The purpose of this paper is fourfold: first, to analyse the relationship between executive functions and academic performance; second, to identify the level of prediction executive functions have on academic performance; third, to determine the correlation between executive functions and academic performance; and fourth, to compare executive functions based on the level of academic performance.
The sample composed of 175 university students aged between 18 and 36 years (M=21.49, SD=3.22). The EFECO scale, the average student grade and a scale based on the diagnostic criteria for ADHD were used as measurement instruments.
Difficulties in executive functions: Difficulties in working memory (r=−0.30, p=<0.01) and difficulties in conscious supervision of behaviour (r=−0.29, p⩽0.01) have an inversely proportional relationship to academic performance (the greater the deficit of executive functions, the lower the academic performance). The regression analysis showed that executive functions explain 31 per cent of the variance of academic performance (χ2(25)=43.81, p <0.001). The study found that there is a relationship between all the executive functions and students’ behaviour in a medium to large magnitude.
A limitation of this study was the size of the sample as it is not representative of the country. Nevertheless, the correlation among the variables studied here has the necessary magnitude for the proposed correlations to be found. Nonetheless, it is necessary that we perform a study with a larger number of participants in order to achieve adequate extrapolation of the results.
Data found in this study suggest that low academic performance of university students is related to a lower functionality of their executive functions.
The originality of the research lies in relating specific concepts of neuropsychology to explain the academic performance of university students. The research findings allow us to project new studies to improve the executive functions for the benefit of the university student.
Ramos-Galarza, C., Acosta-Rodas, P., Bolaños-Pasquel, M. and Lepe-Martínez, N. (2019), "The role of executive functions in academic performance and behaviour of university students", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JARHE-10-2018-0221Download as .RIS
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