1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Personality is something everybody knows that it exists, but nobody knows that what it is (Schneewind and Ruppert, 1998). It is certainly true that it is difficult to put human personality which Goethe (1970) called the greatest happiness for children of this earth into scientific terms.Personality determines a set of important characteristics and that how people interact with others. Human personality is the combination of a number of traits. Personality can be measured as a set of items usually questions about behaviour and feelings to which the subjects have to respond by agreeing or disagreeing with that question or statements. (Kline, 1993). In 1930 personality psychology became an identifiable discipline in social sciences. During that time many separate lines of inquiry came together for the field generated by Allport (1937), Murry (1938) and Lewin (1935). Mary Laurence F. Fortu (n.d) described the following as the components of personality which are habits, attitudes, interests, values, principles and mental capacity or intelligence. Academic performance is a major issue among students, teachers, parents, school administrators, and the community at large. Attempts have been made by researchers to unravel the complexities surrounding academic performance. Psychologists have put forward a lot of reasons why these disparities in performance exist. A lot of attention had been paid to external factors such as type of school, teaching methods, school location, instructional materials, teachers experience, and so on (WAEC, 2005). Many spend lots of money in order to secure good schools either for their children or themselves and those who can afford it even invest on education abroad as they believe this will enhance performance, and which in turn gives an added advantage in terms of securing gainful employment. Opinions vary as to why some students excel academically while others appear to be underachievers. Many psychologists have consistently attempted to identify the major predictors of individual academic performance. Factors such as intelligence, self concept, gender, study habit, maturation, home background, amongst others, just to mention a few, have been extensively explored as being responsible for academic performance. Other factors that have been researched into in the past include: child rearing patterns, peer group influence, socio-economic background and learning environment. Another major factor that is believed to be responsible for academic performance in students is their personality traits. Traits Theorists have tried to identify the major traits that characterize personality. Notable among these are Sigmund Freud in the early 1900's, Gordon All port (1961), Cattell (1967), Hans Eysenck (1985) Feldman (1994), McCrae and Costa (1987) and a host of others. Personality has been defined in many ways by many psychologists who wrote on the concept. According to Feldman (1994) in Daminabo (2008), Personality is the sum total of the characteristics that differentiates people, or the stability of a person's behavior across different situations. In other words it means those qualities the individual is noted for. Traits on the other hand are "enduring dimensions of personality characteristics which differentiates people from one another" (Colman, 2003). Traits are therefore the sum total of stable characteristics in a person across different times and situations, which make him or her unique or distinct from others. This agrees with the definition by Mischel 1981, (in Agbakwuru, 2000) which refer to personality traits as consistent differences between the behaviors characteristic of two or more people. It is also defined as "any distinguishable, relatively enduring way in which one individual varies from another" (Guliford, 1959 in Agbakwuru 2000).However, there has been an increasing interest in the big five personality traits and the role they play as regards academic performance of students. Of particular interest is the role that these traits play in the academic performance of students. These traits, popularly known as the 'Big Five’ include conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness to experience, extraversion and locus of control. The acronym CAOEL is used to describe them. These personality traits affect academic performance in students, either positively or negatively. And so parents, educationists, psychologists, counselors, are all worried at the rate of decline of academic standard. Big Five otherwise known as CAOEL has therefore been explored in order to find possible solutions to the problem of underachievement amongst school students. The acronym CAOEL denotes the traits: conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness, extraversion and locus of control to experience. McCrae and Costa (1980) researched extensively on these traits. A high score on Conscientiousness shows a student who is self disciplined, careful, thorough, organized and determined. Low scores on this trait portray indiscipline, carelessness, disorganization and indifference. That student who scores highly on this trait is expected to perform excellently well, academically and vice versa. Agreeableness describes one who is sympathetic, trusting and cooperative. Students with high scores on agreeableness are selfless, flexible and pleasant. Such students work with others easily with little or no friction. Those scoring low on this trait however find it difficult to get along with others. McCrae and Costa 1988 in Daminabo, (2008) noted this to be psychotics, which refers to a person who is skeptical, unsympathetic, uncooperative and rude. Low scores are expected to affect academic performance negatively. The researcher is therefore out to examine what influence these personality traits have on the academic performance of students.
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