The target set by the Europe 2020 Strategy is that by the year 2020 the proportion of 30-34 years-olds with tertiary educational attainment should be at least 40% (EUROSTAT, 2016). Several European countries are below that target and studies that shed light on understanding what helps students complete a tertiary programme are seen as an important contribution to this European target. Moreover, only 41% of full-time students who enter a bachelor’s or equivalent programme graduate within the programme’s theoretical duration (OECD, 2016). Consequently, academic achievement among higher education students has become a major issue for higher education institutions (HEIs) across Europe, especially among first year students (Tinto, 2001; Tuckman & Kennedy, 2011). In fact, academic tasks at higher educational level tend to demand a far higher level of thinking, autonomy and independent learning than those encountered in secondary school.
There are many reasons for students’ poor academic performance. Although some of them are not susceptible to HEIs intervention, others allow some opportunities for HEI´s to take action. This paper focuses on self-efficacy which is a psychological variable that may be influenced by academic context.
Based on Social Cognitive Theory, self-efficacy is defined as people's beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance (Bandura, 1986, 1997). This concept is useful to predict human performance and behaviour since self-efficacy influences the choices people make, their goals and their persistence when confronted with obstacles. Additionally, as self-efficacy is a judgment of personal capability, it is not considered a trait and it can change over time, allowing the possibility to enhance it through the development of psycho-educational programs.
Several studies show that students’ self-efficacy is related to academic achievement (e.g. Bandura, 2006; Brown, Tramayne, Hoxha, Telander, Fan & Lent, 2008; Feldt, Ferry, Bullock, Carvalho, Collingwood, Eilers, Meyer & Nurre, 2011; Kitsantas, Winsler, & Huie, 2008). Previous research has shown that students’ self-efficacy in their first term in HEI is positively related to academic performance goals and/or predict academic achievement one year later (Vieira, Mesquita, Silva, Woodman & Robson, 2015; Zajacova, Lynch & Espenshade, 2005).
The purpose of the present study is to analyse the contribution of self-efficacy to 1st year college students academic achievement, focusing on two main hypotheses: H1 – Students’ self-efficacy at the beginning of the 1st year in college predicts the grade point average obtained in the end of the academic year; H2 - Students’ self-efficacy at the beginning of the 1st year in college predicts the number of non-completed courses in the end of the academic year.
Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman. Bandura, A. (2006). Guide for constructing self-efficacy scales. In F. Pajares & T. Urdan (Eds.), Self-efficacy beliefs of adolescents (Vol.5, pp.307-337). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing. Brown, S. D., Tramayne, S., Hoxha, D., Telander, K., Fan, X. & Lent, R. (2008). Social cognitive predictors of college students’ academic performance and persistence: A meta-analytic path analysis. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72, 298-308. EUROSTAT (2016). Education and training in the EU - facts and figures. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statisticsexplained/index.php/Education_and_training_in_the_EU_-_facts_and_figures Feldt, R. C., Ferry, A., Bullock, M., Carvalho,A. C., Collingwood,M., Eilers, S., Meyer, L. & Nurre, E. (2011). Personality, Career Indecision, and College Adjustment in the First Semester. Individual Differences Research, 9 (2), 107-114. Kitsantas, A., Winsler, A., & Huie, F. (2008). Self-regulation and ability predictors of academic success during college: A predictive validity study. Journal of Advanced Academics, 20 (1), 42–68. OECD (2016), Education at a Glance 2016: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.187/eag-2016-en Tinto, V. (2001). Rethinking the First Year of College. Higher Education Monograph Series, Syracuse University. Tuckman, B. W. & Kennedy, G. J. (2011). Teaching learning strategies to increase success of first-term college students. Journal of Experimental Education, 79 (4), 478-504. Vieira, D. A. (2010). Autoeficácia na formação superior: Um fator protetor face ao insucesso académico? In A.S. Pereira, H. Castanheira, A.C. Melo, A.I. Ferreira e P. Vagos (Eds.), Apoio Psicológico no Ensino Superior: modelos e práticas (pp.355-361). Aveiro: Universidade de Aveiro/RESAPES-AP. Vieira, D. A., Caires. S & Polydoro, S. A. J. (2011). Escala de autoeficácia na formação superior: Análise fatorial confirmatória XV Conferência Internacional Avaliação Psicológica: Formas e Contextos. Lisboa: Faculdade de Psicologia da Universidade de Lisboa, 25-27 de julho. Vieira, D. A., Mesquita, A., Silva, P., Woodman, D., & Robson, T. (2015, September). Self-Efficacy, Course Choice and Academic Goals: A Comparative Study Between Portugal and England. Paper presented at the annual European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). Contributions from Educational Research ,ECER 2015 - Education and Transition, Budapest, Hungary. Zajacova, A., Lynch, S.M. & Espenshade, T.J. (2005). Self-efficacy, stress and academic success in college. Research in higher education, 46, 677 – 706.
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