THE INFLUENCE OF PERSONALITY TRAITS ON STUDENTS’ ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS
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1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Personality is something everybody knows that it exists, but nobody knows that what it is (Schneewind and Ruppert, 1998). It is certainly true that it is difficult to put human personality which Goethe (1970) called the greatest happiness for children of this earth into scientific terms. Personality determines a set of important characteristics and that how people interact with others. Human personality is the combination of a number of traits.
Personality can be measured as a set of items usually questions about behaviour and feelings to which the subjects have to respond by agreeing or disagreeing with that question or statements. (Kline, 1993). In 1930 personality psychology became an identifiable discipline in social sciences. During that time many separate lines of inquiry came together for the field generated by Allport (1937), Murry (1938) and Lewin (1935). Mary Laurence F. Fortu (n.d) described the following as the components of personality which are habits, attitudes, interests, values, principles and mental capacity or intelligence.
Academic performance is a major issue among students, teachers, parents, school administrators, and the community at large. Attempts have been made by researchers to unravel the complexities surrounding academic performance. Psychologists have put forward a lot of reasons why these disparities in performance exist. A lot of attention had been paid to external factors such as type of school, teaching methods, school location, instructional materials, teachers experience, and so on (WAEC, 2005). Many spend lots of money in order to secure good schools either for their children or themselves and those who can afford it even invest on education abroad as they believe this will enhance performance, and which in turn gives an added advantage in terms of securing gainful employment. Opinions vary as to why some students excel academically while others appear to be underachievers. Many psychologists have consistently attempted to identify the major predictors of individual academic performance. Factors such as intelligence, self concept, gender, study habit, maturation, home background, amongst others, just to mention a few, have been extensively explored as being responsible for academic performance. Other factors that have been researched into in the past include: child rearing patterns, peer group influence, socio-economic background and learning environment. Another major factor that is believed to be responsible for academic performance in students is their personality traits. Traits Theorists have tried to identify the major traits that characterize personality. Notable among these are Sigmund Freud in the early 1900’s, Gordon All port (1961), Cattell (1967), Hans Eysenck (1985) Feldman (1994), McCrae and Costa (1987) and a host of others. Personality has been defined in many ways by many psychologists who wrote on the concept. According to Feldman (1994) in Daminabo (2008), Personality is the sum total of the characteristics that differentiates people, or the stability of a person’s behavior across different situations. In other words it means those qualities the individual is noted for. Traits on the other hand are “enduring dimensions of personality characteristics which differentiates people from one another” (Colman, 2003). Traits are therefore the sum total of stable characteristics in a person across different times and situations, which make him or her unique or distinct from others. This agrees with the definition by Mischel 1981, (in Agbakwuru, 2000) which refer to personality traits as consistent differences between the behaviors characteristic of two or more people. It is also defined as “any distinguishable, relatively enduring way in which one individual varies from another” (Guliford, 1959 in Agbakwuru 2000).However, there has been an increasing interest in the big five personality traits and the role they play as regards academic performance of students. Of particular interest is the role that these traits play in the academic performance of students. These traits, popularly known as the ‘Big Five’ include conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness to experience, extraversion and locus of control. The acronym CAOEL is used to describe them. These personality traits affect academic performance in students, either positively or negatively. And so parents, educationists, psychologists, counselors, are all worried at the rate of decline of academic standard. Big Five otherwise known as CAOEL has therefore been explored in order to find possible solutions to the problem of underachievement amongst school students. The acronym CAOEL denotes the traits: conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness, extraversion and locus of control to experience.
McCrae and Costa (1980) researched extensively on these traits. A high score on Conscientiousness shows a student who is self disciplined, careful, thorough, organized and determined. Low scores on this trait portray indiscipline, carelessness, disorganization and indifference. That student who scores highly on this trait is expected to perform excellently well, academically and vice versa.
Agreeableness describes one who is sympathetic, trusting and cooperative. Students with high scores on agreeableness are selfless, flexible and pleasant. Such students work with others easily with little or no friction. Those scoring low on this trait however find it difficult to get along with others. McCrae and Costa 1988 in Daminabo, (2008) noted this to be psychotics, which refers to a person who is skeptical, unsympathetic, uncooperative and rude. Low scores are expected to affect academic performance negatively.
The researcher is therefore out to examine what influence these personality traits have on the academic performance of students.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The problem of underachievement has assumed a worrisome dimension in the Nigerian educational system. Desperate to make it anyhow, students have devised various illegal means to succeed in examinations, even when they are not academically competent. And unfortunately, the system has buckled under the pressure. Examination malpractice has risen steadily to become a seemingly untamable monster. It is increasingly becoming difficult to equate competence of people with supposed academic performance as represented in their certificates. Many candidates are unable to defend the result they supposedly acquired honorably. And of course this has consistently led to inability to compete effectively in the job market which has become a serious issue. Several factors have been researched into in the past as to the cause of this social malaise, but there seem to be indications that some hidden factors may be responsible that needs unraveling. This desire to see this problem curbed gave rise to this study and the researchers’ aim is to see if there is a way in which the big five personality traits can help, especially from the perspective of the analytical and scientific approach of measurement and evaluation.
The researcher has consequently chosen to explore this problem among the students. This study is therefore aimed at an examination of the influence of personality traits on academic performance of the students.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The objectives of the study are therefore to:
- Find out there is any significant relationship between personality trait and students academic performance.
- Determine the different types of personality trait that can influence students academic performance
- To examine the factors influencing students academic performance.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- Is there any significant relationship between personality trait and students academic performance?
- What are the different types of personality trait that can influence students academic performance?
- What are the factors influencing students academic performance?
HO: There is no significant relationship between personality trait and students academic performance
HA: There is significant relationship between personality trait and students academic performance
- SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study will educate the stakeholders in the education sector on how the individual personality traits of students can influence their academic performance. This study will also enlighten them on different types of personality traits and how this traits can influence academic performance of students.
This research will be a contribution to the body of literature in the area of the effect of personality trait on student’s academic performance, thereby constituting the empirical literature for future research in the subject area.
1.7 SCOPE/LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
This study on the impact of personality trait on the academic performance of students in Nigeria covers all the students in Edo state, Nigeria by carefully examining their different personality traits and its effect on student’s academic performance. The study will also cover an overview of factors hindering student’s academic performance.
LIMITATION OF STUDY
Financial constraint– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint– The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
- DEFINITION OF TERMS
Personality: the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character.
Performance: is the outcome of education — the extent to which a student, teacher or institution has achieved their educational goals
Trait: a distinguishing quality or characteristic, typically one belonging to a person.
Agbakwuru, C. (2000). Teacher Personality traits and Characteristics and learning Effectiveness of Pupils. Psychological Perspective vol. 2 (22)-28
Blickle , B. Costa, G and McCrae (1992). The biological basis of personality. New York: Springfield
Colman, A.M. (2003). Dictionary of Psychology, New York: Oxford.
Daminabo, W. H. (2008). The Relationship between Personality Traits and Academic Achievement of Secondary School students in Rivers State. Unpublished M.Ed. dissertation, University of Pot-Harcourt.
Gulliford, M. Paul, C. (1999). Citation and Referencing : The 5th Edition Apa style. Onitsha: West and Solomon.
WAEC (2005). Variables affecting student achievement.