STUDY STRATEGIES DOES GENDER MAKE A DIFFERENCE

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Entwistle, McCune, and Hounsell (2002) depicted that the quality of learning at university is influenced by a number of variables including approaches to learning and studying. Weinsten, Husman and Dierking (2000) are of the view that "learning strategies include any thoughts, behaviors, beliefs or emotions that facilitate the acquisition, understanding, or later transfer of new knowledge and skills" (p.727) and good strategy user is a student who possesses three kinds of knowledge about strategies: declarative, procedural and conditional. Declarative knowledge means simply knowing about a variety of strategies. Procedural knowledge means knowing how to use these strategies. Conditional knowledge means knowing when to (and when not to) use particular strategies.

Regarding gender, there subsists a general argument that males and females differ vastly on psychological traits. But Hyde (2005), reviewing 46 research studies, advocates the gender similarities hypothesis that males and females are similar on most, but not all, psychological variables. Gender differences can fluctuate considerably in magnitude at different age levels and depend on the context in which they are measured. As far as use of learning and study strategies is concerned, almost all the researchers agree that female students use more learning strategies than their male counterparts. Downing (2009) viewed gender differences as they come from two determining factors, biological differences and differential socialization. He advocates that gender is psychologically and socially raised upon a biological base. "Gender" in the present study is being used as the term to discriminate between male and female participants. It includes not only their biological sex, but also their psychological and social character. Sizoo, Malhotra and Bearson (2003) found that adult females in the business classroom are significantly more motivated than adult males. As far as anxiety is concerned both groups experienced the levels of anxiety which slowed down their academic success. Rusillo and Arias (2004) showed that gender differences exist in various cognitive motivational variables. Girls showed lower level of extrinsic motivation, were more responsible for their failures, used information processing strategies more broadly, and obtained better marks in language Arts. Downing, Chan, Downing, Kwong, and Lam (2008) found that females demonstrated significantly higher levels of self-regulation and a more positive attitude to academic study than their male counterparts.

Braten and Olaussen (1998) found that on the motivation, time management, and study aids subscales, the female students reported using more strategies than males, while it was the other way around on the anxiety and information processing subscales. Overall, female students tended to be somewhat more effective in their use of learning and study strategies than males. Yeung and Ha (2007) investigated the learning and study strategies of year one HKUST students and found that there was a statistically significant difference between male and female students on attitude and study aids scales. On the contrary, Nambiar (2009) concluded that variables like age, ethnicity, and gender are not clear indicators of strategy use although they may be considerations of strategy use. Agar and Knopfmacher (1995) revealed that students perceived the most problematic components of learning in the affective areas of motivation and anxiety. Test taking strategies and selecting main ideas were also found as weaknesses. Regarding the variable of gender few differences were found.

As mentioned earlier there is a growing body of research in various parts of the world on the use of study strategies by college and university students. In Pakistan, this tradition is almost fictional. Some researchers from Pakistan have explored this concept but in a somewhat different way i.e. investigating learning styles and study habits. Jameel (2001) and Iqbal and Shahzadi (2002) investigated study habits of students of university of the Punjab, Pakistan and revealed that they lacked good study habits and effective study skills. However, the instruments used to collect data for these studies were limited in terms of coverage for various elements of study. Secondly, in these studies researchers tired to make comparison between students of various departments of the same university. Siddiqui (2004) investigated study approaches of Pakistani students in tertiary institutions using revised version of the questionnaire (R-SPQ-2F). The students showed predominantly higher scores on deep approach. No statistically significant differences were observed on the basis of gender.

One of the studies was conducted on Pakistani students' learning and study strategies who were studying in American Universities (Iqbal, 2005). He compared Pakistani and American students' scores on LASSI scales but gender differences were not measured. Iqbal, Sohail, and Shahzad (2010) examined this issue in one of the universities of Pakistan by comparing Pakistani students' LASSI profile with that of American norm on percentile ranks. The present study is conducted in continuation of the previous study. In this study, gender differences are taken into account. Main purpose of it is to investigate whether there are any gender differences in the use of learning and study strategies among Pakistani university students.

Method and Procedures

Sample

465 students from university of the Punjab constituted sample of the study. There were 206 female students and 259 male students.

Instrument

Data collection tool was Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI) developed by Weinstein and Palmer (2002). It consists of ten scales, and eighty items. The scales are information processing (INF), selecting main ideas (SMI), test strategies (STS), attitude (ATT), motivation (MOT), anxiety (ANX), concentration (CON), time management (TMT), self testing (SFT) and study aids (STA). LASSI provides standardized scores (percentile score equivalents) and national norms (USA). LASSI is both diagnostic and prescriptive. Each scale contains eight items developed on five-point scale 1-5. Coefficient Alpha ranges from .68-.82.

Procedure

Students' responses were added to have total score for each scale. The maximum score against each scale may be recorded 40 while minimum as 8, because each scale contains 8 items constructed on five point scale.

Analysis of data

Mean score of all the scales was calculated for both the groups. Independent sample t test was applied to find out the differences between their mean scores on each scale.

Results

Figure 1. Mean score of LASSI scales for male and female students

Figure 1 displays a great gender difference in favor of female students. On anxiety, attitude, concentration, information processing, motivation, self testing, selecting main idea, time management and test strategies scales females have outperformed their male counterparts. Male students have scored somewhat higher on study aids scale.

Table 1. Independent sample t test for gender differences

LASSI Scales

GENDER

Mean

SD

df

t value

Anxiety (ANX)

female

24.18

5.19

422

.30

male

24.02

5.69

Attitude (ATT)

female

26.94

4.84

409

2.48*

male

25.71

5.12

Concentration (CON)

female

27.31

4.70

438

2.51*

male

26.16

4.79

information processing (INP)

female

27.22

5.45

434

.95

male

26.71

5.54

Motivation (MOT)

female

28.28

5.94

434

.99

male

27.74

5.42

self testing (SFT)

female

25.31

4.96

424

.36

male

25.14

4.91

selecting main idea (SMI)

female

27.03

5.79

421

1.49

male

26.22

5.30

study aids (STA)

female

25.61

4.45

422

-.55

male

25.86

4.73

time management (TMT)

female

25.80

3.94

391

2.71**

male

24.74

3.76

test strategies (TST)

female

26.45

4.83

422

1.33

male

25.79

5.30

**p < .01, * p < .05

Male students' mean score is slightly better than females in study aids scale. In rest of the nine scales, female students have performed better. This difference is significant on attitude, concentration and time management scales in favor of female students.

Discussion

The profile comparison between the female and male students indicated differences between these two groups on all of the LASS1 subscales. Female students scored higher on nine of the subscales. The groups were found to differ significantly on three of the subscales. Female students reported using more strategies than males on attitude, concentration and time management scales while it was the other way around on the study aids subscale. Overall, our analysis of gender differences suggests that female students tend to be somewhat more effective in their use of learning and study strategies than males. This is consistent with several recent studies of gender differences in students' strategy use (e.g., Downing, 2009; Sizoo et al., 2003; Rusillo & Arias, 2004; Downing, et al., 2008; Braten & Olaussen, 1998; Yeung & Ha, 2007). These differences seem to emerge from the fact that female students have attributes of strategic learners more than males. Female students are more careful, responsible, serious and emotional as compared to male students who are careless, irresponsible and tension free (Iqbal, Shahzad & Sohail (2010). Du, Weymouth and Dragseth (2003) also declared the girls to be more engaged in school and classroom learning, hard worker and more recognized than boys. Further investigation is required to find out other possible reasons of this difference.

Male students are diagnosed to be weak on attitude, anxiety, concentration, motivation, information processing, selecting main idea, self testing, time management and test strategies scales whereas their mean score is slightly better than females in study aids scale. Students with low score on attitude scale may need to develop a better understanding of how their academic performance relates to their future life goals. Students with low score on anxiety scale may need to develop techniques for coping with anxiety and reducing worry so that attention can be focused on the task at hand. Low scoring students on concentration scale may need to learn to monitor their level of concentration and develop techniques to redirect attention and eliminate interfering thoughts or feelings so that they can be more effective and efficient learners. Students who score low on motivation scale need to accept more responsibility for their academic outcomes and learn how to set and use goals to help accomplish specific tasks. Students who score low on information processing sub scale need to make information meaningful and to store it in memory in a way that will help them recall. Students who score low on selecting main ideas scale may need to develop their skill at separating out critical information on which to focus their attention. Low scoring students on self testing scale may need to learn effective techniques for reviewing and monitoring the level of understanding. Students who score low on time management scale may need to develop effective scheduling and monitoring techniques in order to assure timely completion of academic tasks and to avoid procrastination while realistically including non-academic activities in their schedule. More effective techniques for preparing for and taking test are required from low scoring students at test strategies. Low scorers on study aids scale may need to develop a better understanding of the resources available to them and how to use these resources to help them be more effective and efficient learners. Courses related to learning and studying strategies should be included in curriculum and special lectures, seminars and workshops should be arranged to create awareness among students to make them strategic learner.

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