The early bird catches the worm! The impact of chronotype and learning style on academic success in university students.
In high schools students, eveningness is a significant negative predictor of Grade Point Average (Preckel et al., 2013). Various explanations for this relationship have been proposed, including conflicting learning preferences between morning and evening types impacting ability to process and repeat lecture material (Diaz-Morales, 2007). These associations have yet to be established in a university population. This study investigates whether chronotype continues to influence academic success in first year university students and potential factors that may contribute to any academic contrast between morning types (Larks) and evening types (Owls). Data was gathered from students enrolled in Biological Concepts of Health at the University of Guelph, from 2011-2014. Students completed the modified Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (chronotype) and the VARK Questionnaire (learning style preferences). As predicted, self reported Owls earned significantly lower overall grades than Larks (76.9% vs. 80.0%, p<0.05). Surprisingly, lecture time (8:30am vs. 4:30pm) did not significantly impact grades in Larks or Owls. Larks also produced higher grades on both the midterm (76.7%, 70.2%, p<0.05) and exam (73.0%, 68.1%, p<0.05). In order to explain these relationships, the influence of varying learning styles was investigated. Larks indicated a preference for Read/Writing learning styles over Kinesthetic, Auditory, or Visual, while Owls preferred Kinesthetic learning. This research suggests that traditional instructional practice in higher education may favour the success of morning type individuals. Investigations into novel strategies to expand creative practices in the educational system could be beneficial in order to better address both dispositions.