!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: The Relationship Between Study Time and GPA

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Relationship Between Study Time and GPA

It would seem we're in "dog bites man" territory, when we read that the father/son team of Ralph Stinebrickner (professor of mathematics and computer science at Berea College) and Todd Stinebrickner (professor of economics at the University of Western Ontario), has established a strong statistical relationship between the amount of time students study and the grades they receive.

This research result is newsworthy because, however obvious the connection between studying and grades may seem, it has been hard to pin down statistically. The problem the Stinebrickners (S&S) solved was a lack of data enabling researchers to control for the other factors that could conceivably affect grades (e.g. class attendance, time spent sleeping, etc.). In previous statistical studies, the link between study time and grades turned out to be weak.

S&S got their data from the Berea Panel Study (pdf), their ongoing longitudinal survey of college entrants from low income backgrounds. As explained in their paper, "The Causal Effect of Study on Academic Performance," (pdf) S&S were able to create two groups of students alike in all respects except one, namely whether or not a particular student's randomly assigned roommate brought a video game to school.

S&S established that students whose roommates had video games studied less than those whose roommates were sans video game; the former studied an average of 0.79 hours per week, while the corresponding figure for the latter was 4.06 hours per week.

The Stinebrickners then went on to estimate the impact of this difference in study effort on the GPAs of the students in the two groups. That estimate turned out to be 0.356 points on a four-point GPA scale, a result significant at the 92% level.

In addition to their basic conclusion that study effort has a significant effect on GPA (significant in both statistical and practical terms), S&S also concluded that:
  • Programs which encourage struggling students to work harder should pay off, at least for students who respond by increasing their study time.

  • One of the ways peers can affect how well fellow students perform academically is by influencing each other's time allocation.

  • Video games can detract from learning. (This conclusion does not refer to classes in which video games are part of the learning methodology.)

  • It makes sense to include some measure of applicants' academic work ethic as one of the factors considered in reaching college admission decisions.
I would just wrap up by noting that most students have conducted their own personal controlled experiments whose outcomes support the S&S result, i.e., students find that they do better or worse on tests for a particular class, depending on how much time they put into preparatory studying.