Beyond Performance Metrics: Examining a Drop in Students' Physics Self-Efficacy

Saturday, February 13, 2016
Remy Dou, Florida International University, Miami, FL
In addition to positive student performance outcomes, the modeling instruction (MI) approach to introductory physics has been shown to manifest significant gains in student attitudes. In light of these findings, we looked at changes in student self-efficacy while considering the construct’s powerful contribution to individuals’ career decision-making process. Students in the Fall 2014 MI course at Florida International University (N = 73) exhibited a significant decrease in total self-efficacy as measured by the Sources of Self-Efficacy in Science Courses – Physics (SOSESC-P) survey. This unexpected decrease suggested a more nuanced view of the generally accepted benefits of active-learning curricula. Given the highly interactive nature of the MI course and the the drop observed on the SOSESC-P, we chose to further explore students’ changes in self-efficacy as a function of centrality measures (i.e., relational position in the classroom social network). We collected social network data by periodically asking students to list the names of peers they had meaningful interactions with. While controlling for PRE scores on the SOSESC-P, bootstrapped linear regressions revealed POST self-efficacy scores to be significantly predicted by PageRank and inDegree centralities (r2 = .35 and .33, respectively), signifying an advantage for students receiving academic recognition from peers. This held true regardless of student gender, ethnicity, major, or incoming GPA. We suspect that the social nature of the MI classroom may create an environment where students find themselves on an implicitly recognized continuum with two ends—those that get it and those that don’t get it—associated with self-efficacy development. This has implications for other interactive-learning pedagogies, specifically in relation to students' career decision-making process.