Student attitudes and performance in a personalized system of instruction course in business administration : correlates of performance with personality traits



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This study investigated the effectiveness of a personalized system of instruction (PSI) approach to teaching organizational behavior and management. The PSI approach was compared to the traditional lecture approach in terms of student attitudes and student performance. The study also explored the potential association of student personality traits with student performance under the PSI system. Four sections of a business administration course in Organizational Behavior and Management at the University of Houston were used in the study. Two of the sections utilized the experimental PSI approach. The other two sections utilized a traditional lecture approach and served as comparison control groups. An attitude questionnaire was administered to the subjects in a pretest and posttest-only design. A comprehensive examination was given to the experimental and the control sections at the beginning and at the end of the semester to measure student performance. Students in the experimental PSI sections were given instruments to measure three personality variables potentially related to performance: (1) internal-external locus of control, (2) intolerance of ambiguity, and (3) preference for bureaucratic work environments. Student end-of-course attitudes toward the instructional method were significantly more positive in the experimental PSI sections. The PSI students viewed the instructional method as offering significantly more personal guidance as compared to students in the lecture sections. The PSI method was also perceived as offering more rapid and constructive feedback and more clearly stated goals and objectives and as being more innovative as compared to the conventional lecture approach. The study predicted that attitudes toward the PSI method would become more positive over the semester as students gained -more experience with the method. The data did not support this hypothesis. The negative results were explained in terms of a possible Hawthorne effect and increasingly negative attitudes toward the amount of work required as students gained experience with the method. Students in the PSI sections had significantly more positive attitudes toward the course content as compared to students in the lecture sections. The implications of the possible attitude generalization from instructional method to course content are discussed. Student performance was significantly better in the PSI sections. PSI students had mean final examination scores eight percent higher than lecture students' scores on an identical examination. The study predicted that the personality traits would serve as moderator variables and would be associated with student performance in the PSI sections. No significant relationship was found between student performance and the personality traits of locus of control and preference for bureaucratic work environments. A rationale for these negative findings is discussed in terms of the PSI contingency environment and the possible multidimensionality of the preference for bureaucratic work environment construct. The personality trait of intolerance for ambiguity was associated with student performance in the predicted direction. Students intolerant of ambiguous situations tended to have lower performance. The implications of this finding and the impact of personality traits as moderator variables is discussed. The conclusion is reached that the strength of the PSI contingency environment may reduce the impact of personality constructs and that more fruitful future research should focus upon the basic dimensions of the PSI method in controlled experimental designs. The study suggests that the PSI method is a viable approach to teaching introductory business administration management courses.