Available literature on the nutritional status of students has revealed that college and university students embrace standards of living that either negatively or positively impact on their health and nutrition (Monneuse et al 1997). A study conducted by Jaworowska and Bazylak (2007) showed that the diet of most university and college students is subjected to various factors. In fact, factors such as students’ knowledge on health and nutrition as well as their residential backgrounds might alter nutritional habits. Hence, these may impact on their academic achievement and performance. Baric et al (2003) refuted this assertion in their longitudinal research study. Their research findings indicated that students’ knowledge regarding health and nutrition hardly determines their desired eating patterns or habits.
A strand of existing literature (e.g., Monneuse 1997; El-Ansari et al 2007Kremmyda et al 2008) demonstrates that college and university students practice personal eating habits, and this may have adverse health outcomes. Chen et al (2007) supports this claim by asserting that bad nutritional habits are detrimental and may affect students’ performance and achievement. Moreover, Krinke (2002) affirms that bad nutrition or poor food consumption patterns bear allied health and performance risks. According to Brevard and Ricketts (1996), changes in the students’ lifestyles significantly affect their nutrition and health patterns. These changes in turn impact on their academic performance and achievement. However, a cross-sectional study conducted by Farghaly et al (2007) demonstrates that boarding college students are minimally affected by the consumption of whole fatty foods and heavy carbohydrates.
Research Questions & Hypotheses
The researcher aims to assess the effect of good nutrition on students’ performance and achievement in school. Students’ nutritional behaviors’ as well as factors which influence food consumption will be evaluated using a validated questionnaire instrument.
The key research question will be “What is the effect of good nutrition on students’ performance or achievement in school? However, at the end of this study, answers to the following sub-questions will have been obtained:
- What clearly determines the nutritional patterns of university students?
- Do good nutritional patterns affect students’ achievement and performance in school?
The researcher intends to test the following research hypotheses:
- H1: Good nutrition affects students’ performance or achievement in school, and;
- H0: Good nutrition does not affect students’ performance or achievement in school.
Research Methods and techniques
A quantitative study will be carried out using the cross-sectional study design in order to determine the importance of proper nutrition in the overall academic performance of students in school (Miere et al 2007). The health belief (nutritional) model will be applied to guide this survey and more importantly to understand the way food intake influences the participants’ performance.
The cross-sectional study design is selected because it’s feasible, efficient and economical to a study of this scope (Kolodinsky et al 2007). Another advantage of this kind of study design is that the data gathered can easily be analyzed more quickly and it also provides the needed characteristics of the research population (Panagiotakos et al 2007). Moreover, the conclusion drawn will be more reliable and valid since data from the study design is more accurate (Irazusta et al 2006). Nevertheless, this technique only study the sample from the entire population hence the conclusion drawn will be more generalized (Young & Fors 2001).
Participants and sampling
In this survey, all students are deemed eligible to participate in the research. However, the sample for the survey will be drawn from students in Flinders University. The sample will comprise 30 students of either gender but currently studying at the university. For inclusion into the study, participants must be aged between 18 and 40 years.
The researcher will use convenience sampling techniques to come up with the required sample of participants. This sampling method is chosen given its advantage of being relatively cheap compared to other sampling methods. The convenience sampling technique helps in minimizing time and cost constraints. Furthermore, convenience samples offer accurate correlations and rich qualitative data (Schweyer & Le-Corre 1994). Despite the advantages of convenience sampling method, the technique hardly produces representative results and the generated samples are very hard to replicate (Osler & Heitmann 1996).
Data for this study will largely be collected from primary sources (Roddam et al 2005). The most important and relevant statistics will be gathered via self-administered questionnaires. The assumption is that a comprehensive explorative instrument has been developed and satisfactorily tested prior to embarking on this actual research study (Von-Bothmer & Fridlund 2005; Whiteman & Key 2005). Therefore, 30 self-administered questionnaires that examine the effect of nutrition on students’ performance will be used.
The questionnaire will take the students roughly between 16 and 20 minutes to complete. The questionnaires have been developed based on the contained elements and focus on the perceived benefits, barriers, susceptibility as well as the effectiveness of nutrition on students’ health and performance. The questionnaire also examines other factors that influence the nutritional habits of university students.
Before conducting this research study, the requirements for the university social and behavioral research ethics committee will be completed. In addition, study participants will be provided with information concerning their freedom of participation based on the stated standards. The institution will also provide a letter of introduction specifying and explaining the study and the required standard methods.
In the letter, there will be secrecy assurance for the information provided according to the strict confidential requirements stipulated by the Quantitative Research Methods for Social Research coordinating team from the university. Moreover, an information sheet describing the study and the way the participants will be required to behave will be provided. The participants will be made aware that they can withdraw their involvement at any time and without consequences. However, strict measures will be put in place during and after the study to protect the respondents from any harmful effects (Bas et al 2005). Finally, the information acquired from the study participants will be securely stored and protected whereas study finding reports will not divulge the participants’ identification (Kafatos et al 2000).
Descriptive Statistics & Preliminary Results
Thirty (30) respondents took part in the survey aimed at determining the significance or importance of proper nutrition in the overall academic performance of students at Flinders University. The results for the study are detailed below in two sections – demographic characteristics and main findings.
11(36.7%) of the participants were aged between 31 and 35 years old, while 7(23.3%) were in the 26-30 years age group. The rest of the participants were aged between 18 and 25 years. Almost three-quarters of the respondents (73.3%) were male. In marital status, half of the participants (50.0%) were married and slightly over a third (36.7%) reported they were single. The rest were either widows or widowers. 20(66.7) percent of the students were in their second year of study, while 5(16.7%) were in their first year. All participants were sampled from the student population at the University.
All participants were asked to respond to a multiplicity of statements that were meant to not only evaluate their knowledge on nutrition and health, but also their understanding on how nutrition affects academic achievement. A Lickert-type scale was used to measure and rank their responses, with 1 representing “strongly agree” while 5 represented “strongly disagree.” The descriptive statistics of the findings are shown in the table next page. The table demonstrates the values for mean and median scores, as well as their corresponding measures of dispersion (standard deviation and interquartile range).
Table1: Descriptive Statistics for Variables on Nutrition & Academic Achievement.
|Variables (n=30)||Mean||Std. dev.||Median||Interquartile range|
|Eating nutritious food makes a person healthy||1.2000||0.48423||1.0000||2.00|
|Eating nutritious food makes a person mentally alert||1.3000||0.53498||1.0000||1.00|
|I perform better when I eat enough food before school||1.5000||0.82001||1.0000||1.00|
|My parents have a big influence on the food I eat||4.5333||0.50742||5.000||1.00|
|I have less control on the choice of food I eat||3.7000||1.20773||4.0000||2.00|
|I usually go for junk food rather than healthier food||3.4667||1.19578||4.0000||2.00|
|I usually drink milk/juice at breakfast rather than soda||2.9667||1.21721||3.0000||2.00|
|I wake up early to have enough time for breakfast||3.6667||0.95893||4.0000||1.00|
|My academic performance is greatly affected by the food I eat||2.5333||0.97320||3.0000||1.00|
|I feel more active, comfortable and mentally alert when I have eaten enough food||2.0333||0.71840||2.0000||0.00|
An important observation that can be made from the above table is that many variables have a low standard deviation score (less than 1), implying that the data for these variables are normally distributed. Additionally, it can be demonstrated from the descriptive statistics that most participants either strongly agree or agree that: 1) eating nutritious food makes a person healthy, 2) eating nutritious food makes a person mentally alert, 3) students perform better in school when they eat healthy food, and 4) students academic performance is greatly affected by the food they eat. These observations prove the hypothesis that good nutrition affects students’ performance in school.
Only 8(26.7%) of the participants agreed they routinely ate fast foods, implying that most students are knowledgeable on the food choices they make. However, it is important to note that 43.3% of those who routinely ate fast foods used between AUS$11 and AUS$30 per week on the food. A significant number (13.3%) used in excess of AUS$50 per week on fast foods. Participants were asked the main reasons that made them to eat outside. The results are demonstrated in the figure below.
The figure above demonstrates that many students may be eating unhealthy food simply because they cannot cook well. 18 (60%) of the participants said they always took a balanced diet, consisting of vegetables, meat and carbohydrates.
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