Undergraduate Time Use and Academic Outcomes: Results from the University of California Undergraduate Experiences Survey 2006
by Steven Brint & Allison M. Cantwell — 2010
Background/Context: Previous research has established the significance of academic study time on undergraduate students’ academic performance. The effects of other uses of time are, however, in dispute. Some researchers have argued that students involved in activities that require initiative and effort also perform better in class, while students who engage in mainly passive entertainments perform less well. Other researchers have argued that students who are connected to the campus through residence, work, or extracurricular activities perform better, while those who are separated perform less well.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this study is to develop a theory-based framework for examining the academic consequences of student time and to test hypotheses drawn from this framework using survey data.
Research Design: The framework focuses on three dimensions of student time use: study/non-study, active/passive, and connecting/separating. The survey analysis is based on more than 6000 responses to the 2006 University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES).
Findings/Results: Controlling for students’ socio-demographic backgrounds, previous academic achievements, and social psychological stressors, we find that study time is strongly connected to both academic conscientiousness and higher grade point averages. We find that “activating” uses of time, such as physical exercise and volunteering, are associated with higher levels of academic conscientiousness, but not directly to higher grade point averages. Time spent on “passive” entertainments show negative associations on academic conscientiousness. Uses of time that connect students to campus life showed relatively weak and inconsistent effects, as did uses of time that separate students from campus life. Off-campus work was an exception. It showed a strong net association with lower grade point averages.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Our findings have implications for theory: They lead to a stronger focus on academic study time as the central key to positive academic outcomes, and a renewed focus on off-campus work as a major obstacle to positive academic outcomes. They suggest further that college and university administrators should find ways to “unplug” male students from their computer entertainments and to help minority students who need to work to find employment on campus.
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