The relationship between study skills and learning outcomes: A meta-analysis

Year: 1995

Author: Hattie, John, Purdie, Nola

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There have been many studies investigating the relationship between various study skills and learning outcomes. The results of such studies are used by writers of many study skills programs to justify teaching students a pot pourri of study methods. It is increasingly clear, however, that there is not a best set of study skills. Instead, successful students are more likely to display versatility in the use of learning behaviours. Metacognitive awareness allows them to assess task requirements and situational restraints, and to be flexible in their choice of strategy to suit those conditions.

This paper reports the results of a meta-analysis of 52 studies that investigated the relationship between a range of study strategies and outcomes measures. Of particular interest was the association between students' versatility in the use of study strategies and performance outcomes.

The study skills measures were coded into two levels of categories, primarily using the Bigg's (1987) classification scheme. At the more general level, the categories included achieving, deep, and surface approaches (motives and strategies), general study skills, and learning pathologies (e.g., globetrotting, negative attitudes, disorganisation, work avoidance). At the second level, many of these were further sub-divided into specific strategies such as note taking, reviewing textbooks, memorisation, and time on task. The outcome measures were coded into eight major classifications. Ability, general achievement, subject based achievement, increasing memory, changing self-efficacy or self-concept, attitude, and enhancing study skills. In all, there were 653 correlations that could be coded for the meta-analysis.

The average correlation between a study skill strategy and an outcome was .21. Of more interest than overall correlations, were the moderating effects on this overall correlation. Having many study skills (i.e., versatility), as assessed by total study skills scores, was positively related to outcomes. Various deep and achieving approaches were also positively related to outcomes. Surface approaches were negatively related to outcomes, although many surface strategies such as inflexibility and reproducing were unrelated to outcomes. Thus, most of the well known surface strategies are not helpful in enhancing achievement. In general, the strategies that students used were more related to outcomes than were their motives for study. Deep motives, particularly internal locus of control, were the only motives related positively to achievement. Merely increasing time on task was not highly correlated to outcomes. Self-regulation methods were also unrelated to outcomes.