Canadian University Study: What Helps Students Graduate With Better Marks


A study by researchers from Concordia University in Canada revealed that students who experience both highs and lows actually graduate with good marks. Students who are consistently happy and unhappy did not have the best grades.

Times Higher Education reported that Dr. Erin Barker, an assistant professor of psychology at Concordia University, led the longitudinal study. Dr. Barker and her co-authors studied the progress of students over four years. They monitored their emotional well-being and exam results.

The researchers discovered that students who were consistently unhappy got the lowest grade-point averages. Consistently happy students, on the other hand, were able to perform well. the students who performed the best were those who were generally happy but experienced bouts of negativity.

Dr. Barker said that challenging and frustrating situations result to emotions that "inform us about our environment." People need to understand and regulate these emotions in order to make the appropriate response.

She added that negative feelings, like disappointment, anxiety and frustration, can be used for self-regulation. Students who are able to figure out that their negative moods are only temporary can get over them easily.

The study can be viewed here. It was conducted on 187 full-time first-year students. They were asked to complete questionnaires about recent affective experiences in six waves across four years.

Study International added that it was not until two years into the study that the pattern became clearer. This may have been caused by the fact that all students went through some form of emotional turmoil when they start their higher education.

Dr. Barker believes that the first two years at university is where high-achievers develop their self-regulation. They are able to use the challenges that they met to motivate them to do better next time.

If they got poor marks during that initial two years, they organize their time more efficiently and talk to their professors about how they can improve. Dr. Barker believes that this resiliency is what puts them "on top of the heap."

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