Determining Attainment of the EPAS Foundation Program Objectives: Evidence for the Use of Self-Efficacy as an Outcome

Article excerpt

Building on research related to social cognitive theory and its construct of self-efficacy, this article describes the development of the Foundation Practice Self-Efficacy scale. This measure is designed to assess graduate social work programs' attempts to achieve the educational policy objectives for foundation-year graduate study set by the Council on Social Work Education. Preliminary evidence regarding the reliability, validity, and sensitivity to change of this measure are presented. The authors discuss changes in MSW students' self-efficacy over the course of the foundation year.

THE CALLS FOR IMPROVEMENT in educational outcomes assessment continue (e.g., Baskind, Shank, & Ferraro, 2001; Gambrill, 2000, 2001; Hull, Mather, Christopherson, & Young, 1994). The need for improvement seems to be mentioned most frequently in relation to accreditation (e.g., Lubinescu, Ratcliff, & Gaffney, 2001; Murray, 2001). Given diverse settings, program goals, pedagogical approaches, and student populations, social work educators should have a variety of measures to choose from in order to meet both their accreditation and local assessment needs. The social cognitive theory construct of self-efficacy has been widely used in educational research outside of social work. In recent years there has been an increase in its use in measuring outcomes in social work education.

Self-Efficacy

In his social cognitive theory, Bandura (1977, 1982,1986, 1995, 1997a) emphasized the construct of self-efficacy which he described as "beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments" (1997a, p. 3). Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, and Pastorelli (2001) further note that

   Among the mechanisms of human
   agency, none is more focal or pervading
   than people's perceived self-efficacy.
   Unless people believe they can produce
   desired outcomes by their actions, they
   have little incentive to act of to persevere
   in the face of difficulties.... Perceived
   self-efficacy occupies a central role in the
   causal structure of social cognitive theory
   because efficacy beliefs affect adaptation
   and change not only in their own right,
   but through their impact on other determinants....
   Meta-analyses of the magnitude
   of effect sizes corroborate the
   predictiveness of perceived self-efficacy
   across age and diverse spheres of functioning
   ... Research with adults confirms
   that beliefs of personal efficacy play a
   highly influential role in occupational
   development and pursuits ... The higher
   people's perceived efficacy to fulfill educational
   requirements and occupational
   roles, the wider the career options they
   seriously consider pursuing, the greater
   the interest they have in them, the better
   they prepare themselves educationally
   for different occupational careers, and
   the greater their staying power in challenging
   career pursuits. People simply
   eliminate from consideration occupations
   they believe to be beyond their capabilities,
   however attractive the occupations
   may be. Efficacy beliefs predict occupational
   choices and level of mastery of
   educational requirements for those pursuits
   when variations in actual ability,
   prior level of academic achievement, scholastic
   aptitude and vocational interests
   are controlled. (pp. 187-188)

While ratings of self-efficacy have repeatedly been reported to be predictive of a wide range of future behaviors both within and outside of the academic realm (e.g., Holden, 1991; Holden, Moncher, Schinke, & Barker, 1990; Multon, Brown, & Lent, 1991; Schunk, 1995; Zimmerman, 1995), there have been some instances of nonsupport of the predictive validity of the construct (e.g., Chen, Casper, & Cortina, 2001; Friedlander, Keller, Peca-Baker, & Olk, 1986; Johnson, Baker, Kopala, Kisetica, & Thompson, 1989). …