Understanding procrastination from a self-regulated learning perspective.

Citation Wolters, C. A. (2003). Understanding procrastination from a self-regulated learning perspective.. Journal of Educational Psychology. American Psychological Association. Sidewiki
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author = {Wolters, C.A.},
date-added = {2012-01-31 14:31:43 -0500},
date-modified = {2012-01-31 14:31:43 -0500},
journal = {Journal of Educational Psychology},
number = {1},
pages = {179},
publisher = {American Psychological Association},
title = {Understanding procrastination from a self-regulated learning perspective.},
volume = {95},
year = {2003},


Correlational study of procrastination and other factors related to attitude towards learning. See table for findings. Surprising was that mastery-orientation did not predict less procrastination.

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Highlights (7%)

Academic procrastination includes failing to perform an activity within the desired time frame or postponing until the last minute activities one ultimately intends to complete. As such, high levels of procrastination appear inconsistent with the behaviors typically attributed to self-regulated learners. However, research exploring the relation between these 2 constructs is lacking. Two studies (N 168 and N 152) examining procrastination and its relation to several key components of self-regulated learning using self-report surveys are reported here. Results indicate that procrastination was related to college students’ self-efficacy and work-avoidant goal orientation and, to a lesser extent, their use of metacognitive strategies. Findings are discussed with regard to prior research on self-regulated learning and procrastination and to future research. p. 1

Participants for Study 1 included 168 students from a large urban university enrolled in an introductory history or psychology course. p. 3

All participants completed a self-report survey with 155 items. For each item, students read a short statement and then circled a number from 1 to 7 to indicate how strongly they agreed (7) or disagreed (1) with the state- ment. Items adapted from Midgley et al. (1998) were used to assess students’ beliefs related to four motivational constructs. Mastery orienta- tion reflected the degree to which students reported completing tasks to improve their abilities, increase their understanding, or master the material they were asked to study. Performance-approach orientation indicated the degree to which students reported completing their schoolwork to get high grades, extrinsic rewards, or approval from others. Work avoidance orien- tation indicated the degree to which students expressed a desire for work that was simple or that they could complete without much effort. Self- efficacy represented the degree to which students saw themselves as capable of successfully learning the material and completing the tasks they were assigned. p. 3

Items adapted from Pintrich, Smith, Garcia, and McKeachie (1993) were used to assess students’ use of cognitive and metacognitive learning strategies. Cognitive strategies included 15 items meant to assess students’ self-reported use of rehearsal, elaboration, and organization strategies ( .83). Metacognitive strategies included 14 items that assessed students’ reported use of planning, monitoring, and regulating strategies ( .90). p. 3

Academic procrastination was measured using 5 items created to assess students’ tendency to postpone completing their assigned schoolwork ( .87). Two items from this scale included “I postpone doing the work for p. 3

this class until the last minute” and “I promise myself I will do something for this course, then put it off anyway.” Hence, this scale assessed the behavioral aspects of procrastination and not any anxiety associated with this behavior (for more on this distinction, see Milgram, Batori, & Mowrer, 1993; Milgram et al., 1995). p. 4

Findings from this study generally support the view that stu- dents’ beliefs about their procrastination are related to their moti- vational beliefs and attitudes important for self-regulated learning. In particular, findings indicate that students may believe they procrastinate more when they view their academic tasks as effort- ful or time consuming and when they are unsure of their abilities to complete those tasks successfully. Contrary to expectations, after accounting for their work-avoidance orientation and self- efficacy, students’ focus on either mastery or performance- approach goals did not predict their level of reported procrastina- tion. p. 4

Study 1 did not include a measure of students’ performance- avoidance goal orientation. Although recent research (Elliot, 1999) suggests that performance-avoidance goals may be more detrimen- tal than other types of goal orientations, the relationship between performance-avoidance goals and procrastination has yet to be explored directly. p. 5

Midgley, C., Kaplan, A., Middleton, M., Maehr, M., Urdan, T., Anderman, L., et al. (1998). The development and validation of scales assessing students’ achievement goal orientations. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 23, 113–131. p. 8


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