Self-Efficacy in STEM - Abstract

Ashley D. Rittmayer, M. A
Margaret E. Beier, Ph.D.
Rice University, Houston, TX

Self-efficacy is defined as judgments regarding one’s ability to organize and execute the courses of action necessary to attain a specific goal (Bandura, 1997). Self-efficacy is a significant predictor of both the level of motivation for a task and ultimately, task performance (Bandura & Locke, 2003). More specifically, self-efficacy influences goal choice, the effort expended to reach those goals, and persistence when difficulties arise (Bandura, 1997; Pajares, 2005). Thus, on average, individuals with high science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics (STEM) self-efficacy perform better and persist longer in STEM disciplines relative to those lower in STEM self-efficacy (Eccles, 1994; Seymour & Hewitt, 1997). Some research (e.g., AAUW, 1991; Johnson, Stone, & Phillips, 2008; Schunk & Pajares, 2002; Vekiri & Chronaki, 2008) has documented gender differences, favoring men, in STEM self-efficacy, and these differences are thought to be partly responsible for the shortage of women in STEM-related college and graduate courses and careers. In this literature suite examples are provided describing how math self-efficacy affects students’ commitment to studying math, and ultimately, students’ commitment to pursuing a STEM degree and profession. Also included is a review of empirical research that details the main determinants of self-efficacy beliefs, the importance of STEM self-efficacy for STEM achievement and success, interventions to increase STEM self-efficacy, and implications and recommendations for STEM practitioners.

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Developed by The Pennsylvania State University and University of Missouri
Funded by The National Science Foundation (HRD 0120642 and HRD 0607081)