Third International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology
Elfriede Ederer1, Birgit Aschemann2, Cecilia A. Essau3 & Jean O’Callaghan3
1 University of Graz, Department of Education, Graz, Austria
2 University of Graz, Department of Education, Graz, Austria; University of Applied Sciences Joanneum, Graz, Austria;
3 School of Human and Life Sciences, Roehampton University, Whitelands College, UK


Procrastination has been defined as the tendency to postpone that which is necessary to reach some goal. Because of its negative consequences (e.g., poor grades, course withdrawal, engagement in self-handicapping behaviour, low self-confidence and self-esteem), higher education policy is called upon to deal with the problem of procrastination, especially in light of the increasing average duration of studies. This study is unique because of its inclusion, in an investigation of 480 Austrian students, of a wide range of psychological constructs found to be related to procrastination. The following set of questionnaires was used:

Procrastination Assessment Scale-Students (PASS; Solomon & Rothblum, 1984) to measure frequency of procrastination in four academic tasks, the degree of procrastination and degree to which procrastination is a problem, furthermore 26 given reasons for procrastination on writing a term paper are rated; Decisional Procrastination Scale (Mann, 1982) to measure procrastination tendency in making decisions; General Procrastination scale (GP; Lay, 1986) to assess global tendencies towards procrastination across a variety of daily tasks, Self-Regulation Questionnaire (SRQ; Carey, Neal & Collins, 2004) to measure the generalized ability to regulate behaviour to achieve desired future outcomes; Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (FMPS; Frost, Heimberg, Holt, Mattia, & Neubauer, 1993) to assess perfectionism across six dimensions; Ways of Coping Checklist Questionnaire (WOCC; Folkman & Lazaruz, 1984) to measure problem-focused and emotion-focused coping; Rumination subscale of the Perfectionism Inventory (Hill, Huelsman, Furr, Kibler, Vicente, & Kennedy, 2004) to measure a tendency to obsessively worry about past errors, or less than perfect performance and Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS; Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995) to assess psychological well-being.

Academic, decisional and general procrastination was found to be, to a significant degree, negatively correlated with self-regulatory behaviour, organization and problem-focused coping, whereas all three types of procrastination were, to a significant degree, associated positively with emotion-focused coping, depression and anxiety. Furthermore, self-regulation and organization were found to be the outstanding predictors of all three types of procrastination.

Overall, our findings have important psychological implications in the development of prevention and intervention programmes to enable students to improve their self- regulation and in particular their organisational and coping skills. Our prevention programme against procrastination is focused on project management tools (time and content planning and monitoring) on the one hand, and the strengthening of psychological and motivational personal resources on the other hand. To prepare students for later professional challenges, a progress plan for a thesis project will be introduced. Dividing the project into subtasks (modules), as is common practice in project management, supports self-regulation, organization and problem-focused coping, thus facilitating the prevention of procrastination.

An analysis of the reasons for procrastination shows that for writing final papers, supervision and support seem to be more needed than academic teachers assume. It is our responsibility to counter such problems as soon as possible, by using didactical tools developed for teaching academic writing and by introducing students to techniques and methods that will help them recognise and modify difficult work attitudes and individual work patterns.

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© 2008 Victor Karandashev