An Analytical Study of the Effectiveness of Academic Procrastination Among High School Students

Written at South Side High School

By Sidrah Raache



Abstract

Academic procrastination refers to the tendency to delay tasks related to one’s studies or schoolwork so that it is not fully completed by the due date or have to be rushed to be done (Orpen, 1998). Since these tasks take up time, especially tasks that are continually assessed throughout the school year, students tend to take the route of unduly rushing them or not submitting them in the appropriate time (Cerino, 2005); for this reason it is not seen as shocking that procrastination causes detrimental effects on students taking college courses (Orpen, 1998). Lack of knowledge has been demonstrated within the field of researching students’ academic procrastination ethics and level of self-efficacy in individuals.

In Nicholson’s journal, sixty undergraduate psychology students were given a survey on how emotionally induced stress had an effect on procrastination. The survey also measured how stress induced a specific type of procrastination accompanied with certain negative emotions, such as anger or frustration (Nicholson, 2007). Previous studies by Idit Katz, in her journal on Motivation & Emotion, and Eunju Lee, who published an article in The Journal of Genetic Psychology, dealt with and conducted research on the motives and deeper understanding behind the reason why students procrastinate, yet failed to delve into the ideals and mindsets of the students. Such intricate studies have yet to be conducted. Researchers such as Juan Muñoz-Olano and Camilo Hurtado-Parrado have participated in these active studies on exploring the repercussions of procrastination on college students. However, no further effort has been made to reduce the population of high school students facing this problem. Muñoz-Olano and Hurtado-Parrado use data from their study titled “Effects of goal clarification on impulsivity and academic procrastination of college students” and report that “nearly 50% of the college population struggles with academic procrastination,” most often leading to college dropouts and emotional stress and difficulty (Muñoz-Olano, 2017). Procrastination has been found to result in lower achievement, higher levels of stress, and higher levels of anxiety according to Angela Hsin Chun Chu and Jin Nam Choi on their study regarding the positive effects of “active” procrastination behavior on attitudes and performance in school.

The lack of procrastination research on high school students is problematic due to the fact that procrastination is a widespread problem among high schoolers. In fact, Caroline Senecal, Richard Koestner, and Robert J. Vallerand address the gap in the research discussing academic procrastination and self-regulation in their article in The Journal of Social Psychology. This problem has negatively impacted undergraduate students and others such as medical students, because of the stress experienced during and outside of class, as well as the work required of the students to be completed. An additional research study done by Uzma Kausar, Sonia Ijaz Haider, and Irfan Ahmed Mughal has addressed increased stress levels experienced by these undergraduate and college students; this examination was conducted with the effort to provide regulations to other medical colleges for developing coping strategies, so that stress can be used as a positive factor to improve students' academic performance. This, however, has not been examined on high school students. According to Katz, personal characteristics, such as self-regulation, self-efficacy, and self-esteem, have received the most attention as variables investigated in relation to or as causes of academic procrastination. That being said, it is confounding that a miniscule amount of studies have been conducted to test whether or not the same phenomenon of decreased work ethic with academic procrastination occurs in students younger than the college age. However, to determine this, the relationship seen between motivation and procrastination in college students must first be established to consequently understand a possibly similar correlation with high school students.

Eunju Lee, researcher at Halla University, South Korea, examined the relationships of motivation and flow experience, colloquially known as being “in the zone,” to academic procrastination in 262 Korean undergraduate students who were tested based off of a survey they did on procrastination and motivation (Lee, 2005). Her results demonstrated that high procrastination was associated with lack of self-determined motivation. This result aligns with the results yielded by the authors of The Journal Of Social Psychology, who observed that the method students regulated their academic behavior was significantly associated with the extent to which they procrastinated. This study was replicated in previous research in showing that impulsive factors associated with fear of failure, such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, were all related to increased levels of procrastination. However, the variables associated with academic procrastination were tested for a specific subject—psychology—and only reflected the students in that class. This result attests to the practicality of looking beyond the typical reasons of delaying work when considering motivational explanations of procrastination. The previous research done on undergraduates begs the question of whether these same conclusions can be drawn in regard to high school students.

As previously stated, a gap regarding the topic of academic procrastination and self-efficacy has not been thoroughly examined, which has even been acknowledged by previous researchers. This provides a validation and justification on why this topic should be researched and emphasizes the problem. However, instead of comparing a massive population of undergraduate students, this research aims to examine whether a similar correlation is observed with high school students, which narrows down the demographic of people the research will consist of. By conducting this research and analyzing a possible trend between the data, it can be determined if the results observed will correspond with previously conducted studies. The hypothesis basis of this study was built from the results of various articles: it is predicted that procrastination will have a positive effect on honors students and a negative effect on non-honors students. From this data, future implications regarding the correction of this problem can be made. This analytical study is relevant to society because, as a generalization, many students tend to procrastinate in their school work (i.e. tests, homework, projects, etc,.). This study also assesses levels of academic procrastination and how different types of procrastination—active or passive—affect the ability to get work done efficiently.


Procedures

To gain a self-reported measure of procrastination, a format similar to that used by the Solomon and Rothblum Procrastination Assessment Scale-Students (PASS) was used, where students’ frequency of procrastinating in the subject that is taught by the same teacher on a non-honors level and on an honors level was assessed. This survey involved acquiring information about individual students—characteristics, opinions, attitudes, previous experiences, habits—by asking them questions and charting their answers on a post-test survey. Students were asked "To what degree do you delay or leave this task till the last minute?" as this has been a question asked in a replicable study by Renee D. Reasinger and Sheila Brownlow, who conducted a study on procrastination as a function of motivation toward college work (Reasinger & Brownlow, 1997). The responses were measured on a 5-point scale ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Students were additionally asked to rate the degree to which they procrastinate in an area of study if that is a problem and/or a recurrence for them along with if they intend to diminish their procrastination in that area. The behavioral measure for procrastination is the late or non-submission of work in: (a) a regular weekly homework in the chosen subject, or (b) a major project in the class chosen. A self-report measure of procrastination was also accounted for in the surveys (Appendix 1), as reflective questions based on the student’s individual habits towards studying in their home life were asked. To assess the frequency of academic procrastination, students were provided with an assignment which accurately prompts procrastination in students. Since two different groups will be tested—non-honors students and honors students—similar tasks, but not exactly identical, will be allocated in order to have an appurtenant comparison.

To determine the reasons students delay academic tasks, participants were asked to read scenarios such as “If you procrastinate, do you believe you did better as a result of procrastinating?” and “you liked the challenge of waiting until the deadline” in order to reflect each participant’s perceptions of their own behavior. The justifications for procrastination found in the study include fear of failure, tendency of distraction, difficulty staying focused, lack of dedication, risk taking, and unwillingness were based on Laura Solomon and Esther Rothblum’s 1984 factor analysis on procrastination. These factors helped assess individual tendencies of each student. Students involved in the study were also asked to provide detailed descriptions of their procrastination ethics and the extent to which they procrastinate—if they do—on certain assignments. Within this questionnaire, participants were asked if there is a certain subject they choose to procrastinate on or whether they choose to procrastinate specifically for tests or for homework assignments in general. The possible low return rate of the questionnaires was taken into consideration as the study was limited in its demographics. Along with the low return rate of questionnaires, the unwillingness of participants and of students to sign consent forms was also taken into account.

With the people that were willing participants in the questionnaire study, each response reflected their writing and reading skills and, perhaps, their misinterpretation of one or more questions (Beck, Koons, & Milgrim, 2000). This method was the most probable method to observe the patterns students might tend to take while procrastinating. By knowing the trends and plotting them using statistical analysis, the results were then allowed to be compared to the results seen in the articles. Anonymity of the students was kept by coding students and assigning each student in the study a different code that will still conceal identity but also allow for the observance of trends in the experiment. The teacher was emailed a spreadsheet containing a list of names of students assigned these specific codes, and then was instructed to randomize the list of students to ensure that the researcher would not know the identity of the student who received a certain grade; anonymity had to be taken into measure since this study involved high school students (legal minors) and required the need to collect parental consent from the chosen population of participants (sophomores, juniors, and seniors). Teachers were also recommended to adhere to an appropriate grading style, specifically one that did not involve giving bonus as that would compromise the results and would heavily shift them to a certain category. Upon the students completing the assignment, teachers were instructed to immediately pass out the coded surveys that belonged to each individual (code numbers represented a specific person). Once the surveys were completed, students were to directly place them into a secured folder so the teacher would not be able to look at them, as looking at the surveys could produce potential bias during the grading process, thus skewing the results.


Results

This study set out to examine the motivational orientation and procrastination tendencies of students at different stages of the high school lifestyle. The groups tested were honors and non-honors students, and classification was done according to whether or not they procrastinated on the given task. The present hypotheses involved a series of comparisons between two distinct groups of people: non-procrastinators and active procrastinators. To test the hypotheses, two subgroups were created from the entire sample in a two-step process, as done in Angela Hsin Chun Chu’s Journal of Psychology study on procrastination (Chu & Choi, 2005). First, non-procrastinators were separated from procrastinators. Participants who scored a level of 3 or above (which was the midpoint of a 5-point Likert scale) on the academic procrastination scale as procrastinators, and categorized those who answered less than 3 as non-procrastinators. The questions were objectively asked and applied to the general population of participants, as the implementation of bias in the questions was avoided at all costs. In the sample of 55 participants, 25 were categorized as non-procrastinators, and 30 were categorized as procrastinators.

In the second step, the groups of procrastinators versus non-procrastinators were further divided into honors students who procrastinated and those who did not, and non-honors students who procrastinated and those who did not; in other words, the groups in the first step were further divided into subgroups according to academic course level. This was done to help organize the chi-square chart to determine how the expected and observed values compared. The chi-square test helped to determine if procrastination is dependent or independent of course level; the t-test was used to examine if the grade received on the assignment had a correlation with the procrastination level.In the second step, the groups of procrastinators versus non-procrastinators were further divided into honors students who procrastinated and those who did not, and non-honors students who procrastinated and those who did not; in other words, the groups in the first step were further divided into subgroups according to academic course level. This was done to help organize the chi-square chart to determine how the expected and observed values compared. The chi-square test helped to determine if procrastination is dependent or independent of course level; the t-test was used to examine if the grade received on the assignment had a correlation with the procrastination level.In the second step, the groups of procrastinators versus non-procrastinators were further divided into honors students who procrastinated and those who did not, and non-honors students who procrastinated and those who did not; in other words, the groups in the first step were further divided into subgroups according to academic course level. This was done to help organize the chi-square chart to determine how the expected and observed values compared. The chi-square test helped to determine if procrastination is dependent or independent of course level; the t-test was used to examine if the grade received on the assignment had a correlation with the procrastination level.


Table 1: Significance Values

Average P-value Significant Significance Value
Treatment 1 (Honors-Procrastinate/Honors-Non procrastinate) H.P: 54.79
H.NP: 80.56
0.039815 Yes Significant at p < 0.05
Treatment 2 (Non-honors-Procrastinate/Non honors-Non procrastinate) NH.P: 78.55
NH.NP: 84.11
0.559138 No Not significant at p < 0.05

Table 1 shows the t-test analysis run to determine the academic outcome of the students for each individual group and sub-group. For teachers of different course level subjects—since the probability of the events happening was greater than 0.05 (the number found in the study was 0.927) —it cannot be stated that procrastination is induced more in course level; significance was recorded for values less than 0.05. In the t-test conducted, it was found that for the group of honors students and comparing the amount that procrastinated to the amount that did not procrastinate, the results were significant, which means the null hypothesis can be rejected. The calculated p-value was 0.0039815, indicating that the results were significant when p < 0.05. However, for the second data set comparing non-honors students who procrastinated to non-honors students who did not procrastinate, the p-value came out to be 0.559138, thus indicating that the results were not significant enough at p < 0.05.


Analysis

Interrelationships among procrastination and academic achievement are presented in Table 1. The level p < .05 was considered as the cut-off value for significance. Academic achievement was significantly associated with procrastination variables, as seen in Eun Hee Seo’s paper on academic achievement (Seo, 2012). The findings from this study indicate that procrastination has an effect on grades to some students, specifically on honors students. However, there was no significant correlation between the course-level difficulty and amount of procrastination, as the observed and expected values (see Table 1) were almost identical. This leads to the conclusion that there is no correlation between course difficulty and the degree to which a student procrastinates. The first hypothesis of the study stated that individual beliefs, lack of guidance, and non-linear behavior in the aspect of dedication to a subject predict academic procrastination. This mindset was seen to additionally correlate with the mindset of college students in Caroline Senecal’s study of self regulation and academic procrastination (Senecal, 2016). The findings showed that although a lack for change, academic tendency, problem avoidance and emotional and psychological irresponsibility have a direct and significant relationship with academic procrastination, the irrational belief of helplessness for change can “positively predict academic procrastination and demand for approval can reversely predict academic procrastination” (Senecal, 1995).

The first finding was that a lack of change of ethics has a direct, and significant relationship with academic procrastination. This conclusion was found on the basis of individual student responses gathered from the post-test survey questions. Also, with this conclusion, academic procrastination can be predicted to significantly have an effect on each individual person. This finding means that those who are affected by a lack of motivation in their tasks have procrastinating tendencies, which have an effect on their work. This finding is in line with the respective findings of Vincent Prohaska and Peter Morrill; Martyn Stewart; and Erin Westgate, who indicated that the lack of motivation of students with the procrastinating mindset ultimately affected the academic outcome. Thus, this indicates that lack of a means for change means that the person believes that past experience—at school or at home—and events determine one’s behavior. Such individuals have no need to create a change in their daily life because these changes would require changing their daily habits on procrastination, which these certain individuals believe has a prominent effect. Thus, students use past experiences and behaviors in current affairs and since this false belief and behavior causes many problems, students who continue procrastinating will eventually have adverse consequences; high schoolers will continue to procrastinate with the hope of still succeeding (Balkis, 2013).

Results also indicated that honors and non-honors students tended to procrastinate with the mentality that the experience of feeling challenged enhanced their ability to complete the project. The feeling of being challenged “compelled” students to unduly finish the task with a successful outcome in mind. However, no relationship was found in this study between students’ procrastination and academic achievement in the non-honors group. Results in this study support the claim that there is no correlation between students’ tendency to procrastinate and their course level (honors or non-honors). In the study by Solomon and Rothblum, which analyzed the clinical practices adhering to procrastination, it was concluded that the “lack of correlation between self-reported procrastination and course grades may have been a methodological factor” (Solomon & Rothblum, 1984). They had asked each student to assess his or her own ability to procrastinate on academic activities without focusing on a specific course, whereas the students’ academic performance was based only on their grades in the introductory psychology course assessed, a different level (Solomon & Rothblum, 1984).


Conclusion and Future Implications

From the findings gained in this study and of previous researchers, it can be concluded that although it is factors other than daily tendencies that prevent procrastinators from doing as well academically-speaking compared with non-procrastinators; students are deluding themselves to believe that procrastination has little to no impact on performance because it allows them to achieve a habit of doing the task in a delayed manner. Although it is not actually connected to increased academic achievement, the essence of procrastinating makes students feel as if studying effectively in a short time will lead to self-satisfaction in individual achievement. The short-lived, euphoric experience of completing the project on such a strict timeline prompts a sense of accomplishment and pride in students that regardless of the deadline, the assignment was finished in a “sufficient enough” manner. Therefore, an implication of the results in this study is that it is necessary for teachers to let students know that experiences of rushing a task in one sitting that result from cramming does not lead to high academic achievement.

It is significant for future researchers to further investigate the factors involved in the general nature of the relationship between procrastination and academic achievement, such as psychological or emotional factors of home life, and how the home environment may trigger or sustain procrastination. Future investigators of this subject should also analyze how academic procrastination tendencies would also play a part in student home life and social life. Researchers could also analyze how these habits play a part in willingness to be social, especially for introverted and extroverted individual types, as delaying school work could reflect the proclivity of spending time with someone. The most significant limitations of this study are the gender demographic of the participants, as well as the number of participants. The majority of the participants were male high school students and the sample size was just 55 students. Therefore, the findings cannot be generalized to other student populations or to the high school female demographic. Further research is necessary in order to determine whether or not the findings may be generalized to other student populations or females. Other limitations should be considered in interpreting the findings of this study. For example, the sample group lacked diversity. Thirty of the fifty-five participants had a senior class standing, as well as differences in coursework, stress levels, and priorities, such as college applications. These factors likely influenced the self-report measures. Each school environment adheres to different regulations of assignments, especially those that typically induce procrastination. Thus, the motivation factors in this study differs from the population of another school.

In this study analysis, academic motivation and self-efficacy were additionally found to significantly contribute to academic procrastination, indicating that students depend on the importance of being aware of one’s own motivations and habits and the confidence in one’s ability to succeed in an academic setting. This study’s results can inform plans to minimize procrastination among high school students, and possibly among the junior high demographic. Although there is a great deal more to be done in addition to this study, potential researchers can use this research as evidence to create informative programs to lower levels of academic procrastination in schools. These results, strengthened by the results of the studies reviewed, can help students achieve goals they make for themselves, both in and out of the class environment, to be completed on the due date successfully. Further research on this topic can increase knowledge on the relationship between academic procrastination and other variables such as perfectionism, self-control, and self-regulatory beliefs. For some, academic procrastination may be a beneficial strategy, as these procrastinators face less anxiety on turning in the task and less stress due to the fact that the deadline of the assignment is not taken into consideration for them, the deadline does not induce stress related tendencies (Senecal, 1995). The results of this study revealed that both motivation and personal upbringing and long-lasting habits have a joint impact on students’ tendency to procrastinate on academic tasks (Senecal, 1995). Academic procrastination is an overwhelming obstacle for many students, leading to scholastic problems and stress-related physical maladies, such as anxiety and depression (Orpen, 1998; Owens & Bowman, 2008).

Researchers additionally must not ignore motivational influences that may have an added impact on academic procrastination when coupled with personality and self-regulatory variables. Each individual will continue to proceed with their current ethics, feeling as if their current habits will continue to benefit them as college approaches. Tactics and habits developed and used in high school will be the basis of how students deal with task stress, whether it is academic or non academic. Since procrastination was seen coupled with personality orientation in this study, home environments and outside influences could also trigger procrastination tendencies (or lack thereof). Without an exact understanding of what psychologically motivates students to start assignments and how such motivation (or lack thereof) influences their procrastination, “don’t do today what can be put off until tomorrow” will continue to be the slogan of many students–in the high school and college realm, and will continue to dominate the adolescent mindset.


References

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Orpen, C. (1998). The Causes and Consequences of Academic Procrastination: a research note. Westminster Studies in Education, 21(1), 73. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=6194528&site=ehost-live

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Appendices

Procrastination Survey Code Number__________________

Please answer this survey and questionnaire with the utmost truth and to the best of your abilities. Your answers may not be shared with others and must remain hidden. Your answers will not be shared with anyone else other than the researcher of this study. Your survey will be disposed of and shredded after the research is complete.

For the purpose of this study, the definition of “procrastination” will be defined as "Does no work-research, studying, prior compiling of information, not “touching” the assignment-at all for the majority of the time period" or "Does no research or writing until the last day or two." Work subsequently will be defined as the compiling of research, data, critical information, and any pre-writing involved in the task. Please answer the questions according to this definition and not according to your own.


Demographics:
Gender:
Grade:
Age:
Class Subject (please specify AP or regular):

  1. When did you intend to start preparing for this assignment? What was the reason behind starting at that time?
  2. To what degree do you delay or leave this task till the last minute? (provide a detailed answer and choose to what degree you chose to procrastinate on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being “I did not procrastinate at all” and 5 being “I heavily procrastinated on this task.”)
  3. Did you like the challenge of waiting until the deadline? If you did not wait until the deadline, please explain why.
  4. When did you start this assignment? How long did it take you to do this task?
  5. Do you believe you did better on this task as a result of procrastinating? If you did not procrastinate, please state why you did not procrastinate.
  6. Would you change your method of approach to this project as a result of completing this task? If not, please state why.
  7. If you procrastinate, do you have preferred subjects to procrastinate on? If so, please state which ones and the level of class it is (AP or regular).


For each of the questions below, circle the response that best characterizes the way you feel about the statement, where 1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Neither Agree Nor Disagree, 4 = Agree, and 5 = Strongly Agree.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree Nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
I often procrastinate on my work. 1 2 3 4 5
I enjoy procrastinating on my work. 1 2 3 4 5
Procrastinating stresses me out when I do. 1 2 3 4 5
I believe procrastinating on my work results in a better academic outcome. 1 2 3 4 5
I enjoy the challenge presented when I procrastinate. 1 2 3 4 5
I procrastinate on all of my work. 1 2 3 4 5
I have developed a habit of procrastinating. 1 2 3 4 5
I only procrastinate when it is necessary to. 1 2 3 4 5
I developed a habit of procrastinating when I entered high school. 1 2 3 4 5
I would like to decrease my procrastination habits (generally or in a specific area). 1 2 3 4 5
Procrastination is a problem for me. 1 2 3 4 5
I often find myself performing tasks that I had intended to do days before. 1 2 3 4 5
I generally delay before starting on work I have to do. 1 2 3 4 5
In preparing for some deadline, I often waste time by doing other things. 1 2 3 4 5
I usually start an assignment shortly after it is assigned. 1 2 3 4 5
I often have a task finished sooner than necessary. 1 2 3 4 5
I am continually saying “I’ll do it tomorrow.” 1 2 3 4 5
I usually take care of all the tasks I have to do before I settle down and relax for the evening. 1 2 3 4 5