Using Past Performance, Proxy Efficacy, and Academic Self-Efficacy to Predict College Performance

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  • Using Past Performance, Proxy Efficacy, and AcademicSelf-Efficacy to Predict College Performance

    Steven M. Elias1 and Scott MacDonaldAuburn University Montgomery

    This study examined the ability of prior academic performance, proxy efficacy,and academic self-efficacy to predict college academic performance. Participants(N = 202) completed a modified version of the Teacher Collective Efficacy scale(Goddard, 2001), the Academic Self-Efficacy scale (Elias & Loomis, 2000), and ademographic questionnaire. Prior performance was predictive of both academicself-efficacy beliefs and college performance. Hierarchical regression analysis indi-cates that academic self-efficacy beliefs explain a significant amount of unique vari-ance beyond past performance in predicting college performance. Proxy efficacy didserve as a predictor of student academic self-efficacy, but did not serve as a predictorof college performance. Implications for instructors, as well as for future research,are discussed.

    The most important capability an individual can possess is that of self-regulation (Baumeister, Leith, Muraven, & Bratslavsky, 1998; Zimmerman,2000). Self-regulation refers to the ways in which an individual controls anddirects his or her own actions (Markus & Wurf, 1987). It is believed thatself-regulation becomes more and more possible as an individual develops,such that an individuals ability to plan his or her future (e.g., educationalgoals, career decisions) does not occur until approximately 14 to 16 years ofage (Demetriou, 2000). However, chronological development is far from theonly influence on ones ability to engage in self-regulation.

    According to Bandura (1982), self-regulation is greatly influenced by anindividuals confidence in ones ability to make use of ones tools of personalagency. This confidence, which is so central to self-regulation, is referred to asperceived self-efficacy. One of the reasons why self-efficacy is so essential isthat it operates during each phase of Zimmermans (2000) three-phase self-regulation model: forethought (setting the stage for action), performance(processes that affect attention and action), and self-reflection (responding toefforts; Schunk & Ertmer, 2000).

    Of importance is the idea that self-efficacy beliefs are highly related tothe self, such that self-efficacy is an essential component of the self system

    1Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Steven M. Elias, AuburnUniversity Montgomery, Department of Psychology, P. O. Box 244023, Montgomery, AL36124. E-mail: selias@mail.aum.edu

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    Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2007, 37, 11, pp. 25182531. 2007 Copyright the AuthorsJournal compilation 2007 Blackwell Publishing, Inc.

  • (Bandura, 1986). However, rarely do individuals work entirely by themselves.In fact, many of the problems and issues with which we contend today arecommon problems that require a collective effort (Bandura, 1997). As aresult, simply having confidence in ones abilities may not be enough to getthe job done. What may be of equal importance is the confidence one has inanother individuals or groups ability to be successful. Such confidence in theperformance capability of others to act on ones behalf is referred to as proxyefficacy (Bandura, 1997).

    Characteristics of Self-Efficacy Beliefs

    Self-efficacy beliefs are pertinent to the ways in which we think, feel,become motivated, persist, and perform (Bandura, 1997). The sources ofthese beliefs are mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, verbal persua-sion, and physiological/affective states. The most influential of these sourcesare mastery (i.e., successful) experiences because they provide an individualwith real-life evidence that he or she has what it takes to succeed (Bandura,1997). For example, students prior performance offers a reliable guide forassessing self-efficacy beliefs (Schunk & Ertmer, 2000). When a studentsprior performance has been successful, that students efficacy beliefs areraised, but when such efforts have been unsuccessful, efficacy is lowered(Zimmerman & Ringle, 1981).

    However, it is important to note that Bandura (1997) reported that self-efficacy beliefs contribute to an individuals performance independent of pastperformance. Therefore, efficacy beliefs should explain a significant amountof variance in performance beyond the effect of past performance. Onepurpose of the current study is to empirically assess this assumption throughthe use of hierarchical regression analysis.

    Of utmost importance is the idea that self-efficacy beliefs are domainspecific. Because self-efficacy should not be considered an omnibus trait,theorizing about the efficacious individual or group would be inappropriate.As Bandura (1997) pointed out, In navigating the mathematical realm,people act on their beliefs of mathematical efficacy, not on their efficacybeliefs for writing sonnets or baking souffls (p. 40). The domain of interestfor the current research is that of college-level academic self-efficacy.

    Academic Self-Efficacy

    Specifically of interest are college students academic self-efficacy beliefs.Academic self-efficacy refers to a learners judgment about his or her ability to

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  • successfully attain educational goals (Bandura, 1977). Academic self-efficacyis of importance because it has been linked to such issues as academic grades(Elias & Loomis, 2000; Lent, Brown, & Larkin, 1986), academic majorselection (Betz & Hackett, 1983), academic major persistence (Lent, Brown,& Larkin, 1984), and academic motivation (Bandura, 1977). Academicself-efficacy has also been found to be a significant predictor of academicperformance (Elias & Loomis, 2004). In fact, efficacy beliefs are thought tobe so important to academics that Bandura (1997) stated, Perceived self-efficacy is a better predictor of intellectual performance than skills alone (p.216). In addition, academic self-efficacy has also been linked to importantnonacademic variables, such as depression and prosocial behavior (Bandura,Barbaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 1996).

    Proxy Efficacy

    One construct that has not received the research attention it deserves isthat of proxy efficacy. As mentioned previously and according to Bray andcolleagues (Bray, Gyurcsik, Culos-Reed, Dawson, & Martin, 2001), proxyefficacy can be defined as ones confidence in the skills and abilities of athird party or parties to function effectively on ones behalf (p. 426). Forthe current study, proxy efficacy can be thought of as a students confi-dence in his or her college facultys ability to function well on his or herbehalf.

    Banduras (1986, 1997) theoretical writing on proxy efficacy has beenfollowed by only a few empirical studies of the construct (e.g., Bray et al.,2001; Bray & Cowan, 2004). Consequently, the body of empirical studiespertaining to proxy efficacy is not extensive and is fairly limited to fields otherthan academic performance. However, the theoretical and empirical writingsthat do exist offer enough background to allow for the development oftheory-based hypotheses in the area of academics.

    Frequently, individuals find themselves in situations in which they do nothave absolute control over all of the contingencies that must be addressed inorder to be successful (Bandura, 1997). For example, after experiencing amyocardial infarction (heart attack), many individuals wish to completeexercise-based cardiac rehabilitation programs, but do not possess therequisite knowledge to do so without assistance. Even though the individualis adequately motivated, he or she still requires the assistance of an exerciseconsultant in order to complete such a program. When individuals areenrolled in cardiac rehabilitation programs and they have confidence in theirexercise consultant (i.e., high proxy efficacy), their own self-efficacy for com-pleting the program will be high. Contrarily, when such individuals do not

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  • have confidence in their exercise consultants (i.e., low proxy efficacy), theirown self-efficacy for completing the program will be low (Bray & Cowan,2004).

    Research indicates the existence of a positive correlation between renaldialysis patients adherence to their healthcare providers recommendationsand the amount of confidence the patients have in their healthcare providersabilities (Christensen, Wiebe, Benotsch, & Lawton, 1996). Bray et al. (2001)reported that for certain instructor-led activities (e.g., aerobic courses), proxyefficacy was positively correlated with students personal efficacy beliefs.Based on these results, Bray et al. concluded that there is a supplementaryrole of proxy efficacy in the development of personal efficacy beliefs (p. 432).Applying these findings to academics allows one to hypothesize that whena university student has confidence in his or her faculty (i.e., high proxyefficacy), his or her academic self-efficacy should be enhanced. The currentresearch seeks to address this contention.

    Past Performance, Self-Regulation, and Efficacy Beliefs

    Bandura (1992) noted that when individuals are faced with complexunfamiliar environments, they rely heavily on past performance in order tojudge their efficacy. This causal ordering of self-regulatory determinantshas been developed through the use of path analysis. For example, Woodand Bandura (1989) reported that when completing new tasks, ones per-formance is greatly impacted by past performance (b = .57). However, as atask becomes more familiar, performance is impacted less by past perfor-mance (b = .37) and more by self-efficacy (b = .55; b = .79, prior to control-ling for analytic strategies). As a task becomes more familiar, individualswill form self-schemas as to their efficacy that will power their perfor-mance system more so than other non-self-related perceptions (Bandura,1992).

    Because university students typically will have had 12 years of academicexperience prior to the start of their college careers, it is believed that therewill be a high level of task familiarity with college-level academic require-ments. Based on this, it is held that while prior academic performance isimportant to academic success, given the issue of task familiarity, academicself-efficacy beliefs are more important to such success.

    Several studies have demonstrated the importance of past performance/mastery experiences, proxy efficacy, and academic self-efficacy. The currentresearch examines these constructs in terms of how they relate to collegestudents academic performance.

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  • Hypotheses

    According to Zimmerman and Ringle (1981), when a students priorperformance has been successful, his or her subsequent efficacy beliefs areraised. On the contrary, if the student has performed poorly in the past,efficacy beliefs will suffer in the future. Therefore, the following ishypothesized:

    Hypothesis 1. Prior performance (i.e., high school grade pointaverage [GPA]) will serve as a predictor of current academicself-efficacy beliefs.

    Wood and Bandura (1989) indicated that when an individual performsfamiliar tasks, past performance as well as self-efficacy beliefs impact currentperformance. As a result, the following is hypothesized:

    Hypothesis 2. Prior performance (i.e., high school GPA) willaccount for a significant amount of variance in collegeperformance.

    Research has indicated that self-efficacy beliefs contribute to an individu-als future performance, independent of his or her past performance(Bandura, 1997); and that as a task becomes more familiar, self-efficacybeliefs are more important to success than is prior performance (Wood &Bandura, 1989). Therefore, hierarchical regression analysis will be used totest the following hypothesis:

    Hypothesis 3. Academic self-efficacy beliefs will not only ex-plain a significant amount of variance in college performancebeyond that of past performance, but will also account for agreater amount of variance in performance than does pastperformance.

    A small number of studies have shown that when an individual is relianton another to accomplish goals, proxy efficacy impacts his or her personalself-efficacy beliefs (e.g., Bray & Cowan, 2004; Bray et al., 2001; Christensenet al., 1996). Based on this relationship, the following is proposed:

    Hypothesis 4. Students perceptions of proxy efficacy willaccount for a significant amount of variance in their academicself-efficacy beliefs.

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  • Method

    Participants

    Participants were 202 students (87 men, 115 women) who were enrolled inintroductory psychology courses at a large university in the RockyMountainregion of the United States. All data were collected during the springsemester.

    Participants mean age was 19.24 years (SD = 1.39), and most of theparticipants were Caucasian (95%). Students reported being freshmen(67.3%), sophomores (22.8%), juniors (7.4%), or seniors (2.5%). Participantshad a mean high school GPA of 3.36 (SD = 0.42) and at the time of datacollection, had a mean college GPA of 2.89 (SD = 0.66). While participantswere not asked to report their specific major, most participants had notchanged their major (68%) at the time of data collection.

    Given the fact that there were no missing data, no participants wereomitted from the study. All participants received course-required researchcredit for taking part in the study and were treated in accordance with theethical guidelines set forth by the American Psychological Association.

    Materials

    Proxy efficacy. Goddards (2001) Collective Efficacy Scale (CES), whichtypically assesses an entire facultys confidence in its ability to accomplishgoals, was used to assess student perceptions of proxy efficacy. Collectiveefficacy refers to a groups confidence in its ability to successfully address aproblem through concerted effort (Bandura, 1986). Since collective efficacy isa social-organizational construct, rather than an individual construct, forresearch purposes a group of individuals would complete a measure of col-lective efficacy, and their aggregated response would be used as the index ofefficacy. For example, Goddard administered the CES to teachers at severalschools, and the mean CES value obtained from each school served as thatschools index of collective efficacy. For the current study, the collectivecomponent has been removed in that individual students provided theirpersonal beliefs as to whether their faculty has the ability to function ontheir behalf, resulting in a measure of proxy efficacy, rather than collectiveefficacy.

    The CES (Goddard, 2001) is comprised of 21 Likert-type items that aremeasured on a 6-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (stronglyagree; see Appendix for sample CES items). Principal-axis factor analysis ofthe 21 CES items resulted in a single factor being extracted (a = .96), which

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  • explains 50.5% of the variance in the scale items. Individual-item factorloadings ranged from .47 to .86, with 17 of the 21 items loading at .71or abo...

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