Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Is the Study Process Questionnaire (SPQ) a good predictor of academic achievement? Examining the mediating role of achievement-related classroom behaviours


Studies have shown that the Study Process Questionnaire (SPQ)—which provides a measure of student approaches to learning—is a relatively weak predictor of academic achievement. The present study sought to explore whether students’ achievement-related classroom behaviours, as observed by teachers, can be used as a mediator between student approaches to learning and academic achievement. The SPQ was administered to 1,608 students enrolled in six different diploma programmes offered by a polytechnic in Singapore. Data were analysed by means of correlation and path analysis. In line with existing studies, the results revealed that student approaches to learning was a weak predictor of academic achievement. However, achievement-related classroom behaviours turned out to be a significant mediator between student approaches to learning and academic achievement, effectively doubling the explained variance in academic achievement. Implications of these findings for using the SPQ are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1


  1. Ackerman, P. L., & Heggestad, E. D. (1997). Intelligence, personality and interests: Evidence for overlapping traits. Psychological Bulletin, 121, 219–245.

  2. Ackerman, P. L., Bowen, K. R., Beier, M. E., & Kanfer, R. (2001). Determinants of individual differences and gender differences in knowledge. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 797–825.

  3. Astin, A. W. (1970). The methodology of research on college impact, part two. Sociology of Education, 43, 451–458.

  4. Bandalos, D. L., & Finney, S. J. (Eds.). (2001). Item parceling issues in structural equation modeling. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

  5. Biggs, J. B. (1973). Study behaviour and performance in objective and essay formats. Australian Journal of Education, 17, 157–167.

  6. Biggs, J. B. (1976). Dimension of study behaviour: Another look at ATI. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46, 68–80.

  7. Biggs, J. B. (1987a). Student approaches to learning and studying. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.

  8. Biggs, J. B. (1987b). Student approaches in learning and studying. Hawthorn, Victoria: Australian Council for Educational Research.

  9. Biggs, J. B. (1987c). The Study Process Questionnaire (SPQ): manual. Hawthorn, Victoria: Australian Council for Educational Research.

  10. Biggs, J. B. (1989). Approaches to the enhancement of tertiary education. Higher Education Research and Development, 8, 7–25.

  11. Biggs, J. B. (1992). Why and how do Hong Kong students learn? Using the learning and study process questionnaires. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University.

  12. Biggs, J. B. & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for quality learning at university. 3rd ed. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

  13. Biggs, J. B., Kember, D., & Leung, Y. P. (2001). The revised two-factor Study Process Questionnaire: R-SPQ-2F. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 71, 133–149.

  14. Booth, P., Luckett, P., & Mladenovic, R. (1999). The quality of learning in accounting education: The impact of approaches to learning on academic performance. Accounting Education, 8(4), 277–300.

  15. Byrne, B. M. (2001). Structural equation modeling with AMOS: Basic concepts, applications and programming. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

  16. Choppin, B. H. (1990). Evaluation, assessment, and measurement. In H. J. Walberg & G. D. Haertel (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of educational evaluation (pp. 7–8). New York: Pergamon.

  17. Fan, X., Thomson, B., & Wang, L. (1999). Effects of sample size, estimation methods, and model specification on structural equation. Structural Equation Modelling, 6(1), 56–83.

  18. Gijbels, D., de Watering, G. V., Dochy, G., & den Bossche, P. V. (2005). The relationship between students’ approaches to learning and the assessment of learning outcomes. European Journal of Psychology of Education, XX(4), 327–341.

  19. Gijbels, D., Segers, M., & Struyf, E. (2008). Constructivist learning environments and the (im)possibility to change students’ perceptions of assessment demands and approaches to learning. Instructional Science, 36(5–6), 431–443.

  20. Graham, J. W., & Hofer, S. M. (2000). Multiple imputation in multivariate research. In T. D. Little, K. U. Schnabel, & J. Baumert (Eds.), Modeling longitudinal and multilevel data: Practical issues, applied approaches, and specific examples. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

  21. Groves, M. (2005). Problem-based learning and learning approach: Is there a relationship? Advances in Health Sciences Education, 10, 315–326.

  22. Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6(1), 1–55.

  23. Jones, A., & Jones, D. (1996). Student orientation to independent learning. Higher Education Research and Development, 15(2), 83–96.

  24. Kember, D. (1996). The intention to both memorise and understand: Another approach to learning? Higher Education, 31, 341–354.

  25. Kember, D. (2000). Misconceptions about the learning approaches, motivation and study practices of Asian students. Higher Education, 40, 00–121.

  26. Little, T. D., Cunningham, W. A., Shahar, G., & Widaman, K. F. (2002). To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question, weighing the merits. Structural Equation Modeling, 9(2), 151–173.

  27. Marton, F., & Saljo, R. (1976). On qualitative differences in learning I. Outcome and process. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46, 4–11.

  28. Neilson, H. D., Moos, R. H., & Lee, E. A. (1978). Response bias in follow up studies of college students. Research in Higher Education, 9, 97–113.

  29. O’Connor, M., & Paunonen, S. (2007). Big Five personality predictors of post-secondary academic performance. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 971–990.

  30. Ramburuth, P., & Mladenovic, R. (2004). Exploring the relationship between students’ orientations to learning, the structure of students’ learning outcomes and subsequent academic performance. Accounting Education, 13(4), 507–527.

  31. Ramsden, P. (1981). A study of the relationship between student learning and its academic context. unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Lancaster.

  32. Ramsden, P. (1992). Learning to teach in higher education. London: Routledge.

  33. Scouller, K., & Prosser, M. (1994). Students’ experiences in studying for multiple choice question examination versus assignment essay. Higher Education, 20(1), 5–17.

  34. Snelgrove, s., & Slater, j. (2003). Approaches to learning: Psychometric testing of a study process questionnaire. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 43(5), 496–505.

  35. Watkins, D. (2001). Correlates of approaches to learning: A cross-cultural meta-analysis. In R. Sternberg & L. Zhang (Eds.), Perspective on thinking, learning, and cognitive styles (pp. 165–195). New Jersey: Erlbaum.

  36. Watkins, D., & Hattie, J. (1981). The learning processes of Australian university students: Investigations of contextual and personalogical factors. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 51, 384–393.

  37. Wilding, J., & Andrews, B. (2006). Life goals, approaches to study and performance in an undergraduate cohort. The British Psychological Society, 76, 171–182.

  38. Zeegers, P. (1999). Student learning in science: A longitudinal study using the Biggs SPQ. Paper presented at HERDSA annual international conference, Melbourne.

  39. Zeegers, P. (2002). A revision of the Biggs’ Study Process Questionnaire (R-SPQ). Higher Education Research & Development, 21(1), 73–92.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Jeanette Lyn Fung Choy.



See Table 2.

Table 2 Rubric for teacher’s observation of student performance

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Choy, J.L.F., O’Grady, G. & Rotgans, J.I. Is the Study Process Questionnaire (SPQ) a good predictor of academic achievement? Examining the mediating role of achievement-related classroom behaviours. Instr Sci 40, 159–172 (2012).

Download citation


  • Approaches to learning
  • Study process questionnaire
  • Achievement-related classroom behaviours
  • Student achievement
  • Structural equation modelling