397 students who did not enrol in the course. Those students who received the strategy training earned significantly higher GPAs . 48 point higher than those who did not complete the training. In conclusion therefore, it is not an overstatement to state that procrastination may have debilitating effects on university students’ performance particularly the mathematics majors. The finding by Tice and Baumeister, 1997) that procrastinators received significantly lower paper and examination grades than non-procrastinators is very relevant here. Perhaps evidence abounds in research studies that procrastination is usually result to poor academic performance (Tuckman, Abry, and Smith, 2002; Beck, Koons and Morgan, 2000 and Wesley, 1994). It is on this note that the present study is design to find out the correlation between academic procrastination and mathematics academic achievement; and in addition 365 M. K. Akinsola et al. xamine whether gender difference exist in academic procrastination among the mathematics students in a population of Nigerian undergraduate students where study of this kind is not common. To achieve the objectives of this study, the following hypotheses were generated: 1. There will be no significant correlation between procrastination and mathematics academic achievement. 2. There will be no significant difference in the academic achievement of the Participants based on their level of procrastination(Low, Moderate and High) 3.
There will be no gender difference in the academic procrastination of the participants. METHOD The study adopted a causal descriptive research design approach. This does not involve the manipulation of any variables. It only carefully observes and records information about the population as it naturally occurred during the time the study was conducted. The population of the study comprises150 part 3 and 4 students who were selected through a total enumeration sampling method from the department of mathematics and mathematics education of the University of Ibadan and University of Lagos, Nigeria.
Despite the use of total enumeration in the sample selection, the sample was still small. This is based on the consideration by many students that Mathematics is difficult which make many of them to be running away from the course. The two cities are the most populous town in Nigeria where stress factors could be a major hindrances to academic achievement . The age of these participants ranged from 20-36 years with a mean age of 24. 6years. A validated academic procrastination scale comprises of 35 likert type items developed by Tuckman (1991) with the original reliability coefficient of r =. 0 Cronbach alpha was used for the collection of data on academic procrastination. This instrument was revalidated before use and the Mathematics students of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria were used to determine the reliability of the questionnaire which gave an r = . 88 through the same cronbach alpha. The participant grade performance average GPA in mathematics till date was taken from their academic record. This represents the participants’ academic achievement scores.
All the participants were administered the Tuckman Academic Procrastination Scale in a classroom under normal examination situation. This was to reduce the mortality rates of the instrument and interaction of the participants which may distort the results of the study. Data collected on the study were analyzed using Pearson product moment correlation, analysis of variance, and multiple comparison and t-test statistical tools. RESULTS The results of the analysis are presented as follows: Hypothesis 1: There will be no significant correlation between academic procrastination and Mathematics academic achievement.
Table 1 above shows that there is significant correlation between academic procrastination and Mathematics academic achievement with r= 0. 82. This implies that the more the subjects procrastinate the more their achievement in mathematics diminished or decreased. Hypothesis 2: There will be no significant difference in the academic achievement of the subjects based on their level of procrastination (Low, Moderate and High). Table 1. Correlation between Procrastination and Mathematics Achievement Variables Aca. Procastination Maths Achievement No 150 150 X 49. 5 47. 6 SD 14. 8 13. 6 r 0. 82 P