The relationship of academic self-efficacy to class participation and exam performance

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<ul><li><p>Soc Psychol Educ (2012) 15:233249DOI 10.1007/s11218-011-9175-x</p><p>The relationship of academic self-efficacy to classparticipation and exam performance</p><p>Charles E. Galyon Carolyn A. Blondin Jared S. Yaw Meagan L. Nalls Robert L. Williams</p><p>Received: 19 December 2010 / Accepted: 4 November 2011 / Published online: 1 December 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011</p><p>Abstract This study examined the relationship of academic self-efficacy toengagement in class discussion and performance on major course exams among stu-dents (N = 165) in an undergraduate human development course. Cluster analysiswas used to identify three levels of academic self-efficacy: high (n = 34), medium(n = 91), and low (n = 40). Results indicated that high, medium, and low aca-demic self-efficacy all significantly predicted levels of student participation and examperformance, but the directionality of group placement on the academic measureswas different for students at the high self-efficacy level versus those at the low andmid self-efficacy levels. Cluster analysis was also used to divide students into high,medium, and low grade-point average (GPA). These groups did not differ significantlyon either self-efficacy or class participation but did differ on exam performance. WithinGPA levels, self-efficacy was most strongly related to class participation and examperformance at the highest level of GPA and least related at the lowest level of GPA.</p><p>Keywords Self-efficacy College Exam performance Participation GPA</p><p>1 Introduction</p><p>Self-efficacy is the term used to describe a persons belief that he/she has the ability toperform a particular activity or behavior. Bandura (1977) initially proposed self-effi-cacy as an explanation for behavior change during psychotherapy. Self-efficacy hasbeen found to be predictive of sports skills, health practices, socialization, and aca-demic performance (Owen and Froman 1988). In examining the predictive potentialof academic self-efficacy, we first offer distinctions between self-efficacy and kindred</p><p>C. E. Galyon (B) C. A. Blondin J. S. Yaw M. L. Nalls R. L. WilliamsDepartment of Educational Psychology and Counseling,The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USAe-mail:</p><p>123</p></li><li><p>234 C. E. Galyon et al.</p><p>control variables: perceived skill versus actual skill, current skill versus future skill,self-efficacy versus self-concept, and process versus product criterion variables. Lastly,we examine the role of GPA as a possible moderator variable between self-efficacyand criterion measures.</p><p>1.1 Distinctions between self-efficacy and kindred variables</p><p>1.1.1 Perceived skill versus objective skill</p><p>An important distinction regarding self-efficacy is between the belief that one hasa particular skill versus objective confirmation of that skill. For that reason, someresearchers have claimed that self-efficacy predicts performance of a particular behav-ior only when one has the skill to perform that behavior. Chowdhury and Shahabuddin(2007) assert that self-efficacy alone will not insure success if skill is lacking. Indeed,Banduras (1977) original conceptualization of self-efficacy offered this interpretation.His conception was that self-efficacy may predict attempts to perform the designatedbehavior but not necessarily the skill level achieved. Therefore, specific achievementoutcomes are best conceptualized as a function of three characteristics: efficacy, skill,and will (McCombs and Marzano 1990).</p><p>1.1.2 Current skill versus future skill</p><p>Another distinction needing greater clarification in the self-efficacy literature iswhether self-efficacy primarily relates to the application of skills already in onesrepertoire, the future attainment of skills, or both. Bandura defined self-efficacy asthe conviction that one can successfully execute the behavior (p. 193). However,it is unclear whether Bandura meant that this conviction targets a current skill or thepotential to acquire that skill. Perhaps self-efficacy subsumes both possibilities.</p><p>Nonetheless, the distinction between the perceived ability to currently perform aparticular skill versus the perceived ability to acquire that skill could make an impor-tant difference in judging ones suitability for a role requiring that skill. For example,an employer considering someone for a job requiring particular skills would probablybe more inclined to hire a person who claims to already have the required skills thanone who claims s/he could acquire the skills. In other words, claiming to have specificskills may lead to a different outcome than claiming the potential to acquire the skills.</p><p>On the other hand, believing that one already has a particular skill versus believ-ing that he or she could acquire that skill may affect the amount of effort investedin acquiring or refining the skill. Vancouver and Kendall (2006) reported that highself-efficacy regarding ones current ability to perform a particular task may resultin minimal effort to prepare for a task requiring that skill, which could subsequentlylead to poor performance on the task; whereas lower self-efficacy may result in onesworking hard to prepare for the task and ultimately performing well on the task. On theother hand, if self-efficacy represents ones perceived ability to acquire a skill not cur-rently in the persons repertoire, high self-efficacy is likely to produce more extendedeffort to acquire the skill than low self-efficacy. Plus, the increased perseverance in</p><p>123</p></li><li><p>Academic self-efficacy 235</p><p>attempting to acquire the skill is likely to lead to better performance than equivocaland abbreviated effort to acquire the skill, as typically might be expected with lowself-efficacy.</p><p>But once a skill is acquired, high self-efficacy regarding the performance of thatskill may not produce better performance than low self-efficacy. In earlier research,Vancouver et al. (2001, 2002) claimed that self-efficacy was positively related to pastperformance (students believe they can perform the skill because they have previ-ously demonstrated the skill) but negatively related to subsequent execution of theskill (being confident they can perform the skill may result in minimal effort to main-tain that skill).</p><p>1.1.3 Self-efficacy versus self-concept</p><p>Items on a self-efficacy scale should measure belief in ones ability to perform spe-cific skills, such as computing a standard deviation, rather than broad domain skills,such as doing statistics (Choi 2005; Finney and Schraw 2003). Researchers havefound that academic self-efficacy beliefs are organized hierarchically, such that overtime students first develop beliefs regarding their specific math skills (e.g., substi-tuting numbers for letters, solving for unknowns), then beliefs regarding their skillsin mathematical domains (e.g., algebra, calculus), and finally beliefs regarding theircapabilities in larger academic domains (e.g., mathematics, English) (Lent et al. 1997).A concept anchored in the belief that one can perform one or more specific skills canlegitimately be labeled self-efficacy. However, when the notion is broader and moreevaluative in nature (e.g., believing you are a good math student without referenceto any specific math skills), self-concept would be the more appropriate term. Choi(2005) claims that specific measures of self-efficacy should better predict performancemore than would general measures of self-concept.</p><p>1.1.4 Process versus product criterion variables</p><p>One area in particular need of additional study is the ability of self-efficacy to pre-dict process versus product variables. Present research has focused largely on productvariables (such as exam scores, GPA, and course grades). Although Bandura (1977)made no claim that self-efficacy predicts outcome products, self-efficacy may pre-dict process behaviors that lead to particular outcomes. Practicing a particular skilldoes not ensure that one will eventually achieve a desired outcome, but the likeli-hood of the desired achievement is better with practice than without practice. Plus,the belief that one can acquire a skill may affect the degree to which one practices theskill. Consequently, clarifying self-efficacys role in contributing to process variables(e.g., studying or engaging in class discussion) may help account for the relationshipbetween self-efficacy and academic outcomes.</p><p>Process variables that appear particularly important are procrastination, class atten-dance, on-task behavior, and engagement in class discussion (Klassen et al. 2008).Important product variables include exam performance, course grades, and GPA(Edman and Brazil 2009; Hackett and Betz 1989). An obvious problem with try-ing to predict academic performance from self-efficacy is that academic performance</p><p>123</p></li><li><p>236 C. E. Galyon et al.</p><p>is not one unitary task but a complex sequence of interrelated tasks, such as attend-ing class, taking notes, memorizing specific information, and studying for exams(Wood and Locke 1987). Given the importance of specificity in predicting performancefrom self-efficacy (Choi 2005), ones attempts to predict academic performance fromgeneral self-efficacy are likely to be minimally successful.</p><p>1.2 Self-efficacy and success in college</p><p>In attempting to get a sense of the overall relationship between self-efficacy beliefsand academic performance at the college level, we first looked for research syntheses(most particularly meta-analyses) targeting college samples. An early meta-analysisassessed the relationship between self-efficacy and academic outcomes from elemen-tary school through college (Multon et al. 1991). The data base used in the Multon et al.(1991) meta-analysis included 39 samples, with only 11 of those samples comprisedof college students. The average effect size of the college samples (.35) fell within therange for moderate effect sizes according to Cohens (1988) criteria, whereas the aver-age effect size for the elementary sample (.21) fell within the range for small effectsizes. The authors of this meta-analysis proposed that this increased effect size forcollege samples might be due to the greater school experience of the college students.</p><p>One recent meta-analysis located 109 studies substantiating the relationshipbetween self-efficacy and academic outcomes as reflected by college GPA (Robbins2004). Although standardized test scores (e.g., ACT and SAT) and high school GPAwere consistently the strongest predictors of college GPA, self-efficacy did provesignificantly correlated with college GPA. These authors also conducted regressionanalyses and found that the traditional predictors of college GPA (i.e., SES, highschool GPA, and standardized test scores) better predicted college GPA (R2 = 0.219)than psychosocial factors (i.e., achievement motivation, academic goals, and academicself-efficacy) (R2 = 0.164). When both sets of predictors were combined, however,significantly more variance in college GPA was explained (R2 = 0.262), with aca-demic self-efficacy proving to be the second strongest contributing factor (B = 0.200)just behind standardized test scores (R2 = 0.231).</p><p>In the time frame when the current article was written, the research on self-efficacyat the college level had become extensive. Our literature search via PsycInfo identified1,652 articles and 1,078 dissertations that included both self-efficacy and collegeas keywords. Adding academic as a keyword to the self-efficacy and college com-bination caused the count to diminish to 344 articles and 370 dissertationsa markedreduction but still a compelling amount of research. One might assume that this vol-ume of research would have established self-efficacy as one of the most powerfuland consistent predictors of success in college. Nonetheless, the most recent researchon the status of self-efficacy as a predictor of success in college has been somewhatmixed. In a word, self-efficacy is a predictor of some measures of college success butnot of other measures, and self-efficacy predicts well under some circumstances butnot under other circumstances (Gore 2010).</p><p>Specifically, Gore (2010) reported that self-efficacy measured at the beginning ofthe first year in college is a relatively weak predictor of academic success, predicting</p><p>123</p></li><li><p>Academic self-efficacy 237</p><p>GPA in the range of .00.20 correlations. On the other hand, when self-efficacy wasmeasured at the end of students first semester, correlations with GPA ranged from.35 in the second semester to .21 in the third semester. Not surprisingly, self-efficacybeliefs became stronger predictors of college performance as students progressedthrough college. This increment in predictability may result from students seeing thevalue of persistence in achieving success in courses, leading to the belief that diligentand persistent study will produce success in most courses. Thus, students become moreinclined to believe that they can be successful in college courses if they work hard.</p><p>Hsieh et al. (2007) examined the relationship between self-efficacy and academicstanding in college. They compared the self-efficacy of two college groups differing intheir academic standing: good academic standing (GPA of 2.0 or higher) and probation-ary academic standing (GPA of less than 2.0). Students in the former group reportedhigher self-efficacy and more mastery goals (developing ability) toward learning thanstudents in the latter group, who reported more performance-avoidance goals (hid-ing lack of ability). Overall, self-efficacy correlated .36 with GPA, .40 with masterygoal orientation, and .35 with performanceavoidance goal orientation. Nonetheless,some students who reported high self-efficacy were on academic probation. These stu-dents reported significantly more performance-avoidance goals than high self-efficacystudents in good standing.</p><p>1.3 Grade point average as a moderator variable</p><p>Although grade point average (GPA) is both moderately related to self-efficacy and awidely accepted indicator of general academic performance (Daniels et al. 2009), thebehaviors contributing to GPA need more precise delineation. Academically-orientedbehaviors reflecting high interest in schoolwork, effort to earn high grades, and activeattempts to independently master subject matter are likely contributors to GPA (Cornoand Mandinach 1983; Pressley et al. 1987; Sivan 1986; Zimmerman and Schunk 1989).Academic outcomes, as measured by GPA, are significantly related to autonomouslearning strategies and complex thinking (Pizzolato et al. 2009). Additionally, GPAhas been related to students personal development, impulse control, and other positivecharacteristics (e.g., organization, responsibility, and initiative) (Demoulin and Walsh2002; Kirby et al. 2005; Zimmerman and Schunk 1989).</p><p>More specifically, GPA has been found to be significantly related to and descrip-tive of student engagement in behaviors leading to academic success, such as con-sistently attending class, participating in class discussion, completing assignments...</p></li></ul>