Operational Definition: What is Organization?

Organization is defined as the behaviors and strategies that a student uses to organize their work and time. It is part of a large body of research addressing key success-related characteristics, such as student study skills, and conscientiousness.


In their expansive review of the construct of study skills, Credé and Kuncel (2008) described that, based on the relationship between study skills and academic success, institutions should consider adding study skills measures to their understanding of student success (along with popular indicators such as high school grades and standardized admissions/ placement test scores).


Empirical Relationship to Success (Does it Predict Student Success?)

Other large-scale studies have also supported the relevance of organizational skills to student success outcomes in higher education. In his meta-analysis on the relationship between personality and student achievement, Poropat (2009) found that conscientiousness - a domain of personality relating to a wide range of achievement-related behaviors and attitudes, including organization - equaled intelligence in its ability to predict success. 


In another meta-analysis, Robbins et al. (2004) found that “academic-related skills,” (“Cognitive, behavioral, and effective tools and abilities necessary to successfully complete task, achieve goals, and manage academic demands,” p. 267) had significant relationships with both GPA and retention, even when controlling for HSGPA and ACT scores. 


To be clear, each of these studies refer to broad sets of skills that include organization, but not organization specifically. However, Markle et al., (2013), did find that a direct organizational measure had significant correlations with first-semester GPA, retention, and grades in entry-level math and English courses.

Practical Relationship to Success
Credé and Kuncel described several ways in which study skills relate to student learning. As “direct effects,” study skills have causal impacts on student learning. That is, using such skills actually facilitates learning, as is the case with time on task. As “mediating” effects, study skills help to explain why students with certain characteristics are more likely to be successful. For example, a study by MacCann, Fogarty, and Roberts (2012) found that, among a sample of community college students, time management had a significant relationship with grades for part-time students, but not full-time students. Thus, time management mediated the relationship between enrollment status and academic success.

Organization is included in the ISSAQ framework as one facet of the study skills domain for several reasons. First, “study skills” is a broad, multi-faceted domain, of which several other aspects (e.g., Engagement, Goal Commitment) are represented in other parts of the ISSAQ framework. Representing all of these facets would either require a great deal of assessment space or insufficiently represent “study skills.” Second, by focusing on the behavioral time management components, a singular, meaningful construct can be addressed. Third, because of this singular focus, the connection to interventions becomes clearer and more effective.

How do I help students improve in Organization?

Organization is a Strategy Factor.

This means that providing direct feedback, tools, and resources can help students build this skill.

It can be helpful to think of students who score low in Organization as "lacking organizational strategies," rather than disorganized. Thus, connecting students with tools and resources, such as those in the Student Resource Hub, can help them develop those tactics for managing their time and work. 

Continued conversations with students can monitor if and how they implement these approaches and how they've been helpful to their broader success.



Credé, M., & Kuncel, N. R. (2008). Study habits, skills, and attitudes: The third pillar supporting collegiate academic performance. Perspectives on psychological science, 3(6), 425-453.

Poropat, A. E. (2009). A meta-analysis of the five-factor model of personality and academic performance. Psychological bulletin, 135(2), 322.

MacCann, C., Fogarty, G. J., & Roberts, R. D. (2012). Strategies for success in education: Time management is more important for part-time than full-time community college students. Learning and Individual Differences, 22(5), 618-623.

Markle, R., Olivera-Aguilar, M., Jackson, T., Noeth, R., & Robbins, S. (2013). Examining evidence of reliability, validity, and fairness for the SuccessNavigator assessment. ETS Research Report (No. RR-13-12). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Robbins, S. B., Lauver, K., Le, H., Davis, D., Langley, R., & Carlstrom, A. (2004). Do psychosocial and study skill factors predict college outcomes? A meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin, 130(2), 261.