Background of the Study
The current standard of Education in Nigeria points to the fact that the educational system in Nigeria leaves much to be desired. Infact, there has been a drastic drop in the quality of Nigerian educational system. Many years ago, Nigerian educational system was ranked among the best in the world (Egwu, 2009). This decline in the quality of education system calls for immediate research and subsequent solution. Identifying factors influencing students‟ achievement and academic performance is a quest for most teachers and a primary goal of most educational researchers (Eggen & Kauchak, 1999). Consequently, much concern is being expressed over the continuous poor academic performance of students in Enugu state, especially in Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (SSCE). The quality of students‟ school achievement is influenced by a wide range of factors like environmental factors (Aremu & Sokan, 2003); teacher factor, (Wool & Hogan, 2003), and psychological factors within the student (Ngwoke, 2006). Such psychological factors encompass the individual‟s cognitive variables such as motivation, anxiety, adjustment and study skills.
Many students are unable to attain mastery in learning because they do not have good study habits or skills. Studying is a process of learning. In schools, effective studying is the most important avenue to effective learning. It is a key to success in school. According to Okeke (1990), studying is an important part of learning because achievement in school depends greatly on the students‟ study skills and habits.
Study skills, simply put, are strategies learners employ to attain learning objectives. According to Ezeani and Ibegbulem (2009), study skills are critical to success in schools; are considered essential for acquiring good grades and are useful for learning throughout one‟s life. Study skills refer to those things that individuals do when they have to locate, organize, and remember information (Tuner, 1991). It has been observed that the most important learning is “learning to learn” (Apeji in Mole, 2007). Developing in students the skills or ability to read, locate and use information effectively to solve a particular problem or make a decision has become a major theme of modern education.
Study skills are discrete techniques that can be learned, usually in a short time, and applied to all or most fields of study. They should therefore, be distinguished from strategies that are specific to a specific field of study and abilities inherent in the student (Gruber, 2011).
Though there may be no generally agreed upon method of studying, every learner approaches learning uniquely. However, Dunn, (1991) sees study skills as the way in which each learner begins to concentrate, process, and retain difficult information. It is a combination of many biologically and experientially imposed characteristics that contribute to effective learning. Broadly, any skill which boosts a person‟s ability to study and pass examinations can be termed a study skill.
There are ways a student can study to increase his ability to retain information and to think critically. They are classified into mnemonics, effective note taking, effective time management, summarizing, use of key words and others. There are also several other methods of studying. Such methods are based on memorization, communication skills, flashcard training, condensing information, summarizing, use of keywords, acronyms and mnemonics, exam strategies, effective time management, organization and life style changes (Parker, 2010).
Some researchers have attempted a grouping of the various methods students have approached learning tasks. Dodgson (2001) grouped these methods to include employing one of those procedures known as “SQ3R”and others. The SQ3R method includes a series of five steps designated by the initials S-Q-R-R-R.
The first step is to survey the material by reading the parts of the chapter that give an overview of the topics covered. The next step is the “Q” in SQ3R which represents question. Formulate a question either aloud or in writing-before actually reading a section of the material. The next step is to read the materials. This involves reading carefully and even more importantly, reading actively and critically. The next step is the second “R” which stands for „recite‟ meaning to look up from the book and describe to one or ones reading partner. The final “R” refers to review. This will involve looking over the information and re-reading the features in one‟s textbook that provide one with an overview of the chapter.
Research efforts have not found any one study skill that is best for all students in all learning tasks (Devin, 1991). There are many useful study skills and the ones that a particular individual uses will depend on the individual and the learning situation (Anderson, 1984). Some other skills that researchers have found particularly effective in helping students include summarizing (Brown, 1992); outlining and the use of graphic organizers such as mapping, (Devine,
1991); self questioning (Anderson, 1984); and SQ3R, Brown (1984). Kizlik (2007) also identified study skills to include Advance Organization, Directing Attention, Selective Attention, Self Management, Advance Preparation, Self Monitoring, Delayed Production, Self Evaluation, Self-Reinforcement and working alone or with other people depending on the material being studied.
Operationally, study skills can be defined as strategies, methods and techniques which learners employ to attain learning objectives. The term study skills is used for general approaches to learning and skills for specific courses of study. It is pertinent to note, therefore, that every individual has a number of unique ways or skills to learning. When an individual is equipped with a good number of study skills, it undoubtedly predisposes such individual to better academic achievement but when the individual lacks the basic facilitating study skills, it may result in poorer academic achievement.
Consequently, study skills can be said to be a crucial factor in academic achievement. According to the Haber (2009) students who are very successful in their desired career have good study skills. However, many students experience some nervousness or apprehension before, during or after an examination which affects memory. Some students might study hard to pass tests but might not posses the basic study skills to be able to overcome the anxious conditions in which they find themselves during examinations.
Anxiety is one of the emotional components of human life. Anxiety occurs when the individual has too many fears and feels unable to control one‟s life. Therefore, anxiety is regarded as a common psychological problem among human beings with its physical, emotional and social manifestations.
Patel in Nwimo (2006) conceived anxiety as the sensation of feeling, fearfulness and nervousness. Anxiety is the state of being uneasy, tense or troubled in mind about some uncertain events (Okeke, 1990). It manifests itself in an individual when an unpleasant present or past experience registers in the memory system. Anxiety related behavours include feelings of inadequacy, and loss of self confidence (Hurlock, 1985); withdrawing into a fantasy world, (Lansdown, 1984); forgetfulness, (Grasha, 1995); and impaired concentration, (Kagan and Haveman, 1980). This could be why Hart (1992) submitted that anxiety experience may create a psychological state that endures and affects memory and behaviour for some time. Goudey (2002) and Goliszek (2004) outlined characteristics of anxiety to include worry, tension, nervousness and being ill at ease.
Generally, anxiety may be said to have some identifiable features. Denga (2009) classified features of anxiety to include widespread discharge of the autonomic nervous system, raised blood pressure, hyperpnoea, sweating, and dryness of the mouth, tachycardia and fear. He postulates that the persistence and severity of those characteristics or reaction depend on the severity and duration of anxiety. Heightened or intense anxiety may impact unpredictably on any learner‟s achievement or performance in a task. Mandler & Sarason as cited in Nurmi & Wright (2010) found that highly anxious subjects tend to produce self oriented responses in stressful situation, which distracts their attention from learning/recall task. Haber (2009) found that highly anxious learners lose their capacity for processing task relevant information because they focus on task unrelated information. Regrettably, these results suggest that anxiety may also have adverse effects on students‟ achievement in examinations. Test anxiety is common among students at all levels. It is normal to feel some level of anxiety and stress regarding upcoming examinations or presentations.
In essence, therefore every task performance is accompanied by some measure of anxiety. Test anxiety has been defined as the reaction to stimuli that are associated with an individual‟s experience of test taking or evaluating situations (Sieber, 1980). Hence, it can also be defined as the reaction that students exhibit to examination. Two principal components of test anxiety are cognitive and emotional (Morris, Davis, & Hutchings, 1981). The cognitive component is the mental activity that revolves around the testing situation and its potential implication on the individual. It constitutes elements such as, negative centered thought (Adewale, 2011) and lack of confidence in one‟s ability (Sarason & Sarason, 1990).The emotionality component is the physiological component of test anxiety leading to tension, apprehension, and nervousness towards examinations, which may be associated with somatic symptoms such as palpitation, nausea, and perspiration (Zeidner, 1998)
Negative effects of test anxiety on academic achievement can be explained by two models: the interference model and the learning deficit model (Wine, 1980; Tobias, 1985). According to the interference model, anxious students are distracted or perturbed due to task irrelevant cognitions and negative thoughts. However, the learning deficit model proposes that it is students‟ ineffective study skills during preparation for a test that causes them to be anxious and which affects performance on the test (Neveh-Benjamin,Mckeachie, & Lin, 1987). The two models sometimes act in an integrated manner to affect a student performance (Musch, 1999)
However, test anxiety has been variously categorized into different levels. According to Haber (2009) test anxiety can be high, moderate or low. It is assumed that every human task is accompanied with some measure of anxiety; therefore, it is good to have some level of anxiety before performing any important task. When an individual‟s test anxiety level is high it could be said to be debilitating but when it is moderate or low it becomes facilitating (Barnes, 2008).
Though individuals with test anxiety do not have any kind of intellectual deficiency, they are not able to tackle test taking issues effectively (Sarason, 1988; Tobias, 1985). Students with high levels of test anxiety are more likely to employ less effective study strategies, and more likely to procrastinate and engage in repetitive memorization strategies (Cassady, 2004)
Demographic variables such as age, gender, ethnicity, and study skills also affect test anxiety levels (Rasor and Rasor, 2008). Individual‟s study skills could be one of the factors leading to test anxiety. Test anxiety is a major predictor of academic performance (McDonald, 2001; the various studies have demonstrated that it has a detrimental effect (Musch and Broda, 1999; Clark and Fox, 1998; Zeidner, 1998)Students with high test anxiety develop and maintain less complete conceptual representations of the course content. To improve academic performance, academic counselors often focus on the underlying causes of test anxiety and on the students‟ study skills (Topman & Jansen, 1994).
Consequently, the increased arousal caused by anxiety makes it more difficult for students to perform activities that require a great deal of attention. As a result, anxiety prone students are often confused, forget easily and perform poorly in learning or in school activities. Holland-Sworth cited in Okeke(1990) affirmed that anxious subjects defined their arousal as debilitative whereas non-anxious subjects viewed their arousal as a cue to exert greater effort towards test. Anxious students, when under evaluative threat, engage in more negative thinking that may interfere with task accomplishment (Deffenbacher, Sarason & Stoops as cited in Okeke, 1990)
Apparently, adolescents in secondary school, perhaps owing to the identity crisis of their stage of development, suffer more test anxiety than students in other levels of educational system. Hart, (1992) observed that a large number of anxious adolescents in the secondary schools not only develop feelings of inadequacy, over-sensitivity and a low tolerance for stress, but also allow themselves to be tormented by inner and outer dangers that they cope with life apprehensively. Kagan & Havemann, (2000) have found that anxiety can be relieved and performance on test can often be improved by such measures as relaxation, study skills enhancement and practice at concentrating on the test itself rather than on one‟s inner feelings.
Operationally, test anxiety can be generally defined as reactions that students exhibit in testing situations. It is a popular agreement that test anxiety debilitates academic achievement. Test anxiety can be high, moderate or low. High test anxiety leads to poor test achievement while moderate and low test anxiety levels lead to better academic achievement.
Furthermore, recent researchers are increasingly focusing on the issue of gender related differences and similarities in achievement and behaviour. Gender has sound psychological background and it is used to refer to specific cultural patterns of behaviour that are attributed to human sexes(Nnachi, (2010). School and government have made progress in eliminating gender discrimination from their policies and programmes. In spite of that, gender bias and sex stereotyping still remains (Earle & Roach,1989). Gender bias occurs whenever someone‟s attitude, decisions and actions towards an individual are based on that individual‟s gender, thus, in Nigeria, which is a patriarchal society, gender bias according to Hodge (2001) is very pervasive. It is therefore, pertinent to carefully examine gender as a factor that could influence students test anxiety level and achievement.
Achievement is central in educational process. It is one of the sole predictors of the extent of the realization of educational objectives.
Achievement according to Suinn (2011) refers to the outcome of what an individual has learned from some educational experiences. Isnian (2009) is of the opinion that an individual‟s understanding of any educational activity can be determined by the academic achievement.
Academic achievement is the ability to study and remember facts and being able to communicate one‟s knowledge verbally or down on paper (Sansgry,2008). Academic achievement is a mark of success for both students and teachers. Academic achievement is commonly measured by examinations. In recent times, there has been decline in academic achievement of students in public examinations especially in English Language. For instance, Uwadie, (2010) reported that only 24.94 per cent of the candidates who sat for the May/June 2010 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), made five credits, including English language and Mathematics. This represents 337.071 of the 1,278,843 candidates whose results were released. In 2009, only 25.99 percent made five credits including English and Mathematics, while in 2008 it was 13.76 percent, and 2007, 22.54 percent . All together the influence of study skills on students‟ levels of test anxiety and school achievement need to be investigated.