Student perceptions of assessment and student self-efficacy in competence-based education

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  • This article was downloaded by: [McGill University Library]On: 21 November 2014, At: 08:41Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Educational StudiesPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ceds20

    Student perceptions of assessment andstudent self-efficacy in competence-based educationMart van Dintherab, Filip Dochya, Mien Segersc & Johan Braekendea Department of Educational Sciences, Katholieke UniversiteitLeuven, Leuven, Belgiumb Department of Pedagogical Studies, Fontys University of AppliedSciences, Tilburg, The Netherlandsc School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University,Maastricht, The Netherlandsd Research Methodology group, Wageningen University andResearch centre, Wageningen, The Netherlandse Centre for Educational Measurement Oslo (CEMO), University ofOslo, Oslo, NorwayPublished online: 24 Mar 2014.

    To cite this article: Mart van Dinther, Filip Dochy, Mien Segers & Johan Braeken (2014) Studentperceptions of assessment and student self-efficacy in competence-based education, EducationalStudies, 40:3, 330-351, DOI: 10.1080/03055698.2014.898577

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03055698.2014.898577

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Student perceptions of assessment and student self-efficacy incompetence-based education

    Mart van Dinthera,b*, Filip Dochya, Mien Segersc and Johan Braekend,e

    aDepartment of Educational Sciences, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium;bDepartment of Pedagogical Studies, Fontys University of Applied Sciences, Tilburg,The Netherlands; cSchool of Business and Economics, Maastricht University, Maastricht,The Netherlands; dResearch Methodology group, Wageningen University and Researchcentre, Wageningen, The Netherlands; eCentre for Educational Measurement Oslo (CEMO),University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

    (Received 24 June 2013; final version received 22 February 2014)

    The purpose of this study was to provide insight into the interplay between stu-dent perceptions of competence-based assessment and student self-efficacy, andhow this influences student learning outcomes. Results reveal that student per-ceptions of the form authenticity aspect and the quality feedback aspect ofassessment do predict student self-efficacy, confirming the role of mastery expe-riences and social persuasions in enhancing student self-efficacy as stated bysocial cognitive theory. Findings do not confirm mastery experiences as being astronger source of self-efficacy information than social persuasions. Study resultsconfirm the predictive role of students self-efficacy on their competence out-comes. Mediation analysis results indicate that students perceptions of assess-ment have an indirect effect on students competence evaluation outcomesthrough students self-efficacy. Study findings highlight which assessment char-acteristics, positively influencing students learning, contribute to the effective-ness of competence-based education. Limitations of the study and directions forfuture research are indicated.

    Keywords: self-efficacy; assessment characteristics; perceptions of assessment;competence-based assessment; student perceptions

    Introduction

    As a response to a society that has a growing need for creative and flexibleprofessionals, higher educational institutes are modifying their educational pro-grammes to become so-called new learning environments, in which students areconfronted with complex real-life problems and situations for developing relevantcompetences (De Corte et al. 2003). Though competent behaviour largely dependson acquiring relevant knowledge, skills and competences, researchers in educationalsettings are increasingly also drawing attention to the role of student self-efficacyand student perceptions during learning (Baartman and Ruijs 2011; Dochy et al.2005; Schunk 2003).

    In particular, self-efficacy, as a key construct of social cognitive theory, appearsto be a significant variable because it affects student learning and performance (see

    *Corresponding author. Email: M.vandinther@fontys.nl

    2014 Taylor & Francis

    Educational Studies, 2014Vol. 40, No. 3, 330351, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03055698.2014.898577

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    mailto:M.vandinther@fontys.nlhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03055698.2014.898577

  • e.g. Pajares 2006). Educational programmes based on the main sources ofself-efficacy, namely enactive mastery experiences, vicarious experiences and socialpersuasions, have the potency of enhancing student self-efficacy (van Dinther,Dochy, and Segers 2011). According to social cognitive theory (Bandura 1997),enactive mastery experiences are authentic successes in dealing with particular situa-tions, vicarious experiences are observational experiences provided by social modelsand social persuasions refer to encouragement and evaluative feedbackcommunicated by important others.

    Competence-based education and other new learning environments, often useassessment as a tool for learning (Black and Wiliam 1998; Gielen, Dochy, and Dier-ick 2003). This is in accordance with a line of research which points to the influen-tial role of assessment as perceived by students. In particular, student perceptions ofthe specific assessment characteristics: authenticity of assessment (Gulikers 2006;Janssens, Boes, and Wante 2002; Sambell, McDowell, and Brown 1997) and feed-back (Gibbs and Simpson 2004a; Higgins and Hartley 2002; Segers, Gijbels, andThurlings 2008), appear to play a positive role in student learning. Considering theconnection that can be made between these assessment characteristics and theabove-mentioned sources of self-efficacy, respectively, mastery experiences and ver-bal persuasions, we argue that student perceptions of these assessment characteristicscan positively influence student self-efficacy.

    The context for this study is a competence-based teacher educational programmein which formative competence assessment is used, preceding the first-year finalcompetence evaluation. Formative competence assessment, as a part of the instruc-tional process, enables students to improve their competences, by providing themwith feedback on their competence development. The focus of this article is theimpact of student perceptions of formative assessment on student development ofself-efficacy, which in its turn has an impact on the outcome of the final competenceevaluation. Student self-efficacy can be considered to play a key role, both interme-diate and direct, in predicting competence evaluation outcomes. The purpose of thisstudy is to provide more insight into the interplay between student perceptions ofcompetence-based assessment, student self-efficacy and how this influences studentlearning outcomes. The findings of our study can highlight which processes areessential in establishing the effectiveness of the competence-based approach withinhigher education.

    Self-efficacy and perceptions of assessment

    As a key construct of social cognitive theory, self-efficacy appears to be a significantvariable because it affects student motivation and learning (Bandura 1997; Schunkand Pajares 2001). Self-efficacy refers to beliefs in ones capabilities to organizeand execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments (Bandura1997, 3). According to social cognitive theory, there are four main sources of infor-mation that are responsible for the development of students self-efficacy: enactivemastery experiences, vicarious (observational) experiences, social persuasions andphysiological and psychological states. In this study, we focus on mastery experi-ences and social persuasions because these sources can be connected with the maincharacteristics of competence-based assessment.

    Mastery experiences, in other words authentic successes in performing taskswithin demanding situations, are stated as the most powerful source of self-efficacy

    Educational Studies 331

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  • and research shows that mastery experiences are significant predictors of creating astrong sense of self-efficacy (Bandura 1997; Britner and Pajares 2006). Research onfactors affecting student self-efficacy in higher education (van Dinther, Dochy, andSegers 2011; Lancaster and Bain 2007; Palmer 2006; Papastergiou 2010) confirmsthe role of mastery experiences within education and stresses the relevance of pro-viding students with practice-oriented learning experiences as a necessary conditionfor acquiring mastery experiences.

    Feedback or information about the outcome of an action is considered a second(persuasive) source for creating self-efficacy information. Feedback, encouragementand support, especially from important others, such as parents and teachers, enhancestudent self-efficacy (Bandura 1997, Bong and Skaalvik 2003; van Dinther, Dochy,and Segers 2011; Schunk and Pajares 2001).

    Both sources of self-efficacy, mastery experiences and feedback, are clearlyrelated to assessment practices. In this respect, during the last decades, many schol-ars have been arguing for the alignment of assessment with how learning andinstruction is taking place. They have put forward the importance of student percep-tions of two characteristics of assessment, authenticity (Gulikers 2006; Janssens,Boes, and Wante 2002; Sambell, McDowell, and Brown 1997) and feedback (Gibbsand Simpson 2004a; Higgins and Hartley 2002; Segers, Gijbels, and Thurlings2008). Authenticity refers to the relatedness of assessment tasks to real-life situationsand meaningful problems as part of the professional practice. Student perceptions ofauthenticity of assessment refer to how practice-oriented assessment is perceived bystudents (Gulikers 2006). Since practice-oriented learning experiences can be seenas a necessary condition for gaining mastery experiences (van Dinther, Dochy, andSegers 2011; Palmer 2006), the assessment characteristic authenticity can be con-nected with this source of creating self-efficacy. Perceptions of feedback refer tohow students perceive information about the outcome of assessment (Gibbs andSimpson 2004a). Because feedback from others such as teachers influences studentsself-efficacy, this assessment characteristic can easily be connected with social per-suasions as another source of creating self-efficacy.

    Based on the above we test the following hypothesis in this study:

    Hypothesis 1. Student perceptions of the authenticity of competence-based assessmentand feedback given have a positive effect on student self-efficacy.

    Bandura (1997) states that mastery experiences are the most powerful source of self-efficacy information, research on factors affecting student self-efficacy in highereducation confirms this assertion (van Dinther, Dochy, and Segers 2011; Lancasterand Bain 2007; Palmer 2006; Papastergiou 2010). Following Bandura (1997), wepresume that authenticity of assessment has a stronger influence on student self-effi-cacy than feedback given. We test this with the following hypothesis of this study:

    Hypothesis 2. Student perceptions of the authenticity of competence-based assessmenthave a more powerful effect on student self-efficacy than perceptions of feedback given.

    Self-efficacy and competence

    Developing a social cognitive theory, Bandura (1986, 1997) assumed that a strongself-efficacy belief affects the choices people make, their ways of acting, the effort

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  • they spend, their perseverance and elasticity (Bandura 1997). Research findings sup-port these assumptions among several domains of human functioning such as health,sports and work-related performance (Luszcynska and Schwarzer 2005; Schwarzeret al. 2010; Stajkovic and Luthans 1998). Concerning the educational domain therelation between self-efficacy and achievement has been investigated at various lev-els of education (e.g. primary, secondary and tertiary), several areas (reading, writ-ing, mathematics and computing science) and different ability levels (average,talented and below average). These studies (Bouffard-Bouchard 1990; Carmichaeland Taylor 2005; Lane, Lane, and Kyprianou 2004; Pajares 1996, 2006; Pajares andMiller 1994; Relich, Debus, and Walker 1986; Schunk 2003) show, among otherthings, direct effects of student self-efficacy on achievements with respect to severalgrades and ability levels. Within the context of this study, students are examinedwithin a final competence evaluation that takes place at the end of the first-year pro-gramme. Following social cognitive theory and given the strong empirical results onthe general role of self-efficacy in competence development, we test the followinghypothesis in this study:

    Hypothesis 3. Student self-efficacy positively predicts student competence evaluationoutcomes.

    In the foregoing, we argued the following: student perceptions of the authenticity ofassessment and feedback given play a positive role in student learning and learningoutcome, student perceptions of the authenticity of and feedback given have a posi-tive effect on student self-efficacy, and students self-efficacy positively predicts stu-dent comp...

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