Effect of individual differences on academic performance of secondary school students.


This study explored the influence of individual differences influences students’ performance in schools by examining the influence of socio-economic status, environment, heredity and gender differences on the academic performance of secondary school students in Sacred Heart Minor Seminary Akure. A sample of two hundred and forty students at Junior Secondary School level in Akure that participated in the study was drawn SACRED HEART MINOR SEMINARY AKURE using systematic sampling technique. A researcher made questionnaire titled “The influence of individual differences on academic performance” having 0.05 level of significance. The data collected were analyzed using correlation analysis. Results indicated that there is relationship between the varied students’ environment and academic performance.  It was recommended among others that teachers should bear the individual differences of their students in mind in the teaching and learning process. Guidance and counselling centres should also be encouraged in secondary schools so that the students can be properly guided on ways to harness their individual differences properly.










1.1 Background to the study

1.2 Statement of the Problem

1.3 Purpose of the study

1.4 Research Question

1.5 Research Hypothesis

1.6 Significance of the study

1.7 Scope and Limitation of the study

1.8 Operational Definitions of the Terms



2.1 Conceptual framework

2.2 Theoretical Review

2.3 Personality Traits and Academic Performance

2.4 Cognitive Ability, Personality Traits and Behaviour at School

2.5 Personality and Academic performance

2.6 Individual Differences in Behaviour at School

2.7 Implication for Educational Practice

2.8 Motivational Factors as Determinants of Learning Achievement


3.1 Introduction

3.2 Research Design

3.3 Population of the study

3.4 Sample and Sampling Techniques

3.5 Research Instrument

3.6 Validation of the Instrument

3.7 Reliability of the Instrument

3.8 Administration of the Instrument

3.9 Analysis of Data


4.1 Introduction

4.2 Respondents’ Demographic Characteristics

4.3 Influence of Individual Differences on Student’ Academic Performance

4.4 Test of Hypotheses

4.5 Discussion of Findings


5.1 Summary

5.2 Conclusion

5.3 Recommendation





1.1             Background of the Study

There are a variety of individual differences that must be of concern to classroom teachers. Some of the most prominent are academic ability (or intelligence), achievement level, gender, learning style, and ethnicity and culture. Most studies indicate that gender (Large et al., 2002; Roy et al., 2003) and prior knowledge, from experts to novices (Calisir & Gurel, 2003; Wildemuth, 2004), benefit differently from hypermedia learning systems. Field-dependent and field independent are probably the most well-known division of cognitive styles. They reflect how a learner is able to restructure information based on the use of relevant cues and field arrangements (Weller et al., 1994). Field-independent learners have an impersonal behaviour and not interested in others and show both physical and psychological distance from people. They tend not to need external referencing methods to process information and are capable of restructuring their knowledge and developing their own internal referencing methods. Field-dependent learners, conversely, have interpersonal behaviour in that they show strong interest in others and prefer to be physically close to people. They make greater use of external social influences for structuring their information (Chen & Liu, 2008). Many studies have engaged in understanding performance of learners using web based systems. Some studies have found that males process information at a more a superficial level than females (Large, et al., 2002; Roy, et al., 2003, and Riding & Rayner, 1998).

Other findings have revealed that there is no relationship between gender differences and search frequency (Hupfer & Detlor, 2006). McDonald and Stevenson (1998) measured navigation performance in terms of speed and accuracy in answering questions and locating particular nodes. Results showed that performance of experts was better than novices. Conversely, Mitchell et al. (2005) measured the performance by gain score calculated as scores of post-test minus pre-test. They found that novices made a greater improvement on the post test. Moreover, Ford and Chen (2000) found that experts could browse more pages than novices. Kim (2001) investigated how differences in cognitive style and online search experience influenced the search. The findings show that online search experience affected navigational style, whereas cognitive style influenced search time. Experienced searchers tended to initiate jumps more frequently than novices. Additionally, field dependent learners spent longer search time than field independent learners. Thus, for number of visited pages, studies have found that male, field dependent, and experts browse more pages than female, field-independent, and novices (Chen & Liu, 2008; Ford & Chen, 2000; Large, et al., 2002; Roy, et al., 2003).

As for time spent in browsing WBI programs, some studies have found that male and field-independent users spent less time than female field-dependent (Chen & Liu, 2008; Lee, et al., 2009; Roy, et al., 2003). Other studies have found that novices achieved a higher g-score than experts (Mitchell, et al., 2005; McDonald and Stevenson, 1998). However, there is a lack of studies demonstrating the influence of related individual differences on learners’ performance using such measurements together after interacting with a WBI system. Experimental research on learning cannot be limited to predicting and explaining the outcomes of simple learning processes in highly controlled settings. How theoretical generalizations derived from such experimental analyses can be applied in practice is an integral question in all modern learning research. ‘Ibis is particularly the case within the field of education. True, the relationship between experimental learning research and educational psychology has a century-long history – a continuous story of disappointed hopes. In the past, some educators argued that after many years of careful and sometimes even excellent research into the nature of learning, learning theorists were apparently the only people to have derived any practical benefit from their theories. But is such a sceptical attitude still justified today, some twenty five years after the end of the behaviourist movement in psychology and the beginning of the so called “cognitive revolution”? Of course even today, even in cognitive learning and memory research the calls for the ecological validity of research designs are emphatic. This is particularly true for research concerned with the development of learning and memory. The reason given for current critiques of learning and memory research is that “our present understanding of memory is limited by the restricted focus on only a very special kind of memory, that is on the deliberate memory of symbolic information over-short time intervals in extremely sterile situations” (Perlmutter, 1988). Fortunately, there are currently a number of research efforts trying to overcome these restrictions and focusing on everyday memory and its functions under multiple context conditions (Weinert & Perlmutter, 1988).

Another reason why the results of cognitive learning and memory research have bad limited application in education is the almost exclusive focus on a search for universal regularities and therefore neglect of individual differences. Omitting some interesting exceptions (for a review see Ackerman, 1987), experimental research into leaning still firmly follows the tradition established by Hermann Ebbinghaus (1885); little attention is given to describing and explaining individual differences in leaning outcomes. Only recently has this situation begun to change (cf. Weinert et al., 1988). Tue neglect of individual differences in experimental research, however, was never typical in research on learning processes and academic achievement in classroom settings. Differences in achievement gains in school are so obvious, and the needs both to explain the development of such differences and to reduce some of these differences are so pressing, that even theoretically focused research has been oriented towards individual differences (Farley & Gordon, 1981). Many models of school learning are good illustrations of this approach (Bloom, 1976; Glaser, 1980; see also Haertel et al., 1983; Fraser et al., 1987). lt may appear somewhat naive to attempt any systematic comparison of the conceptualizations of individual differences in experimental and applied learning research. Quite obviously, the current models are still too fragmentary and too divergent to allow coherent theoretical conclusions.

However, in spite of this, we will venture to make a comparative analysis between individual differences in achievement outcomes observed under experimental conditions, and those that occur in the classroom. Tue main goal underlying this attempt is to enable experimental and applied research to complement each other. Tue value of such a comparative perspective is that it makes it not only possible – but almost self-evident – that applied research can profit from experimental research and that, conversely, experimental research derives stimulating ideas from classroom studies (Cronbach, 1982). This is particularly true for attempts to explain individual differences in achievement outcomes, where parallel developments as well as interesting differences are observable in the two research traditions.

The aim of education is to enable each student to attain all-round development according to his or her own attributes. To achieve this, students should be provided with suitable assistance and guidance in accordance with their abilities and learning needs, so that they can develop their potential to the full.

Each student is a unique individual, different in cognitive and affective development, social maturity, ability, motivation, aspiration, learning styles, needs, interests and potential. Apart from this, there are other factors underlying student differences. These include innate differences in intelligence, differences in social and economic background, variations in past learning experiences, and perhaps variations in the level of congruence between the learner and the curriculum. In view of these factors, catering for individual differences is intended neither to narrow the gap between individuals nor to even out their abilities and performance. It should aim for understanding why students are able or unable to learn well and finding appropriate ways to help them learn better.

1.2             Statement Of The Problem

Academic achievement 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 achievement. Psychologists have put forward a lot of reasons why these disparities in achievement 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 achievement, 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 achievement. 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 achievement, especially in secondary school students. 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 achievement in students is their personality traits. It is in view of this that the researchers intend to investigate the influence of individual difference on the academic performance of secondary school student using Sacred Heart Minor Seminary Akure as a case study.

1.3      Purpose of the Study 

The general purpose of this study is to find out the influence of individual differences on academic performances of secondary school students. The specific objectives are to:

  1. Examine the influence of memory capacity of individual students on their academic performances;
  2. Investigate the influence of Intellectual abilities of individual students on their academic performances;

iii.            Access the influence of quantity and quality of available knowledge that is semantically related to the content of the information to be learned and re called of individual students on their academic performances;

  1. Examine the factors influencing individual differences on academic performances of secondary school students.

1.4       Research Questions

In an attempt to come up with relevant findings in this study, the following questions were raised to guide and give focus to the study:

  1. How does memory capacity of individual students affect their academic performance in senior secondary schools?
  2. How do intellectual abilities of individual students affect their academic performance in senior secondary schools?

iii.               What is the effect of domain-specific knowledge of individual students on their academic performance?

  1. What are the factors influencing academic performance of individual students?

1.5       Research Hypotheses

The following null hypotheses were formulated to guide the study.

1        There is no significance relationship between memory capacity of individual students and   their academic performance.

2        There is no significance relationship between intellectual abilities of individual students      and their academic performance.

3        There is no significance relationship between domain-specific knowledge of individual        students and their academic performance.

4     There is no significance relationship between the factors influencing individual           differences and its effects on academic performances of secondary schoo students.

1.6     Significance of the Study

It is believed that at the completion of the study, the findings will be useful to the management of secondary schools as the study seek to explore the influence of individual difference on the collective academic performance of secondary school student, the study will also be useful to the student as the study will help them understand the influence of individual difference on their collective academic performance, the study will also be of great importance to researcher, academia, students and the general public as the study will add to the pool of existing literature, the study will also be of importance to researchers who intends to embark on study on a similar topic on the subject matter.

1.7 Delimitation of the study

The scope of the study covers the influence of individual difference on academic performance of secondary school students, in the cause of the study, there were some factors which limited the scope of the study

  1. a) Availability Of Research Material: The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study.
  2. b) Time: The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study as well as other social factors.
  3. c) Finance: The finance available for the research work does not allow for wider coverage as resources are very limited as the researcher has other academic bills to cover.

1.8 Operational Definition of Terms

Individual difference: Individual differences are a cornerstone subject area in modern psychology. In many ways, it is the “classic” psychology that the general public refers to.

Academic performance: Academic achievement or (academic) performance is the extent to which a student, teacher or institution has achieved their short or long-term educational goals.

Secondary school: A secondary school is both an organization that provides secondary education and the building where this takes place. Some secondary schools can provide both lower secondary education and upper secondary education.

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