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JSTOR helps people discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please contact email@example.com. SOME FACTORS THAT DETERMINE THE HABITS OF STUDY OF GRADE PUPILS WILLIAM CLAUDE REAVIS Oakland City, Indiana Investigations by Dr. Earhart 1 of Columbia University have shown that a very large per cent of the pupils of our public schools do not study properly or profitably, and that as a result much energy is dissipated and a great deal of waste in time and effort is incurred. The cause is not to be found in the motives and purposes of the pupils, but in their ignorance of correct habits and methods of study. The term study is an enigma to many children, and when told to study a lesson they generally do every- thing but the right thing. I have frequently heard pupils respond, when asked if they had studied their lesson, that they had read it over a certain number of times. The recitation showed dis- tinctly that their preparation had been entirely wanting in the zeal, thoroughness, and definite motivation essential to the mastery of an assignment. They had no doubt wasted more energy in aimless efforts than would have been required to master two or three similar lessons, if judicious habits of study had been made use of. Of course, this will mean new and increased responsibilities for the teachers. It will require on their part a more accurate knowledge of home environments, a greater familiarity with school- room hygiene, and a more intimate knowledge of the mental traits and characteristics of the pupils as individuals. "However, if as the result of this endeavor we teach the child how to study effectively, we do the most useful thing that could be done to help him to adjust himself to any environment of modern civilized life into which he may be thrown." 1 Teaching Children to Study. 7i 72 THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER The following study is an attempt to find out some of the factors both in and out of school that may influence and perhaps determine the habits of study of grade pupils, and to suggest ways by which these influences may be modified and even controlled by the class teacher. The material upon which the discussions are based is the result of a year's observations and carefully kept records in a typical town school system of five hundred pupils. The teachers who took the records were well qualified on the grounds of scholar- ship, successful experience in the school system, knowledge of the individuality of the pupils, and familiarity with home conditions. Furthermore, the opinion of the individual teacher is corroborated in almost every case by the opinion of at least one other teacher. In the first place, each teacher was asked to make a very care- ful study of the methods and habits of study of the pupils in her grade, taking into consideration their habits of application, per- severance, and thoroughness in mastering assignments and their ability to select, organize, and retain. Considerable time was given to the grading of the pupils according to the above points, and in cases in which there was some doubt, judgment was not passed without consultation with other teachers who knew the individuality of the particular pupil under consideration, equally well. When the grading was completed, each grade was divided into three equal tertiles, designated as Class I, Class II, and Class III. By this method of classification, the variation of standards of judgment among the different teachers was reduced to a minimum, so far as the results as a whole were concerned, because each teacher's Class I was grouped with the same class of the other teacher's, and similarly, all pupils of Class II were grouped together, and likewise Class III. HOME ENVIRONMENT In the next place, an effort was made to get the exact status of the home environment of each pupil, in order to ascertain, if possible, what relations obtained between the habits of study of the pupil and the rank of his home surroundings. Data concern- ing the homes of 393 children were gathered and graded according to the following points : educational interest on the part of parents, HABITS OF STUDY OF GRADE PUPILS n means to provide adequate food, clothing, medical attention, books, papers, magazines, and entertainment, and moral atmosphere that would encourage honesty, earnest effort, regard for the rights of others, and a due measure of self-respect. The homes were then divided into three equal ter tiles and designated as Rank I, Rank II, Rank III. TABLE I Habits of Study Class I Class II Class III Per cent 75 32-4 15 3 Per cent 19.7 48.2 40.7 Per cent 5-3 19.4 44 Environment Rank III In the above table, it is observed that 75 per cent of the pupils of environments of the first rank, 32.4 per cent of the second rank, and 15.3 per cent of the third rank have habits of study of the first class. The large percentage of first-class students in the environments of the second and third rank is due to two things: first, the home conditions of the town are extraordinarily good, and secondly, by grouping in tertiles the character of the homes of the third rank are much better than if grouped according to some fixed standard of grading, because the number of poor homes being relatively few, the third rank includes many homes that would be ranked higher under the other system of classification. In this particular school the pupils coming from an environment of the first rank have two and three tenths the chances of having first-class habits of study that a pupil has coming from an envi- ronment of the second rank. A further examination of the per- centages shows that there is a marked correlation between the rank of the home environment and the habits of study of the pupil. If these results stand for anything, they indicate that home environment is a potent factor in fastening upon the child habits of behavior that are utilized in other kinds of activity. Certain parents said to the teachers when spoken to concerning the habits of work of their children, "That is just the way they do every- thing at home." One good mother in conversation with the teacher of her son remarked, when told that her son was very care- 74 THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER less about his habits of study, "That is a family failing, he takes it after his father." It may be true that an element of heredity enters into the problem, but for the purposes of this study, it will be passed by with the explanation that the pupil may adopt many of his habits of behavior through imitating activities seen in the home, or that he unconsciously takes up bad habits and the home unwittingly permits them to become established in his conduct. At least, the study points out the fact that the possible origin of many of the habits and attitudes of school children is in the home. TABLE II HOME STUDY Environment Rank I Rank II Rank III Home study Per cent 35-5 4-i Per cent 54-2 43-8 Per cent 7-3 42.1 No home study In Table II, we see 179 pupils who did home study and 207 who did no home study, distributed according to their home environment. It is interesting to see that the large percentage of pupils doing home study come from environments of the first and second rank, and that the large percentage doing no home study come from environments of the second and third rank. The percentages indicate that the large number of pupils coming from homes of the first rank do home study, while the large majority of those coming from homes of the third rank do no home study. The pupils who come from homes of the second class are very evenly divided. From an analysis of the above table, it is easy to see what class of pupils is kept under parental discipline, and what class is permitted to loaf on the streets during their out-of-school hours. For some time I have recorded my observations of the pupils who seem to spend the greater part of their time on the streets, when out of school, and I find that the great majority come from homes of the third rank. Is it any wonder, then, that more than 50 per cent of the pupils doing no home study belong to homes of the lowest rank ? HABITS OF STUDY OF GRADE PUPILS 75 In a previous study, 1 I have shown that high-school pupils who do regular home study take higher standing in school than those who do no home study. I take the same position with reference to grade pupils. While I know that there are conditions under which home study is not advisable, yet in the large majority of cases it is advisable, as is shown by Table III. TABLE III Habits of Study Home study. . . . No home study . Class I Per cent 57-7 17-3 Class II Per cent 36.5 45-5 Class III Per cent 6-5 37-2 Table III shows the pupils of Table II distributed according to their habits of study. The large percentage of pupils doing home study have habits of study of the first and second class, and the large percentage who do no home study have habits of the second and third class. The small percentage of home-study pupils having habits of study of the third class and the small number of pupils who do no home study, having habits of study of the first class, convinces me that so far as this particular school is con- cerned home study is of great value. The objection is sometimes made that it is not within the power of the teacher to control the home study of the pupils, and there- fore, it is better to have them do none. Under the old method of schoolroom procedure, there may have been some validity to this objection, but under the changing methods, I am led to believe that a great deal of home study can be very satisfactorily done. Formerly the chief work of the teacher was to test by means of recitations the character of the pupils' study, and little attention was given to the direction and supervision of study. Now, the work of the class hour is often given up to study recitations, and to teaching the pupils how to study particular lessons or, in a word, to teaching them how to think. Consequently, the pupil may now engage in home study with some degree of efficiency, and if par- 1 School Review, XIX, 395. 76 THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER ticipated in by the parent, the work may take the form of a reci- tation rather than teaching. The problems of school and home study may be rendered more effective by finding out home conditions and securing the intelli- gent co-operation of the parents through home visitation by the teachers. It is one of the best means of gaining the confidence of parents, for, when they find that the teacher is more than a salaried official, as a rule the majority are both ready and anxious to co-operate in any way the teacher may suggest. Thus, through a mutual understanding between parents and teacher, the work of the pupil in school may be greatly improved. TRAITS TO BE CULTIVATED An analysis of the study process will reveal nine mental traits that should be thoroughly understood and made to function as habits in the mental work of a student. The interpretation of these traits are as follows: i. Speed — the rate of accomplishment. 2. Neatness — orderly arrangement of all written material. 3. Accuracy — reliability of results. 4. Initiative— power to originate, opposite of imitative. 5. Self-reliance — self-confidence, as opposed to self -deprecia- tion and subservience to teacher, books, and classmates. 6. Perseverance — continuity of attention and effort. 7. Ability to organize — power to arrange things according to some definite sequence or order. 8. Ability to select — i.e., to arrange or pick out facts according to their relative value, or with reference to some given theme. 9. Ability to retain — power of making associations. In order that it might be ascertained whether or not there was a relation between these characteristics and the pupils' school work, the teachers above the fourth grade were asked to study each pupil carefully and grade him according to the nine traits, using the following scale: I. When the trait was decidedly pronounced. II. When the trait was noticeable, yet not distinctly marked. III. When the trait was very weak. HABITS OF STUDY OF GRADE PUPILS 77 This task was faithfully performed. Although it was done in a quantitative rather than a qualitative way, I attach much value to the judgments. As a matter of fact, the teacher's judgment of the intelligence of elementary-school children is more reliable than any qualitative standards yet devised have been able to give. This has been clearly demonstrated by David Heron of the Galton Laboratory of Eugenics. While the personal equation of the teacher enters into the judgments, still they probably furnish the most reliable data that could be obtained. The tables and the discussions that follow will show the possi- bility of modifying or changing the habits of the pupils that are factors in the process of study, and will open up a field of new work for the teachers who have made no effort to direct and con- trol the study of their pupils. Table IV shows the correlation of the pupils' habits of speed, neatness, and accuracy, and the distribution of the grades in arithmetic according to the correlation involved. The habits were grouped in threes, because of the facility gained in tabulating the results, and because of the possibility of discovering the rela- tive value of the various habits. Arithmetic was selected for the reason that there were more pupils ranking low and high in that subject than in any other, consequently, the correlation obtained between the marks in arithmetic and the habits of study would be more significant than if the pupils' grades had been relatively uniform in character. In correlating the three habits, it was found that there were twenty-seven different combinations. Of these there were three perfect correlations in which each of the three habits had equal development, six in which the relation between neatness and accuracy was uniform with speed as a recessive character, six in which the relation between speed and accuracy harmonized and neatness was the varying factor, six in which the relation between speed and neatness obtained and accuracy passed into recession, and six in which each of the three habits were different in character of development. From this grouping, I was able to find the combination of habits that gave the best results, and thus was able to study the 78 THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER pre-eminence or the recessive character of the different habits as they appeared in the results of the marks in arithmetic, which were obtained through the teacher's judgment of the pupil's worth in that subject, after a consideration of the daily class record and the written work. The results, therefore, ought to be reliable, and should throw some light on the question under discussion. TABLE IV Speed Neatness Accuracy No. of Popils ra Rank I Rank II Rank III AAA BBB 15 8 19 1 1 2 2 2 3 2 7 1 1 4 19 4 4 2 4 5 1 4 4 2 4 5 5 2 3 1 4 I 4 CCC bAA 1 cAA '. ... aBB cBB 7 aCC bCC 4 AAb AAc BBa BBc CCa CCb AbA AcA BaB 3 2 BcB CaC CbC 7 3 ABC ACB BAC 4 BCA CAB CBA Note. — In the above table, the recessive trait is written in small letters, the correlating traits in capitals, and the combinations in which the correlation is perfect or in which the three traits differ i written in capitals. By bringing certain habits to the foreground, either individually or in correlation with another, and by reducing, similarly, the other habit or habits to the background, we are able to see in HABITS OF STUDY OF GRADE PUPILS 79 Table IV that the best combination of habits for arithmetic are first-class habits of accuracy, first-class habits of neatness, and second-class habits of speed. This conclusion may seem some- what absurd, because the above combination is placed ahead of the group of three first-class habits between which the correlation is perfect; but after a careful consideration and an analysis of individ- ual cases, it is easy to verify. When speed is too highly developed in elementary pupils, it often defeats its own end by interfering with the pupil's accuracy and neatness. Thus, by over-develop- ment, it becomes negative in character with reference to the other habits. The table also shows that habits of neatness are a very close second in importance to the habits of accuracy. This is not at all strange, when we take into consideration that in doing work neatly, the pupil must necessarily be more attentive to processes and results. Hence, habits of neatness are very intimately asso- ciated with habits of accuracy in efficient work; and by cultivating the one, improvement is likely to be gained in the other. By following Table IV through carefully, a teacher can easily locate a pupil with reference to his habits of study, and may be able to meet in an efficient way the individual need. To illus- trate, a pupil may be exceedingly rapid in his habits of work and as a result fall low in his marks, because of inaccuracies and slovenly work. The teacher should hold the speed in check to a certain extent, and insist upon neat workmanship and reliable results, instead of indulging the habits of speed and permitting the pupil to pay the penalty in classmarks. Such a scheme, although possessing some limitations, is a step toward the control and direction of the pupils' methods and habits of study, and will no doubt bring beneficial results, if consistently followed by the class teacher. Similar tables were prepared to show the significance of (a) initiative, self-reliance, and perseverance; and (b) of habits of organization, selection, and retention. The results of the comparison (a) show that perseverance is slightly more important than self-reliance, and that self-reliance is a shade more important than initiative. However, the table 80 THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER shows that after the group containing the three first-class habits, the combination of first-class habits of initiative, second-class habits of self-reliance, and first-class habits of perseverance prob- ably make the best group. To anyone who has studied carefully the mental traits of chil- dren, it is evident that the above triad of habits is a character- making group. The pupil who possesses any one of them in a marked degree is fortunate, for with any one as a basis the other two may be developed. In school work, then, the three should receive practically equal attention from the teacher, for the pupil who fails to develop strength along some one of these lines, at least, loses a very valuable asset for later life. The charge has often been made against much of our teaching — and with some justice — that in the school the pupils are enter- tained rather than exercised, that they are guests of the school rather than hosts, and that they are taught imitativeness and dependence rather than initiative, self-reliance, and perseverance. I have no doubt that these conditions, when they do exist, are due primarily to neglect on the part of the parents and teachers to cultivate and encourage self-activity in the pupils. Self-activity and a feeling of responsibility are the foundation of initiative, self-reliance, and perseverance, and unless these traits receive some direction and gratuitous exercise or, in a word, made to func- tion as habits, they are likely to become dwarfed or abnormally developed. The two groups of habits discussed in connection with Table IV and in the last few paragraphs are general in character, and although of great value in study, they are equally valuable in any field of human activity. But the habits considered in the final subdivision (b) are more specialized in character, and their chief value is to be found in mental activity. Measured according to the traditional purpose and aim of education, this group of habits is THE group that ought to be most thoroughly understood and most carefully directed by the teacher, for the success of the pupil in mastering book material will depend very largely upon his ability to select, organize, and retain. The investigation showed that the factor of greatest importance HABITS OF STUDY OF GRADE PUPILS 8l is retentiveness. The other two are very similar in value, although the power to organize seems to be slightly more important than the ability to select. This should not appear strange, for the power of establishing and mastering associations carries with it more or less of the ability to organize, while selection is more of an analytical process. An extended discussion of these habits would involve a consideration of apperception, a topic with which every reader should be somewhat familiar. Suffice it to say that by directing and supervising the study of the pupils, as a part of school work, the teacher can give attention to the development of these special habits in special subjects, so that they may be carried over to a certain extent into any mental work that the pupil may have to do. CONCLUSIONS In concluding this study I am thoroughly conscious of the limited character of the investigations I have made. Some of the points I hope to work out more fully at some future time. However, I do think that the data warrant several conclusions that should enable the teacher to supervise more effectively the habits of study of the pupils, during a period nascent to habit formation. i . Home environment is a factor in the formation of study habits. Its influence may be either for good or for bad. It is possible for the teacher to exert some modifying influence over environmental conditions. 2. Home study is desirable, because it acts as a check on the formation of habits out of school, that would be negative in their influence on habits in school. Furthermore, the pupils who do home study are as a rule stronger students than those who do none. 3. By analyzing the habits of study of a pupil, his weakness may be discovered and active and conscious steps may be taken to form, strengthen, or inhibit certain habits that may need atten- tion. This work is entirely within the province of teaching and should receive as careful attention as the teaching of the formal subjects.