ERG SES H 03, Gender and Education
In recent years, researchers have focused on motivational factors affecting student achievement. Among these factors, based on social cognitive theory, self-efficacy is defined as “people’s judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performance” (Bandura, 1986, p. 391). It is one’s judgment of how well s/he can achieve a task. The higher the self-efficacy beliefs of people, the more they put their aims in this direction and the more they strive to reach them. Self-efficacy plays role on selection of activities, effort shown for a task, and resistance to complete a task. Self-efficacy, therefore, is one of the constructs that significantly predicts student achievement in various disciplines such as science and mathematics (Bong, 2009; Britner & Pajares, 2006; Kupermintz, 2002). In addition, self-efficacy is domain-specific, which means that students have different levels of self-efficacy in different areas. Therefore, in the present study, we focused on chemistry self-efficacy which is defined as students’ beliefs in their ability to accomplish chemistry tasks (Uzuntiryaki & Çapa Aydin, 2009). Particularly, we examined whether the sources of chemistry self-efficacy differ with respect to gender.
Self-efficacy can develop as a result of peoples’ interpretation of information coming from four sources: mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological state (Bandura, 1997). Mastery experiences refer to one’s previous personal experiences on a task. If one has successful experiences in similar previous tasks, s/he will tend to have high self-efficacy. Vicarious experiences are obtained by observing other people’s experiences. If people are unsure about their capabilities, they are likely to develop self-efficacy beliefs through vicarious experiences. Verbal persuasion is others’ sayings about one’s capabilities. Teachers, parents, and peers all can affect a student’s belief about his/her capabilities. Lastly, physiological state has potential to shape self-efficacy beliefs. People may have low self-efficacy beliefs when they feel anxiety in a task. Of these sources, mastery experiences have been reported as the most influential source in developing self-efficacy (Britner & Pajares, 2006).
In literature, the findings of the studies indicated gender difference in self-efficacy beliefs. (Britner & Pajares, 2006; Pajares & Valiante, 2001). However, studies on the gender differences with respect to the sources of self-efficacy are rare. These limited studies yielded mixed results. While some studies found no significant gender differences (Lent et al., 1991; Matsui et al., 1990), others arrived at gender differences (Anderson & Betz, 2001; Britner & Pajares, 2006; Zeldin & Pajares, 2000). In general, vicarious experiences and social persuasion are influential in shaping girls’ self-efficacy. For instance, Zeldin and Pajares (2000) made a qualitative study with 15 women who currently have a career in mathematics, science, or technology and found that vicarious experiences and social persuasions significantly influenced women’s self-efficacy. In another research, Anderson and Betz (2001) studied with 229 students who enrolled in introductory psychology courses and investigated sources of social self-efficacy in relation to gender. Results indicated that females had higher mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, and social persuasion as sources of social self-efficacy compared to males. Usher and Pajares (2006) found similar results in reading; girls reported stronger vicarious experience and social persuasions than boys. Finally, Britner and Pajares (2006) concluded that boys reported stronger mastery experiences than girls in science.
Considering domain-specifity of self-efficacy construct, still, there is a need to investigate gender difference in the field of chemistry. Accordingly, the purpose of the present study was to investigate the gender differences in the sources of chemistry self-efficacy. The following research question guided the study: “How well mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological state predict chemistry self-efficacy in males and females?”
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