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VALIDATING THE RELATIVE SIGNIFICANCE INDEX (RSI)

IN COUNSELLING AND EDUCATIONAL SURVEY RESEARCHES: PREVALENT


ONLINE COUNSELLING NEEDS OF STUDENTS IN A NIGERIAN UNIVERSITY
By
Adebowale, O.F.
and
Ojo, G.K. (Mrs.)
oluadefat@yahoo.com; oluadefat@gmai.com
graceojo@oauife.edu.ng
Department of Educational Foundations
Department of Quantity Surveying
and Counselling,
Faculty of Environmental Design and Management
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife

Abstract
Obtaining prevalence data remains one of the most popular goals of survey
researches. Given the frequency with which survey research and designs are used in
counselling and other educational researches, this study focussed on validating the Relative
Significance Index (RSI) for use instead of the popular simple percentages. The responses of
200 students of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Nigeria to a survey of their online
counselling needs were used to compare the use of simple percentages and RSI through a
Questionnaire titled Questionnaire on the online counselling needs of OAU students. The
result shows a very high correlation in the ranking of the online counselling needs and
demonstrated that RSI would be a better tool in interpreting such prevalence data as error
due to sampling and bias can be drastically minimized.
Introduction
In education, psychology and other social sciences, it is very customary for
researchers to employ survey researches and dwell extensively on effort to search for the
prevalence of certain behaviour, attitude, interest or opinion in the population. It is
particularly popular in opinion polls which has described as the basis of the news reported by
the various news media (e.g. Ott and Longnecker, 2001). They further highlighted other roles
of opinion polls in which prevalence data are held in high esteem and used for important

decision making activities, such as its use by industrial and business magnates to find out
customers view in terms of product performance, customers satisfaction, equilibrium price
determination, and so on. Opinion polls and prevalence data are also important to politicians,
government agencies, private concerns, researchers, marketers, statisticians, medical and
allied workers, and so on.
Survey research in Guidance and Counselling
The techniques and procedure used to obtain information about a population, usually
a human population in the real world rather than in a laboratory have become collectively
known as survey methods (Anderson, Ball, Murphy and Associates, 1975). On the other hand
Nworgu (1991) described a survey research as one in which a group of people or items are
studied by collecting and analysing data from only a few people or item considered to be
representative of the entire group. He further analyzed another form of survey in which the
entire population is studied and referred to it as census. Generally, surveys have become
known to be the method of data collection in which information is gathered through oral
(interview) or written (questionnaire) questioning.
Best (1978) however warned that, although survey is an important type of study, it
must not be confused with the mere clerical routine of gathering and tabulating figures as it
involves clearly defined problem and definite objectives. It also requires expert and
imaginative planning, careful analysis and interpretation of the data gathered, and logical and
skilful reporting of the findings. Best (1978) posited that several types of information may be
required in solving a problem or charting a course of action; information based on the present
conditions (present state of the construct), the conditions or situation actually wanted, and
how to achieve the condition wanted. He further argued that although some survey studies
emphasized only one type of this information, others may deal with two or all of them. He
concluded that although a survey study does not necessarily embrace all the steps necessary

for the solution of a problem, it may make a valuable contribution by clarifying only one of
the necessary steps.
Survey research is especially important to all facets of guidance programmes. It is
useful in investigating peoples preferences, needs and opinions with a view to designing
appropriate guidance programmes that will best suit their personalities and peculiarities.
Effective group counselling researches targeted at ensuring a successful behaviour
modification or reinforcement will benefit from surveys and the resulting prevalence data. In
most of these cases the popular approach has always been the use and comparison of
percentages and proportion of respondents that gave a given set of response or responses.
This cannot be assumed to be correct given the possibility of sampling error or even chance
occurrences; hence, more reliable approach needs to be adopted. Survey research, it should be
noted, is a method of gathering data from respondents thought to be representative of some
population (Garson, 2007) such that information so obtained can be assumed to be valid
concerning the population.
Usually, surveys are not concerned with characteristics of individuals as individuals
but with generalized statistics that results when data are extracted from a number of
individuals (Best, 1978). In counselling, however, the individual is the focus of the helping
relationship. It is believed that if the individual members of the community properly
understand him/herself, he/she can be helped to design means of making himself a functional
and effective member of the community and by so doing be able to contribute his/her quota to
its development and continued existence. If every member of the community could achieved
this, then the society would be a better place to live.
Survey in counselling researches seeks to collate individual views, attitudes,
preferences, opinions, and so on, with a view to understand the population from which the
sample has been drawn. Generally, survey methods include both questionnaires and interview

(Smith, 1975). According to Nworgu (1991) questionnaires are the most frequently used
instrument in educational research and its popularity might have been demonstrated by the
number of published studies and students project s in education that employed questionnaire.
On the other hand Anderson et al (1975) described interview as oral questionnaire wherein an
interviewer tries to obtain information from and sometimes about an interviewee. He stated
that the process of developing interview schedules and questionnaire are very similar.
Relative Significance Index (RSI)
It is no longer novel to recall that achievement tests samples the examinees maximum
performance under certain given conditions, aptitude test predict the ability of an individual
to attain given level of expertise after training, while psychological tests attempt to sample
the individuals typical or usual behaviour under given circumstances. In all these cases, there
exists the need to obtain the predetermined behaviours of the subjects which are prevalent in
order to enable policy makers take decision which sometimes border on behaviour
modification, provision of facilities and infrastructures, understanding the basis of certain
behaviours, and so on. Hence reliable and valid prevalence information is required to achieve
such

feat.

The

use

of

Relative

significance

index

or

index

of

relative

importance/significance has been widely canvassed and used in researches across the globe.

Its earliest use was found in Kometa et al (1994). Several researchers have since
demonstrated the usefulness of RSI in reporting prevalence data. Hart, Calver and Dickman
(2002) discovered that RSI would be very useful in reporting prevalence as it reduces bias in
descriptive data. Also Sley, Jarboui, Ghorbel and Bouain (2008) have employed RSI to
determine the prevalent food habits of certain Mediterranean fish species. Even in Nigeria,
Odusami (1999) used this technique to obtain the prevalent types of project undertaken by
quantity surveyor firms and the prevalent services rendered by quantity surveyors in Nigeria;
Idowu and Odusami (2006) employed this technique in determining the prevalent functions
performed by professional quantity surveyors in Nigeria; Ojo (2007) also used the technique
to find the relative importance of methods used in determining contract time. However, no
literature evidence has been found to demonstrate its use in counselling or in other aspects of
educational research. This study therefore explores the use of this statistical approach to
determining prevalence in counselling researches and other educational scientific
investigations.
Limitations of Prevalence Research
NRC (1999) raised some statements of caution which researcher need to consider in the use
of prevalence research. First, comparing and interpreting prevalence findings may become
problematic when different studies use different screening and/or diagnostic instruments or
criterion levels to measure different levels of data. Furthermore, a prevalence estimate
requires specifications of the population or geographical area represented and the time frame
over which prevalence is defined (Walker and Dickerson, 1996). Clear-cut attempt must be
made to distinguish between prevalence and incidence of the construct of interest with
particular reference to geographical area and time frame..
Concurrent Validation

Validity is generally referred to as the extent to which a test, instrument or tool measures
what it purports to measure. It is vital for the test, instrument or tool to be valid in order for
the results obtained from it to be accurately applied and interpreted. Concurrent Validity
refers to a measurement devices ability to vary directly with a measure of the same construct
or indirectly with a measure of an opposite construct (Allpsych, 2004). According to Siegle
(Undated), concurrent validity compares scores on a test, an instrument or a tool with current
performance on some other measure. Unlike predictive validity, where the second
measurement occurs later, concurrent validity requires a second measure at about the same
time. The concurrent validity is often quantified by the correlation coefficient between the
two sets of measurements obtained for the same target population - the measurements
performed by the evaluating instrument and by the standard instrument (Statisics.com, 20042009). Concurrent validity is demonstrated where the scores on a test, instrument or tool
correlates well with a measure that has previously been validated. The two measures may be
for the same construct, or for different, but presumably related, constructs.
Procedures
This study is an exploratory study using the descriptive survey design. Babbie and
Mouton (2007) recommended that this approach should be employed when a researcher
examines a new interest or when the subject of study itself is relatively new. This study thus
sought to confirm the usefulness of Relative Significance Index (RSI) for reporting
prevalence data for counselling and other educational investigative endeavours.
The target population for this study consisted of all the 28,416 students of the
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, according to the OAU Computer Centre. Two hundred
undergraduate and postgraduate students were randomly selected by visiting the eight
cybercafs available on the university campus and approaching students wearing the
university ID card for possible willingness to participate in the study. Out of the 200 students

who took part, only 172 of the responses were useful as eighteen questionnaires were not
properly filled while ten of them did not return their copies. The characteristics of the
participants are presented in Table 1.
Table 1: Distribution of Study Participants
Research subjects

Descriptions
Frequency
Percent
100 level
3
1.7
200 level
44
25.6
300 level
29
16.9
Students
400 level
19
11.0
500 level
55
32.0
Postgraduate
22
12.8
Total
172
100.0
The instrument used in this study was a questionnaire titled online counselling
needs of Obafemi Awolowo University students. It elicited information from the students,
concerning their online counselling needs. Respondents who answered Agree were scored
3, indifferent were scored 2 and Disagree were scored 1. The validity of the instruments
was obtained using Cronbachs alpha determination and the scree plot of its factor analysis.
These were done to ensure unidimensionality among the test items. An instrument is said to
be unidimensional and valid if there is a single dominant first factor and this was the case for
the instrument. This has been said to be the central determinants of an internally consistent
instrument (Santos, 1999) and by extension, a valid one.
To obtain the reliability, the instrument was administered on an intact group of 30
students who were not included among the sample used for the study. The resulting
respondents responses were used to obtain the internal consistency reliability coefficients
(Cronbachs alpha = 0.89 and split half =0.83). The data were analyzed using descriptive
statistics to describe the students online counselling needs and correlated with the result
obtained when RSI was employed for concurrent validation of RSI.
Results

Research Question: What are the prevalent online counselling needs of students of Obafemi
Awolowo University?
In order to answer this research question, two statistical approaches were adopted. In the first
approach a descriptive analysis of the respondents responses to their online counselling
needs was carried out and the results were as shown in Table 2:
Table 2: Students Responses to Online Counselling Needs in Percentages
Yes

No

Not sure

Ranking
based on
9
% yes

120

69.8.

26

15.1

26

15.1

131

76.2

20

11.6

21

12.2

116

67.4

29

16.9

27

15.7

104

60.5

37

21.5

31

18.0

and HIV/AIDS).
Time
management
Career planning
Dating and relationship issues
School
adjustment
(making

144
147
94

83.7
85.5
54.7

15
11
39

8.7
6.4
22.7

13
14
39

7.6
8.2
22.7

131

76.2

22

12.8

19

11.0

9.

friends,
getting
Coping with
stress

127

73.8

19

11.0

26

15.1

10

Improving academic performance

144

83.7

15

8.7

13

7.6

11

Problem solving skills

142

82.6

11

6.4

19

11.0

12

Acquiring effective study skills

Interpersonal and social skills

(getting along with peers, parents


Self-awareness(understanding and

3
4

appreciating
Coping
with the
peerself.
pressure
Sexual issues (sex education, STIs

5
6
7.
8.

along

with

6
10
11
3
1
12
6

2
145
84.3
15
8.7
12
7.0
Table 2 shows that the largest percentage of 85.5% of the students agreed that they

would like to receive online counselling in career planning and hence was ranked 1, 84.3% in
acquiring effective study skills and was ranked 2, 83.7% in time management and improving
academic performance was found to tie on a rank of 3 each, and 82.6% in the area of problem
solving skills, ranked 5 and so on. It can be seen in Table 2 that two of the online counselling
needs ranked on the basis of their percentage scorings gave a tie, each (Ranks 3 and 6).
The second approach adopted was the use of Relative Significance Index, RSI
(also known as Index of Relative Importance, IRI or Relative Importance Index, RII) to

determine which of the stated online counselling needs is the most prevalent among the
students under study. The statistic was operationalized thus:

The responses to the items on the questionnaire were obtained on a 3-point scale ranging
from 1 to 3. Agree responses were scored 3, indifferent were scored 2 and Disagree
were scored 1. Bakhary (2005) gave an equation that could be useful for determining relative
Importance Index (RSI) in prevalence data as:
RSI =
AN
Where is the weighting given to each factor by respondents;
A is the highest weight (i.e 3 in this case);
N is the total number of respondents
Idowu and Odusami (2006) gave a more friendly approach to computing RSI. They posited
that RSI should be calculated via the equation:

Where

RSI = 3a + 2i + 1d
jN
a = number of respondents who responded agree.
i = number of respondents who responded indifferent.
d = number of respondents who responded disagree.
N = sample size= 172.
J = number of response categories = 3.

For instance for item 1 on the original questionnaire, Interpersonal and social skills (getting
along with peers, parents and authority figures), 120 respondents gave agree, 26
respondents gave Indifferent and disagree each. The relative significance index is given
as:
RSI = (120 X 3) + (26 X 2) + (26 X 1)
(3 X 172)

= 0.849

The results off other computations are as shown in table 3

Table 3: Relative significance analysis of students counselling needs


S/N Original
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9

Item6 No
11
12
5
10
2
8
9

Students online counselling needs


Career planning
Problem solving skills
Acquiring effective study skills
Time management
Improving academic performance
Self-awareness(understanding and appreciating the self.
School adjustment (making friends, getting along with
Coping with stress
lecturers
Interpersonal and social skills (getting along with peers,

1
10
11
12

3
4
7

parents and authority figures)


Coping with peer pressure
Sexual issues (sex education, STIs and HIV/AIDS).
Dating and relationship issues

RSI

Ranking

0.930
0.921
0.919
0.917
0.917
0.882
0.878
0.875

1
2
3
4
4
6
7
8

0.849

0.835
0.792
0.775

10
11
12

From Table 3, two pieces of information were evident. It can be seen that the RSI of all the
items clearly surpass the threshold of 0.5 as advised by Ojo (2002) and hence can be said to
be significant online counselling needs of students in Obafemi Awolowo University.
Secondly, it confirms that the most prevalent counselling needs of the students under study
was career planning (RSI = 0.930) and ranked 1, closely followed mostly by other
academic/educational needs such as problem solving skills ranked 2, acquiring effective

study skills ranked 3, time management and improving academic performance both tied on
rank 4. It further shows that students consider their online social interaction needs as
secondary to their online educational/ academic needs. In fact, dating and relationship issues
ranked last among their online counselling needs (RSI = 0.775).
Furthermore for the purpose of validating the statistical approach and in line with
recommendation of Statisics.com (2004-2009), a Spearman Rho rank correlation was carried
out for the two rankings and the result was as presented in Table 4.
Table 4: Spearman Correlation between the ranks yielded by percentages and RSI.
Percentage-yes ranking Spearman Rho
P
RSI ranking
1
6
6
2
12
11
3
10
12
4
5
5
5
11
10
6
2
2
0.979
0.000
7
8
8
8
9
9
9
1
1
10
3
3
11
4
4
12
7
7
Table 4 shows that a significant and high correlation was produced between the two measures
RSI ranking and Percent-yes ranking (r = 0.979, p = 0.000). Hence RSI ranking can be a
very useful approach to interpreting prevalence data.
Discussion
This study sought to show that RSI can be as highly comparable to simple percentages in
interpreting prevalence data and a better one in that it reduces error and bias commonly
evident in ranking prevalence and relative positioning of data. In the study, both of them pinpointed career choice as the most prevalent online counselling needs of OAU students. The
next in ranking by simple percentages was acquiring study skills which reported 84.3% of
the Yes responses, this was instead ranked 3 rd by RSI. In contrast, RSI ranked Problem-

solving skills 2nd, next to the most prevalent need of career choice, but was ranked 5th by
simple parentages. Simple percentage also ranked Time management and Improving
academic performance third while they were both ranked 4th (tied) by RSI. These types of
variation permeated the comparisons.
This differences can be attributed to the fact that ranking and comparison through
simple percentages made use of those who responded yes only and probably ignored those
who responded No and Not sure. All the response categories were taken care of in RSI.
For instance, the most prevalent online counselling need should be expected to have the least
percentage for No responses and this was found to be true of career planning (6.4%), but
not in the case of problem solving skills which also had the lowest percentage of No
responses and was actually ranked 5th by simple percentage. The fact that only those who
responded yes were considered in simple percentage accentuated the error due to sampling
in the analysis. This kind of error will normally be eliminated when RSI is employed.
It is therefore recommended that RSI be employed whenever unbiased prevalent data
are to be drawn from a research work as interpretation is easier and more error-free than
simple percentage.
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