Foundation Study Framework students are currently in the midst of completing their end of year assessments, and we wish them the best of luck with these!
Their modules finished just before Easter, and before they went off on exam leave, students were asked to complete a second COGS survey (identical to the one they completed in term one) to assess whether their level of self-efficacy had changed throughout the programme (see blog 2 and 3 for details on the COGS survey).
Whilst we were unable to capture results from the full student cohort, both COGS surveys were completed in full by 59 students, allowing us to compare a mean self-efficacy score at the start and end of their first year on the Foundation Study Framework. Whilst this may seem like a short time period, self-efficacy can be context-specific and therefore change fairly quickly (Ouweneel et al., 2013).
We were mainly interested to know if their mean self-efficacy score hand changed over time, and whether there was a difference between those that had attended the GRIT programme (see blog 5 for information on GRIT).
Statistically there was no difference in mean self-efficacy scores over time (term one and term two), and regardless of whether they attended the GRIT programme or not. The results of a Two-way mixed ANOVA showed that there was no difference in mean self-efficacy scores over time (F(1, 34)= .16, p= .69, ƞp2= <.005), and there was no significant interaction between time and attending the GRIT programme (F (1, 34) = .29, p= .58, ƞp2= <.009).
Total mean scores in term one were 3.18 (moderately true), and in term two were 3.2 (moderately true), thus indicating that students that engaged with both surveys generally had fairly good levels of self-efficacy to begin with, therefore it could be that any further development has little effect on those scoring 3 or 4 on the scale.
As there was also no difference found between those who attended the GRIT programme, it could be suggested that the GRIT programme is not of any benefit for self-efficacy in isolation. However participants reported a number of positive feelings regarding the GRIT programme that suggest other benefits aside from self-efficacy can be gained. Benefits surrounding self-esteem, relationships with peers, and acknowledging responsibility for their own future (see blog 6 and 7 for full details) formed part of the feedback from those that engaged with the GRIT programme.
It may also suggest that students that fully engaged with the research were already experiencing more positive levels of self-efficacy, and that those students that opted out are actually the ones who would benefit more from the GRIT programme. Tahmassian and Moghadam (2011) highlighted the link between self-efficacy and motivation, social engagement, and depression. Whilst there are very likely a host of other legitimate reasons for students not engaging with the research and the GRIT programme, it would be interesting to learn if those that didn’t engage had lower self-efficacy scores. In light of this, the mean scores of students who only completed the term one survey were compared with the scores of students who only completed the term two survey (therefore only partially engaging with the research). As term two survey completers were made up of students who were late enrollers, and generally had experienced difficulty engaging with their course to begin with, it was hypothesised that a lower self-efficacy score may be more prevalent in these students. Whilst an independent t-test showed no difference (t=1.61, df= 53, p=0.06) this was marginal and perhaps with a larger sample size a difference in mean self-efficacy scores may be discovered.
In terms of the methodology used, the four point LIKERT scale design within the COGS survey may be limited in detecting more subtle changes in self-efficacy. Research by Johns (2010) concluded that results from LIKERT scales (and those with similar rating scales) becomes ‘significantly less accurate when the number of scale points drops below five or above seven’. Also other studies have reported higher reliability in five point LIKERT scales (Bouranta et al. 2009) and seven point LIKERT scales (Lewis, 1993; Finstad, 2010).
Another methodological difficulty is the reliance on participants’ self-reporting of their self-efficacy. Whilst this allows for straightforward and wide scale data collection across the student cohort, it assumes that participants will a) report honestly and not succumb to Social Desirability Bias and / or Acquiescence Bias, and / or, b) be self-reflective enough to fully understand their levels of self-efficacy. Evidence suggests that the ability to self-evaluate (along with other higher level cognitive functions such as problem solving and not giving into peer pressure) develops in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain during our mid-twenties (Arain et al. 2013). The FSF cohort had 89% of its students aged under 24, therefore it could be suggested that self-scoring of self-efficacy is not going to yield accurate results in students under the age of 25. Also, things that hinder this development within the brain include negative social influences, social isolation, substance abuse, and high levels of stress. These kind of issues may have affected a number of students on the FSF, as the course is designed specifically for those who may not have had an easy time in life. The good news is that the brain is still flexible after this critical period, therefore individuals experiencing low levels of self-efficacy and other negative thought patterns can still do things to improve their way of thinking.
Going forward, it would now be interesting to see how self-efficacy might affect performance, therefore the plan is to compare final year grades with self-efficacy scores.