Peer Group Influence And Academic Achievement Of Pupils

Abstract: This study focused on the relationship between peer group influence and academic achievement of pupils in social studies. It was a survey of pupils drawn from four public primary schools in Obot Akara Local Government Area. Three peers influence including drug use; absenteeism and loitering were identified for analysis. A total of 240 pupils who offered social studies were involved in the study. Three hypotheses were raised and tested using the person product moment correlation (PPMC) (r). The study found out that peer group influence was significantly related to the academic achievement of pupils in social studies. The study made the following recommendations: that, the trained counselor should be posted to all the primary schools so as to help counsel few pupils with negative influence. The parent should have effective supervision and Class teachers should not allow another home environmental factor to distract their pupils. There is a need for the teacher to have greater supervision and regulations on in-school pupils to enhance the effectiveness of their performance.

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Peer Group Influence And Academic Achievement Of Pupils

 CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background of the Study

Peer groups are among the most influential social forces affecting pupil’s behavior – from mundane decisions concerning clothing, hairstyle, music, and entertainment, to more significant decisions concerning short and long-term education plans. During the formative adolescent years, peers are arguably even more important than parents, teachers, and counselors, and the peer-influenced decisions of youth can have long-lasting consequences Coleman (1966); Sewell, Haller and Portes (1969); Sewell, Haller and Ohlendorf (1970). Parents recognize the importance of peer groups and – through their choice of neighborhoods, schools, and activities Haynie, South and Bose (2006); Lareau (2003); Mouw and Entwisle (2006) – attempt to guide and direct their Children’s friendship selections, which can be increasingly challenging during adolescence.

Regardless of socioeconomic status, parents want their children to be surrounded by the best possible social networks, especially during adolescence, when youth are increasingly independent from parents. During these formative years, educational goals take form, and youth make a series of decisions that shape their educational trajectories, even as their friendship networks gain influence upon these decisions. Unfortunately, the peer effects literature is lacking in two main areas. The first is that peer effects are assumed to be uniform across class, gender, and race and ethnicity. Race and ethnicity are especially likely to be important because adolescents are more likely to choose friends of the same racial and ethnic group Hamm, Brown, and Heck (2005); Haynie, South and Bose(2006); Quillian and Campbell( 2003), introducing the possibility that peers have differing effects by race and ethnicity.

The second problem is that few studies focus on academic decisions that are directly influenced by friends, such as course or track selection and college choices. Instead, most studies of peer effects focus on educational outcomes that are indirectly influenced by friends, such as early cognitive development, grades, promotion, and, most commonly, test scores Goux and Maurin, (2007); Hanushek (2003); Henry and Rickman (2007); Kang (2007); Zimmerman (2003). Hanushek et al. (2003) and others have pointed out that if innovations to behaviour form an important avenue through which peers affect outcomes, the inability to capture such behaviour might lead to a serious underestimation of peer influences. Thus, behavior decisions may lie at the intersection between peers and achievement – effectively acting as a mediator through which the influence of peers passes prior to shaping student achievement.

Educational economists throughout the world have highlighted, in theoretical and empirical studies, the relevance of peer group quality to student performance Epple and Romano, (1998); Hoxby, ( 2000). According to the above researchers a peer group affects student achievement in several ways: members of a group interact in learning, help each other in their studies, share important information, and impose externalities on others by behaving well or badly (for example, a noisy student disrupts the study environment) or by allowing teachers to go deeper in subjects, contribute to the formation of values and aspirations, and so on.

Understanding the nature and the magnitude of peer group effects in education is crucial for the “productivity” of educational processes and the organizational design of school systems. for example, in order to improve student outcomes, it is important to know which inputs influence their performance most and the relative importance of peer effects compared to other inputs, such as teacher quality or school resources. Peer effects are also important in school Department of Economics and Statistics, University of Calabria. We would like to thank you for useful suggestions and comments Mariarosaria Agostino, Francesco Aiello, Giovanni Anania, Giorgio Brunello, Paola Cardamone, seminar participants at the Oslo EALE Conference (September 2007) and two anonymous referees. We thank the administration of the University of Calabria for allowing access to the administrative dataset and Maria Gabriele, Paolo Santolla and Antonio Ventriglia for helping with the use of data.

If peer effects are at work, educational outcomes are affected by how students are arranged across classes and the desirability of comprehensive schools (which mix students of different abilities together) or stratified schools (which tend to aggregate students according to their abilities) depends on the magnitude and non-linearity of peer effects. Furthermore, this activity of university admission policies produces different results in the presence of peer effects. More importantly, the nature of peer effects also has fundamental implications in a family’s choice with regards whether parents consider that their offspring would benefit from schools which sort students according to their abilities.

Starting from the classical study of Coleman (1966), a host of works have analyzed the effects of peer group on children’s achievement and educational outcomes Betts and Morell, (1999); Hoxby, (2000); Angrist and Lang,(2004); Hanushek (2003) and on college students’ grades and choices of fields of study (Sacerdote, 2001; Zimmerman, 2003; De Giorgi, Pellizzari and Redaelli, 2006; Foster, 2006), but several problems and controversies are still unresolved. Some of these studies show that peer effects are statistically and economically significant in a variety of educational contexts and that students tend to perform better if the quality of their peer group is higher (Ding and Lehrer, 2006; Zimmerman 2003; Vandenberghe,2002; Hoxby, 2000; Sacerdote, 2001; Zimmer and Toma, 2000).

Moreover, a number of these studies show that peer effects are often non-linear, implying that students of middle abilities are particularly affected by the negative influence of weak students (Sacerdote, 2001; Zimmerman, 2003). However, the significance and size of peer effects often change in relation to the sample used. Other studies, in fact, find no significant (or minor) peer effects (Angrist and Lang, 2004; Arcidiacono and Nicholson, 2005; Foster, 2006). Earlier analyses of peer effects were based on simple econometric models regressing students outcomes on their own individual characteristics (measures of ability, family background and so on) and on their peers’ outcomes or characteristics.

As shown by Manski (1993), this kind of regression is plagued by two main econometric problems, which raise doubts about the causal interpretation of the coefficient measuring peer group effects. The first problem, known as “self-selection” bias, depends on the fact that groups of peers are often not exogenously determined, but individuals typically choose the other people they will associate with. Therefore, the characteristics of each student contribute to determining the choice of his/her peer and, if some of these characteristics are not observable, an endogeneity problem arises.

The second econometric problem, known as the “reflection” problem, emerges because the outcomes of students in a peer group evolve in an interdependent manner: the achievements of each member affect the achievements of other members but, at the same time, is, itself, affected by the achievements of those self-same peers. Therefore, an estimation bias emerges, due to simultaneity and inverse causality.

Apart from peer effects related to the classroom environment, students belonging to the same class tend to study and revise the subject together, so generating important externalities.

Clearly friendly relationships do not involve all members of a class: some students might attend a course together, but their interaction might still be limited. We are able to address this problem by considering a measure of peer group which weights peers in relation to the number of exams taken together. In fact, students who continually do exams in the same session as one another are often students who study together, sharing course material and information. We look at all the students passing an exam on the same date and we use this information to define a second measure of peer group quality, which weights the abilities of each student according to the number of exams taken together. Peer-group effects are a distinct class of influences arising from ‘social interactions’ – a broad term which encompasses any type of individual behavior that involves interdependency with the behavior or characteristics of others.

Economists have long shown an interest Becker (1974), but there has been a rapid growth in the field since the 1990s with contributions in theory and empirical work. Theoretical research seems motivated by a desire to widen the scope of economic thought to encompass aspects of behavioral modeling more commonly attributed to sociology and psychology. Empirical work –constrained by the data – is generally concerned with finding evidence for the existence of such effects, rather than the precise pathways by which they occur.

The term ‘peer-groups’ usually indicates social interactions of children or young adults with people of similar age, rather than broader ‘neighborhood’ effects or interactions with superiors, family or teachers. We continue to use the term in this way. The range of outcomes that have interested researchers is diverse, including smoking (Alexander, 2001; Ellickson, Bird, 2003), joke-telling (Angelone, Hirschman (2005), sexual behavior (Selvan, 2001), purchase of a retirement plan (Duflo and Saez , 2000) and – more commonly – education. On reflection, it seems very likely that many decisions are linked to similar decisions by a friend or other associate (in same cases fairly explicitly, like the decision to have sex, be in a gang or play tennis), and many consumption decisions rely on other consumers participating (e.g. video phones). However, the more interesting possibility is that group behavior or attributes can modify individual actions in relation to important social and economic decisions that will affect their life chances – especially achievement in education.

Although the literature on peer effects in education dates back to 1960s with the publication of the famous Coleman Report (1966), the importance of peer-group effects is still disputed. Some very bold claims have been made about the potency of peers in child development Rich (1999), yet the results of numerous studies are very mixed, finding strong, weak or non-existent effects across a wide range of outcomes. This reflects the difficulty in defining the peer-group, isolating causal peer-group effects from other influences, lack of appropriate data, and different identification methodologies adopted by researchers.

The potential for peers to affect individual achievement is central to many important policy issues in elementary and secondary education, including the impacts of school choice programs, ability tracking within schools, “mainstreaming” of special education students, and racial and economic desegregation. Vouchers, charter schools, and other school choice programs may benefit those who remain in traditional public schools by engendering competition that leads to improvements in school quality, but may also harm those left behind by diminishing the quality of their classmates (Epple and Romano 1998; Caucutt 2002). Grouping students in classrooms by ability can likewise have significant impacts on student achievement, depending on the magnitude of peer influences (Epple, Newlon, and Romano 2002). The effect of desegregation policies on achievement depends not only on potential spillovers from average ability but on whether different peers exert different degrees of influence on individual outcomes (Angrist and Lang 2004; Cooley 2007; Fryer and Torelli 2005). Indeed, as Manski (1993) and Moffit (2001) argue, the empirical analysis of social interactions is plagued by conceptual and data problems.

Peer Group Influence And Academic Achievement Of Pupils

1.2       Statement of the Problem

Poor academic achievement of student in both internal and external examination has drawn the interest of educational statement. Understanding the nature and the magnitude of peer group influence in education is crucial for the “productivity” of student academic achievement and the organizational design of school systems. For example, in order to improve student outcomes, it is important to know which inputs influence their performance most and the relative importance of peer influence compared to other inputs, such as teacher quality or school resources. Peer-group influences are a distinct class of influences arising from ‘social interactions’ – a broad term which encompasses any type of individual behaviour that involves interdependency with the behavior or characteristics of others.

Although the literature on peer effects in education dates back to 1960s with the publication of the famous Coleman Report (1966), the importance of peer-group effects is still disputed. Some very bold claims have been made about the potency of peers in child development (Rich,1999), yet the results of numerous studies are very mixed, finding strong, weak or non-existent effects across a wide range of outcomes. This reflects the difficulty in defining the peer-group, isolating causal peer-group effects from other influences, lack of appropriate data, and different identification methodologies adopted by researchers. Indeed, as Manski (1993) and Moffit (2001) argue, the empirical analysis of social interactions is plagued by conceptual and data problems. The estimation of peer influences at school has received intense attention in recent years. Several studies have presented convincing evidence about race, gender, and immigrants’ peer influences. It was on the background that this study was carried to examine peer group influence on pupils academic achievement area of study.

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