Collective efficacy beliefs in student work teams: Relation to self-efficacy, cohesion, and performance

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  • Journal of Vocational Behavior 68 (2006) 7384

    www.elsevier.com/locate/jvb

    Collective eYcacy beliefs in student work teams: Relation to self-eYcacy, cohesion,

    and performance

    Robert W. Lent , Janet Schmidt, Linda SchmidtDepartment of Counseling and Personnel Services, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA

    Received 15 January 2005Available online 23 May 2005

    Abstract

    A measure of collective eYcacy was developed and administered to undergraduates work-ing in project teams in engineering courses. Findings in each of two samples revealed that themeasure contained a single factor and was related to ratings of team cohesion and personaleYcacy. Collective eYcacy was also found to relate to indicators of team performance at bothindividual and group levels of analysis. Consistent with social cognitive theory, collectiveeYcacy was a stronger predictor of team performance than team members perceptions of theirself-eYcacy. We consider the implications of these Wndings for further research, theory, andpractice on team functioning within occupational and educational settings. 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Keywords: Collective eYcacy; Self-eYcacy; Cohesion; Performance; Student work teams

    1. Introduction

    Social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986, 1997) is an inXuential approach to0001-8791/$ - see front matter 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2005.04.001

    understanding the psychological and social processes involved in human motivation,self-regulation, choice, and performance. A large body of research has accumulated

    * Corresponding author. Fax: +1 301 405 9995.E-mail address: boblent@umd.edu (R.W. Lent).

  • 74 R.W. Lent et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 68 (2006) 7384

    relating social cognitive variables, especially self-eYcacy, to various aspects of educa-tional and career behavior (e.g., Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 2002; Stajkovic & Luthans,1998). The focus of this literature has been on the relation of social cognitive variablesto outcomes achieved by students and workers as individuals. Such a focus is under-standable given that vocational and educational psychologists have traditionally beenconcerned with maximizing the development and remediating the problems of individ-uals, and that prevalent reward mechanisms in educational and work settings (e.g.,grades, salaries) tend to be linked to the quality of individuals performance andachievement. However, group processes have been garnering increasing attentionamong educational and organizational scholars in recent years, reXecting the growingpopularity of team approaches to learning and working (e.g., Stajkovic & Lee, 2001).

    Although research on social cognitive theory has emphasized individual-levelmechanisms (e.g., self-eYcacy) and outcomes, the theory is also concerned with howpeople work together within teams and other social units. For instance, collectiveeYcacy, the group counterpart to self-eYcacy, is a key social cognitive element thatmay help to explain how groups function more or less well together. Bandura (1997)deWned collective eYcacy as a groups shared beliefs in its conjoint capabilities toorganize and execute the courses of action required to produce given levels of attain-ments (p. 477). In contrast to self-eYcacy, which involves a persons beliefs abouthis or her ability to perform particular behaviors individually, collective eYcacyrefers to group members aggregate beliefs about how they can perform as a unit. Theliterature on collective eYcacy has grown much more slowly than that of self-eYcacy,but its research base has expanded considerably in recent years and it has proven tobe a very Xexible group-level explanatory construct, Wnding application to groups ofdiverse size, function, and organizational context (Zaccaro, Blair, Peterson, &Zazanis, 1995).

    While eVect sizes vary from study to study and not all studies have demonstratedimpressive collective eYcacy-criterion relations (e.g., Lee, Tinsley, & Bobko, 2002;Riggs & Knight, 1994), collective eYcacy has been reliably linked to (a) antecedentfactors (e.g., prior group achievement, Goddard, 2001; training, Gibson, 2001; self-eYcacy, Fernandez-Ballesteros, Diez-Nicolas, Caprara, Barbaranelli, & Bandura,2002); (b) group process and environment factors (e.g., team cohesion, Paskevich,Brawley, Dorsch, & Widmeyer, 1999; leadership climate, Chen & Bliese, 2002); (c)aVective outcomes (e.g., job satisfaction, psychological strain, organizational commit-ment, Jex & Bliese, 1999); and (d) group performance (Gibson, 2001; Goddard, 2001;Parker, 1994).

    Stajkovic and Lee (2001) recently reported a meta-analysis of collective eYcacy-performance relations, involving data from 35 studies (including 67 correlation esti-mates and nearly 3000 groups with an average size of 3.8 members per group). Theyfound an average correlation between collective eYcacy and performance of .45.Thus, across the set of studies, collective eYcacy accounts for roughly 20% of the var-iance in group performance, representing a moderately strong eVect size. Consistentwith expectations, task interdependence was found to moderate collective eYcacy-group performance relations, with stronger relations under conditions where tasks

    require high versus low member coordination. Collective eYcacy-performance

  • R.W. Lent et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 68 (2006) 7384 75

    relations did not diVer substantially as a function of study design characteristics (e.g.,experimental vs. correlational studies) or type of sample (student vs. managerial/pro-fessional groups).

    A separate meta-analysis by Gully, Incalcaterra, Joshi, and Beaubien (2002)reported similar relations of collective eYcacy to performance (corrected mean corre-lation of .41). They also conWrmed the Wnding that high-interdependence groups pro-duce larger collective eYcacy-performance relations than do low-interdependencegroups. In addition to interdependence, Gully et al.s meta-analysis tested level ofanalysis as an eVect size moderator, Wnding that collective eYcacy relates more highlyto performance at the team than at the individual level of analysis. (In the individuallevel of analysis, individual team members ratings were correlated with performance;in the group level of analysis, team ratings were combined across team members toproduce aggregate percepts of team capabilities.)

    Although collective eYcacy has not yet been applied to the context of engineeringeducation, there has been growing emphasis on student acquisition of team skills andexperience in engineering education within recent years (ABET, 2000). Mirroring theimportance of work teams in the engineering workplace, student project teams aredesigned to enhance the learning process by enabling students to develop skills atmanaging team interactions. Use of teams also allows students to work on more real-istic engineering problems (e.g., design of a bridge vs. the sizing of one beam). How-ever, team interpersonal dynamics often pose unique challenges for students andprofessors, such as how to handle inter-member conXicts and ensure that all studentsare contributing to, and proWting from, the team experience (Brannick, Roach, &Salas, 1993; Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 1997). Much is yet to be learnedabout what factors enhance team functioning and how such factors can be intention-ally fostered by professors and team members. It therefore seems important to studygroup-level variables, such as collective eYcacy, that may both shed light on projectteam functioning and suggest ways to assist teams to work together more eVectively.

    In the present study, we sought to examine the factor structure, correlates, andpredictive validity of a novel measure of collective eYcacy within the context of stu-dent project teams in engineering. SpeciWcally, we Wrst developed a measure of collec-tive eYcacy beliefs linked to student team functioning and administered it, alongwith measures of self-eYcacy and group process (team cohesion) to students enrolledin a freshman engineering course involving student project teams. Since it has beensuggested that a teams collective eYcacy is likely to derive from such sources as theself-eYcacy of its individual members (Bandura, 1997) and perceptions of team cohe-sion (Zaccaro et al., 1995), we expected individuals collective eYcacy percepts torelate to their personal eYcacy beliefs and team cohesion ratings.

    We also explored the relations of team members aggregate collective eYcacy esti-mates to their ratings of self-eYcacy, team cohesion, and performance, as well as toexternal (instructor) ratings of team performance. Based on theory and prior Wnd-ings, we expected that collective eYcacy beliefs would (a) be predicted by the combi-nation of cohesion and self-eYcacy, (b) be predictive of team performance asassessed both by team members and course instructors, and (c) serve as stronger pre-

    dictors of team performance than do percepts of self-eYcacy.

  • 76 R.W. Lent et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 68 (2006) 7384

    2. Method

    2.1. Participants

    Two samples were recruited for the study. The Wrst sample, which participated inthe initial measure development phase of the study, consisted of 165 students (81%male) enrolled in an introductory engineering design course at a large Eastern univer-sity. In terms of class standing, 67% were Wrst-year students, 24% were sophomores,and 9% were juniors. The mean age was 19.52 years (SD D 3.12). Sixty-one percent ofthe participants were European American, 12% were African American, 5% were His-panic American, 16% were Asian American, and 6% reported other racial/ethnic iden-tiWcations. Students represented a variety of engineering majors/disciplines, with mostreporting mechanical (23%), electrical (21%), or computer (19%) engineering majors.

    In the second, replication and extension, phase of the study, participants were 312students (74% men, 22% women, and 4% sex-unidentiWed) enrolled in a subsequentsemester of the same introductory engineering design course. They were divided into56 project teams. The students were primarily Wrst (78%) and second-year (16%) stu-dents. In terms of race/ethnicity, 8% self-identiWed as Black or African American, 4%as Hispanic, 18% as Asian or Asian American, 64% as White or European American,and 6% reported other (e.g., multiracial) racial/ethnic identiWcations. Most partici-pants were majoring in mechanical (26%), electrical (19%), aerospace (14%), or com-puter (13%) engineering specialties.

    2.2. Procedure and instruments

    Participants in both phases of the study completed measures of collective eYcacy,team cohesion, and self-eYcacy. They also provided demographic and academic sta-tus data. In addition, students in the second phase rated their teams performance,and independent ratings of each team were also obtained from course instructors. Allmeasures were obtained during the last or next to last class meeting of the semester sothat students team ratings would be based on maximal exposure to their projectteams and their estimates of their self-eYcacy would be informed by at least onesemester of college-level experience.

    As part of the engineering design course, students were divided into project teamsby course instructors. Teams were assigned a common project: to develop a workingwater pump by the end of the semester. They were expected to pool their talents andcoordinate all tasks needed to produce the Wnal product. In most cases, teams metweekly. They were allowed to select their own leaders and to distribute speciWc func-tions (e.g., technical report writing) as they saw Wt. Instructors served as team consul-tants and provided the teams with basic and technical background material related tothe design and construction of the project.

    In the measurement development phase of the study, participants responses to themeasures were treated at the individual level of analysis whereas, in the second phaseof the study, both individual and group levels of analysis were performed. In the lat-

    ter phase, survey responses were obtained from 3 to 10 members per team

  • R.W. Lent et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 68 (2006) 7384 77

    (average D 5.57 respondents per team). While all 56 teams provided collectiveeYcacy, team cohesion, and self-eYcacy ratings, student and instructor ratings ofteam performance were available only for 49 and 42 teams, respectively. For thepurpose of group-level analyses, team members ratings were averaged together toproduce group indices of collective eYcacy, self-eYcacy, cohesion, and performance.Course instructors (n D 10) also provided independent ratings of team performanceat the end of the semester.

    2.2.1. Collective eYcacyThe collective eYcacy measure, which initially contained 18 items, was based on a

    review of the collective eYcacy literature, conceptual analysis of the educational andinterpersonal tasks of the student project teams, and discussions with course instruc-tors, teaching assistants, and students who had previously taken the introductorydesign course. Participants were asked to indicate their conWdence in their teamsability to perform each of the 18 tasks successfully as a unit, rather than how wellindividual group members perform. Sample items included work well togethereven in challenging situations and adapt to changes in group tasks or goals. Stu-dents responded by rating their conWdence in their teams capabilities on a 10-pointscale, from no conWdence (0) to complete conWdence (9). Psychometric data arepresented in the Results section.

    2.2.2. Team cohesionTeam cohesion was assessed with an adapted version of the Cohesion subscale

    from the Group Environment Scale (GES; Moos, 1986). The original subscale con-tained nine true/false items (e.g., there is a feeling of unity and cohesion in thisgroup) designed to reXect members involvement in and commitment to the group,and the concern and friendship they show for one another (Moos, 1986, p. 2). TheGES subscales have been used as indicators of group climate or process in diversegroup types (e.g., self-help, task-oriented groups). The Cohesion subscale, in particu-lar, has shown adequate internal consistency (D .86) and one-month test-retest reli-ability (r D .79). In terms of validity, it has been found to be related to ratings ofgroup attraction and quality of group interaction (Moos, 1986). We substituted theword team for group in the items, reverse-scored negatively worded items, andhad participants indicate the degree to which they agreed with each of the statementsalong a 5-point Likert scale, from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5). Internalconsistency reliability estimates were .82 and .92 in samples 1 and 2, respectively.

    2.2.3. Self-eYcacyTo assess self-eYcacy, we used a 7-item measure asking participants to indicate

    their conWdence in their ability to cope with a variety of barriers, or problems, thatengineering students could potentially experience (e.g., cope with a lack of supportfrom profes...

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