Promoting the Will and Skill of Students at Academic Risk: An Evaluation of an Instructional Design Geared to Foster Achievement, Self-Efficacy and Motivation

Article excerpt

The main purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of an instructional design in enhancing the academic competence and confidence of students who are at risk for dropping out of school. It is a comparative study aimed at exploring the role instructional practices adopted by schools play in developing and cultivating self-efficacy beliefs. Thirty-seven students enrolled in an Israeli remedial high-school which applied a learner centered structured academic program geared to raise students' academic achievements while providing them with opportunities to gain confidence in their learning abilities were compared to 15 students enrolled in an Israeli conventional remedial high-school. The results indicate that a structured academic program yields significantly higher achievement and self-efficacy scores, and a higher internal motivational orientation. Findings suggest that applying a program geared to foster both academic competence and confidence provides a beneficial synergy to the student. This study supports the contention of social cognitive theory that to increase achievement educational efforts should focus on raising students' self-efficacy through authentic mastery experiences (Bandura, 1977, 1997). Results are further discussed regarding implications for practice and theory.

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Perceived academic self-efficacy is defined as personal judgments of one's capabilities to organize and execute courses of action to attain designated types of educational performances (Bandura, 1997; Zimmerman, Bandura & Martinez-Pons, 1992). These judgments influence how students think, motivate themselves and act (Bandura, 1995). Students' belief in their capabilities to master academic activities affects their aspirations, level of interest, in intellectual pursuits and their academic achievements. Furthermore, these beliefs influence emotional states such as stress, anxiety and depression which can intrude on and impair intellectual functioning (Zimmerman, 1995). Students engage in tasks in which they feel competent and confident and avoid those in which they do not. The higher the sense of efficacy, the greater the effort, persistence and resilience students exert in face of adverse situations. As a result of these influences, self-efficacy beliefs are strong determinants of the level of accomplishment that students finally attain (Bandura, 1997; Pajares, 1996). Thus, self-efficacy beliefs play a key role in setting the course of intellectual development and operate as an important contributor to academic success (Bandura, 1995).

An increasing body of evidence provides support for these assumptions. Path analysis of causality indicated that perceived self-efficacy influences students' learning through cognitive as well as motivational mechanisms (Zimmerman, Bandura & Martinez-Pons, 1992). Further findings suggest that students who believe they are capable of performing academic tasks use more cognitive strategies, persist longer and undertake difficult and more challenging assignments than students who doubt their capabilities (Multon, Brown & Lent, 1991). Findings of numerous experimental studies indicated that academic self- efficacy beliefs are correlated with academic performances such as semester and final year grades, in-class seatwork and homework, exams, essays and reports. These findings also suggested that students' perception of their ability to master academic tasks may predict more accurately their motivation and academic achievements than other psychological constructs (see, Pajares, 1996). This implies that self-efficacy plays a mediational or facilitative role in fostering school engagement, that improving self-efficacy may lead to increased use of cognitive strategies and persistence and thereby to higher academic achievements (Schunk, 1989). The practical implication of the said above is that for students to be academically adept they need to have both the "will" and the "skill" (Pintrich & De Groot, 1990). …