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Motivation Based on Self-Efficacy (page 4)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Do students who enter their first year of college with higher self-efficacy tend to get higher college grades? Chemers, Hu, and Garcia (2001) addressed this question in a study involving the entire freshman class at a major university in California. Students were asked to complete a questionnaire that measured their academic self-efficacy as well as several other factors. In addition, the researchers obtained the students' high school grade point average (GPA) and first-year college GPA from university records (with permission, of course). High school grades were significantly related to college grades—confirming the idea that past performance is a good predictor of future performance. Importantly, self-efficacy upon entering college was also significantly related to grades at the end of the first year of college, even when the effects of high school grade-point awrage were statistically eliminated. In other words, for students who had high grades in high school and students who had low grades in high school and everyone in between, there was a strong relation between self-efficacy beliefs and first-year grades. In short, students who believed they were capable of doing well in their courses performed better than students who did not believe they were capable of doing well. Interestingly, high school GPA was also significantly related to self-efficacy beliefs, suggesting a self-perpetuating loop in which obtaining high grades in the past is related to having higher self-efficacy which in turn is related to obtaining high grades in the future. There are many other studies (e.g., Pietsch, Walker, & Chapman, 2003; Pintrich, 2003b) that yield similar results, so there is reason to accept Chemers, Hu, and Garcia's (2001) conclusion that "self-efficacy ... showed powerful relationships to academic performance" (p. 61).

Overall, these results provide a consistent picture of how self-efficacy influences academic performance. Students who have confidence in their capabilities engage in deeper processing of the material during learning, which in turn results in a better understanding of the material. Thus, when achievement tests emphasize understanding, high self-efficacy students are likely to perform better than low self-efficacy students. Pintrich (2003a) summarizes the findings on self-efficacy as follows: "It has been a major finding ... that when people expect to do well, they tend to try hard, persist, and perform better" (p. 671). This pattern was confirmed in a recent review of self-efficacy studies in which 54 out of 60 effects were positive, prompting the authors to conclude that there was a "small favorable influence of positive self-beliefs on academic achievement" (Valentine, DuBois, & Cooper, 2004, p. 126).

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