Opportunity and Education Impact Academic Self Efficacy

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Educational practices should be gauged not only by the skills and knowledge they impart for present use but also by what they do to childrens beliefs about their capabilities, which affects how they approach the future. Students who develop a strong sense of self efficacy are well equipped to educate themselves when they have to rely on their own initiative. - Albert Bandura


Education is the great equalizer in American Society. It unlocks the doors to a child's future and plays a large part in the socialization process. Education transforms a young child's world and socializes them into an adept individual that has personality, cultural customs, gender identity, economic and social status and responsibilities to play. It is the key to accessing opportunity and pursuing the national ethos that every citizen of every rank can achieve a "better, richer and happier life" as expressed by James Truslow Adams (Cullen, 2004). Moreover, education is the foundation upon which every child can live up to the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence, which states that "all men are created equal" and that they are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights," including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness (Kamp, 2009)."

Every American child is impacted by education because of its unique function, purpose in society, and impact on the individual. Year after Year, countless American children spend the required days in school, devoting hours to activities, attending classes, doing homework, and participating in extracurricular activities to prepare them to be active citizens, contributing to society and maintaining social order.

Schools bear the concentrated responsibility of preparing young people for daily life, work and to function appropriately in society. Children learn punctuality, time management, and to respect authority, which prepares them to respect their boss. Educational goals and curriculum are an integral role in the socialization and developmental process. A class in government or civics teaches a child to be a good American citizen and how the government system works; and a class in home economics teaches a child to be a good and responsible housemate and how to operate a household.

It is important to note the valiant and noble effort of education and school; regrettably, they are not a sure fire guarantee for success in life. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the more education an individual obtains, the more likely he/she are economically and socially successful. Conversely, the more educated they are, the less likely they are to be unemployed.

The goal of education is a byproduct of contemporary social structure (i.e., labor market and economy) and what civil authorities think school should accomplish. Consequently, goals are often a reflection of the opinion and beliefs about how people should act and how society should be organized. Considering, wide societal perspectives, educational goals generate a great deal of debate, centering on the close relationships of legitimate and illegitimate opportunity to attain the American Dream of wealth and equal access (Merton, 1938, Spring 2009). As an American goal in education, there are vastly held beliefs that hard work, sacrifice and determination will gain an individual social and economic success. However, because of a disproportionate distribution of resources and services, everyone does not have sufficient opportunity to achieve that goal. As a result, success is gained through illegitimate means which violate the social structures (Merton, 1938, Bivens, 2010).

In school, children learn very early about laws, rules, punishment and crime. They learn it in the curriculum and they learn it in a practical way. They are rewarded for good choices, grades, thoughts, beliefs and moral conduct. They are punished for cheating, bad grades, fighting, and other socially unaccepted (delinquent) behaviors. Therefore, the educational system plays a vital role in social control by producing compliant citizens that understand what deviance is and how to avoid it. Education is used as a tool to deter deviance; however it can unknowingly perpetuate it as well. According to the Center for Educational Documentation (n.d), education and school are major instruments of socialization. They have a primary and secondary function in socialization. The primary function is to train children in the appropriate forms of behavior and skills required by all members of that society. The secondary is to prepare children for particular roles in society, which may be largely restricted by complexity that allow certain members to pursue a much greater variety of interests and to specialize in the development of specific talents (CED, n.d).

Everyday in America, countless kids are labeled in schools. Teachers and classmates treat these students differently. Teachers are stricter with troublemakers and assume that if something goes wrong that the troublemaker was the cause of it. Teachers perceive affluent students from two parent homes or students with a "proper upbringing" to be more prepared and equipped to learn, as compared to students that are from poverty-stricken homes with a single parent to be behind in their educational process. If a child is labeled as stupid, a teacher expects less out of the child. Additionally, the mainstream peer population avoids any peer that is deviant or socially unacceptable. These students can feel their identity, self-worth, self-esteem and self-efficacy is their so-called deviant behavior. It may seem to the child that they may never be able to escape their label, so they continue with the behavior that is considered deviant.

"Making it in America" or social stratification (hierarchy) is tightly linked to education and deviance. Every year reports cite the social and economic benefits of a college degree and the media reports the negative impact of crime in the country. For example, the College Board, vendor for the SATs, PSATs, and Advanced Placement programs publishes information stating that college enables one to: expend knowledge and skills; express thought clearly in speech and writing; grasp abstract concepts and themes; and increase understanding of the world and community (Collegeboard.com). Also, referenced are the practical benefits of a college degree such as more job opportunities in a world that is changing rapidly, and it emphasizes the requirement of education beyond high school to obtain a job. Finally, and equally important the reports provide information about the income potential based on the U.S Census Bureau (2007) median earning for full time workers at least 25 years old by educational accomplishment: high school diploma, $32, 500; associate degree, $42, 000; bachelor degree, $53, 000, master's degree, $63, 000; professional degree, $100, 000 (CollegeBoard.com).

It is clear in the United States that education and schools are critical to the socialization of a child. They provide the process for children to become productive adults in today's society. They also provide access to the social and economic benefits which make it clear that people with more education, earn more and are likely to participate effectively in the governance of the nation, contribute their time and money to community service, consume fewer public services, and commit fewer crimes (Tinto, 2004). They also contribute more to economic growth and productivity, helping to create a larger economic pie for all to share (Institute of Higher Education Policy, 1998).

America is in a constant fluctuation to provide increased opportunity and support to the educational system, especially if students are to reap the highest benefits that education has to offer to children and society as a whole. However, instead of equality in education, it is important to build equity in education, so that tools are created to transform and socialize a young child into an adept individual that has the capacity for a meaningful life of their choice. Institutions are not without problems and will always benefit from continual efforts to modify and improve.

Theoretical Context

Equity in education supplies all children, regardless of their label tools to improve the quality of their lives. It can transform their present environment and socialize them for future choices and decisions that may impact their lives. Education has the capacity to prepare and equip a child with multiple resources for a promising and healthy future.

According to Bandura (1997), "Educational practices should be gauged not only by the skills and knowledge they impart for present use but also by what they do to children's beliefs about their capabilities, which affects how they approach the future. Students who develop a strong sense of self-efficacy are well equipped to educate themselves when they have to rely on their own initiative" (p. 176).

Over a quarter of century ago, Albert Bandura (1977) introduced the theory of self- efficacy, or "beliefs in one's capacity to organize and execute the courses of action to produce given attainments" (p.3). Self -efficacy is a future-oriented judgment that has to do with perceptions of competence, rather than an actual level of competence. This discussion of level of competence is important because people regularly overestimate, or underestimate, their actual abilities, and therefore these estimations may have consequences for the courses of action they choose to pursue and the effort they exert in those pursuits. Self-efficacy is similar to self-concept, which is a person's collective self-perception formed through experiences with interpretations of the environment. This environment is heavily influenced by reinforcements and evaluations by significant others (Shavelson & Bolus, 1982). Bandura (1997) said, "A capability is only as good as its execution. The self-assurance with which people approach and manage difficult tasks determines whether they make good or poor use of their capabilities" (p.35).

In an academic setting, students' self-efficacy beliefs refer to their judgments of confidence to successfully perform academic tasks (Pajares, 1996; Pajares & Graham, 1999; Schunk, 1991, 1995). With regard to their domain or environment, self-efficacy measures focus on academic performance capabilities rather than psychological characteristics (Zimmerman, 2000). The focus of self-efficacy in academic settings has been on mastery criterion of performance.

Numerous studies have investigated the relationships among self-efficacy beliefs, academic motivation, and achievement (Lent et al., 1989, 1994, 1997, 2000). These studies have reported that self-efficacy beliefs are correlated with motivation constructs, academic choices, changes, and achievement (Pajares, 1996b). There is evidence that self-efficacy "predicts such diverse outcomes as academic achievements, social skills, pain tolerance, athletic performances, career choices, assertiveness, coping with feared events, recovery from heart attack, and sales performance" (Schunk, 1991, p. 208).

Schunk has explored self-efficacy beliefs in a variety of academic contexts (Schunk, 1982, 1989, 1991, 1995; Schunk & Gunn, 1986; Schunk & Hanson, 1985, 1987). These studies underscore the significant role of self-efficacy beliefs in the learning process. Investigating the role of modeling and self-efficacy, Schunk (1981) gave low-achieving children either cognitive modeling or didactic instruction. Both methods raised self-efficacy equally well, but cognitive modeling led to greater gains in skill. Regardless of the treatment condition, self-efficacy related positively to both persistence and achievement (Schunk & Lilly, 1984; Schunk & Pajares, 2002).

In academic settings, self-efficacy beliefs have been shown to be predictive of two measures of student effort: rate of performance and expenditure of energy (Zimmerman, 2000). Salomon (1984) found self-efficacy to be positively related to self-rated effort and achievement with textbook material that was perceived as difficult. Schunk (1981) conducted path analysis that show self-efficacy influences skill acquisition both directly and indirectly through persistence. Lastly, a heavy emphasis in researching self-efficacy in academic settings has been on self-regulation of learning. In this area, the predominant thinking is that "self-efficacy beliefs also provide students with a sense of agency to motivate their learning through use of such self-regulatory processes as goal-setting, self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and strategy use" (Zimmerman, 2000, p. 87).

Historical Context

Beginning in the late fifties and sixties, several public policy groups and social scientist convened in various locations around the country to education, discuss poverty, discrimination, race and access to medical care (Lemann, 1988). Considering the climate of social change, policy groups became interested in understanding the dynamics of social structures so they could study, guide, and motivate people to find a higher quality of life through community action.

In the late fifties Leonard Duhl, a psychiatrist at the National Institutes of Mental Health assembled a group that met for a decade discussing ghettos and mental health. At the same time, Paul Ylvisaker, a program officer at the Ford Foundation, organized a team focused on what he sensed as a mood of stored-up anger in the growing Newark ghetto. Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin, two academic experts on juvenile delinquency, worked to found the Mobilization for Youth, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which they hoped would be a new kind of social-service agency to help the ghettos (Lemann, 1988).

Cloward and Lloyd (1960) argued that delinquents turned to crime not out of a sense of failure, but because society had denied them any other form of opportunity: in effect, their delinquency constituted a critique, and a perceptive one, of society. The theoretical basis for TRIO Upward Bound was taken from Cloward and Ohlin's opportunity theory, which addressed the problems of juvenile delinquency and gang behavior. During the Presidency of John F. Kennedy, members of the President's Commission on Juvenile in the Justice Department adapted Cloward and Ohlin's basic concepts. They designed programs to increase the chances that youth from disadvantaged backgrounds might enter and succeed in higher education as one way to overcome poverty. It was during this time that experimental precollege programs were funded as a structure to serve the needs of 13 to 19 year old high students (Lemann, 1988).

In 1965, TRIO Upward Bound (UB), one of several federal educational opportunity programs was designed to prepare high school students living in poverty level homes to enter and succeed in college (ed.gov, 2010). Beginning in the summer of 1965, the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) funded seventeen summer pilot programs on college campuses under the Community Action component of the Economic Opportunity Amendments of 1965. The goal of these programs were to fight poverty, and provide a high quality education to increase the likeliness of students success in college, thereby addressing the problems associated with juvenile delinquency and criminal behaviors (COE, 2008).

Currently in 2010, there are 956 Upward Bound programs under the authority of the United States Department of Education. Regulations for this program require that students selected have a need for academic support. Two-thirds of these students must come from low-income families (defined as income less than 150 percent of poverty level) where neither parent has attained a baccalaureate degree (ed.gov, 2010). The student is then defined as a "potential first-generation college student." The remaining one-third must meet only one of these criteria. Participants enter during their ninth or tenth grade and are expected to remain in the program through high school graduation.

Most Upward Bound programs are located on college campuses and consist of a residential six-week intensive summer program with follow-up during the school year. Many projects offer Saturday and weekday after-school sessions designed to improve student performance in the sciences, mathematics, languages, and computer skills. Other services include college visitations, counseling, test preparation, and various cultural enrichment activities. Students usually receive a small stipend for participation. Programs range in size from 50 to 150 students with an average enrollment of 70 (COE, 2008).

Students enrolled in today's TRIO Programs reflect the nation's multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society. Thirty-seven percent of TRIO students are White, thirty-five percent are African-American, nineteen percent are Hispanic, four percent are Native American and four percent are Asian American. Additionally, TRIO also serves students who are mentally and physically disabled (COE, 2008).

Upward Bound (UB) is the longest operating TRIO program, and it provides fundamental support to participants in their preparation for college entrance. Over time, Upward Bound programs have come to be somewhat standardized, objective based for the most part, and less experimental than in the earlier years. The legislation and regulations have evolved to require more uniform program design and increasingly insist on measurable outcomes. Indicators, such as improvement in student grade point averages, standardized test scores, and enrollment in and graduation from four-year institutions of higher education, are monitored by annual performance reports in an attempt to determine whether program goals are being achieved (Groutt, 2010, stateuniversity.com, 2010).

The success of Upward Bound in increasing the college readiness and college attendance of this student population has been documented in the literature (Cabrera & La Nasa, 2000a; Balz & Esten, 1998; McLure & Child, 1998). For more than 35 years since the creation of the federal TRIO programs, projects have prepared disadvantaged students to move beyond the attainment of a high school diploma and succeed in higher education.

The most comprehensive evaluation of Upward Bound concluded that it had a positive effect on overall educational attainment and college enrollment, but no effect on high school academic preparation or persistence in college (McElroy & Armesto, 1998). The longitudinal study begun in 1992 followed a treatment and control group from a nationally representative sample of students and was designed to assess the impact of the program on participants over a 12-year period. Myers and Schrim (1999) reported findings that indicated specific subgroups of students received the greatest benefits from the program rather than those with lower academic expectations and poorer performance on entry; more specifically, Hispanic students, boys, and students who qualified solely under the low-income criteria. Furthermore studies have shown the greater impact on both high school and college outcomes becomes more evident the longer a student remains in the program. Because nearly two-thirds of the participants withdraw from UB within two years, this finding highlights the need for retention if the intervention is to become most effective (Myers & Schrim, 1999, Groutt, 2010, stateuniversity.com, 2010). The large majority of students leaving school report that they terminate to take a job. In response to this, the authorizing statute now allows summer students to participate in a work-study component, designed to expose participants to careers requiring a postsecondary degree (Myers & Schrim, 1999, Groutt, 2010, stateuniversity.com, 2010).

Upward Bound is the most costly of the federal TRIO programs, which as a group rank among the highest expenditures in discretionary federal dollars for education after student financial aid. O'Brien, et al. (2000) declared that participation in Upward Bound showed a positive influence, which was likely to foster academic progress, academic self-efficacy and career aspirations (O'Brien, et. al 2000). To date there is no evidence that participation in Upward Bound actually improves academic self-efficacy. Considering the cost and effectiveness of Upward Bound, the question arises: Do Opportunity and Education Impact Self-Efficacy and Students' Belief in Their Academic Capabilities?

According to Bandura, self-efficacy is a personal expectation about one's ability to successfully perform a specific task or behavior (Bandura, 1986). These expectations influence the choice, effort, resilience, achievement and persistence that individuals will expend in specific domains (Bandura 1977b, 1986). When considering the significance of education and academic achievement to students in the United States, academic self-efficacy is a valued component and construct that provides an understanding of students' behavior patterns and perceptions (Bandura, 1997; Schunk, 1995).

Research Question

The focus of this research is to address the question, "Do Opportunity and Education Impact Self-Efficacy?"

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to examine factors that impact students' academic self-efficacy and belief in their capabilities in academics. Improving a student's academic self-efficacy beliefs may, in turn improve academic interest, choice, performance, and persistence. Additionally, self-efficacy has been shown to be more reliable than past performance as a predictor of future performance (Siegal, Galassi, & Ware, 1985).

In order to improve an individual's self-efficacy, one must be able to understand when to intervene. Studies describe academic self-efficacy as a salient construct that is relevant to the lives of high school students at a crucial point in their personal development (Pajares, 1996; Pajares & Graham, 1999; Schunk, 1991, 1995). There are little or no current studies examining academic self-efficacy to TRIO Upward Bound programs.

Hypotheses of the Study

The null hypothesis (Ho) of this study is based on the question: "Do Opportunity and Education Impact Self-Efficacy," which declares the dependent variable (academic self-efficacy) is the same for Upward Bound students at the beginning of study and at the conclusion of the study. The alternative hypothesis (Ha) implies that a participant's academic self-efficacy will increase because of the participant's involvement in the Upward Bound program.

Ho: Academic Self-Efficacy of Upward Bound participants at the beginning of the study are equivalent to the Academic Self-Efficacy of Upward Bound participants at the conclusion of the study.

Ha: Academic Self-Efficacy of Upward Bound participants at the beginning of the study are less than Upward Bound participants at the conclusion of the study relative to a control.

Significance of Study

Academic self-efficacy is a relevant construct that has been linked to academic achievement, persistence, choice and decision making. Pedagogically, academic self-efficacy may benefit TRIO Upward Bound, college access programs, educational opportunity services, schools and teachers by providing the instruction and environment to:

Help participants believe in their personal capabilities to successfully perform a designated task;

Provide strategies and appropriate advancements that increase the academic self efficacy of the participant; and,

Provide opportunities for participants to experience successful learning as a result of appropriate action.

Simply stated, this research will provide an analysis of the relationship between academic self-efficacy and a program designed to increase postsecondary participation through high school intervention.


Population is not randomized.

Extraneous conditions may influence the student's academic self-efficacy (ie., parents education, socioeconomic status, home and school environment).

Possible changes in time during phase 1 may have occurred regardless of the introduction of treatment or that changes in time during phase 2 might have resulted as a function of correlation with some uncontrolled event.

Design does not permit a full experimental analysis of the controlling effects (Upward Bound and Non-Upward Bound school settings) of the treatment.

Selection-history threat may occur between pretest and posttest because groups experience academic culture differently.

Selection-maturation threat may occur from results from differential rate of normal growth between pretest and posttest for the groups.

The survey used in this study has been reduced from a 9-point to a 4 -point Likert scale, which may result in a lower range of options, thus limiting the range of students' perceived academic self efficacy.

This study does not have reliable demographic information for the pretest.


The study was conducted in rural schools that are largely homogenous in population.

The study was conducted in one region of a state.

The administering of the Upward Bound services differs from each school site.

Definitions of Terms

Academic self-efficacy - is a construct where a student's intellectual performance is based on the development of cognitive skill and his/her perceived self-efficacy (Lent, Brown, & Gore, Jr., 1997).

Self-efficacy - is concerned with judgments about capabilities (Pajares & Schunk, 2001).

Self-concept - beliefs are one's collective self-perceptions formed through experiences with, and interpretations of the environment, and which are heavily influenced by reinforcements and evaluations by significant others (Shavelson & Bolus, 1982)

Social learning theory - focuses on the learning that occurs within a social context. It considers that people learn from one another, including such concepts as observational learning, imitation, and modeling (Bandura, 1986).

Sources of Self-efficacy:

Mastery of Experience - "The most effective way of developing a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences," (Bandura, 1994). Performing a task successfully strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. However, failing to adequately deal with a task or challenge can in turn undermine and weaken self-efficacy.

Vicarious Experience/Social Modeling - Witnessing other people successfully completing a task is another important source of self-efficacy. According to Bandura, "Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers' beliefs that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities to succeed" (1994).

Verbal Persuasion - Bandura also asserted that people could be persuaded to the belief that they have the skills and capabilities to succeed. Consider a time when someone said something positive and encouraging that helped you in achieving a goal. Receiving verbal encouragement from others helps people overcome self-doubt, and instead focus on giving their best effort to the task at hand.

Psychological/Emotional Arousal - Our own responses and emotional reactions to situations also play an important role in self-efficacy. Moods, emotional states, physical reactions and stress levels can all impact how a person feels about their personal abilities in a particular situation. A person who becomes extremely nervous before speaking in public may develop a poor sense of self-efficacy in these types of situations. However, Bandura also notes "it is not the sheer intensity of emotional and physical reactions that is important but rather how they are perceived and interpreted" (1994). By learning how to minimize stress and elevate mood when facing difficult or challenging tasks, people can improve their sense of self-efficacy.

Social Cognitive Theory - Bandura (1986) advanced a view of human functioning that accords a central role to cognitive, vicarious, self-regulatory, and self-reflective processes in human adaptation and change. People are viewed as self-organizing, proactive, self-reflecting and self-regulating, rather than as reactive organisms shaped and shepherded by environmental forces or driven by concealed inner impulses. From this theoretical perspective, human functioning is viewed as the product of a dynamic interplay of personal, behavioral and environmental influences.

TRIO - The Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) are a Federal outreach and provide student services programs designed to identify and allow access to services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO includes eight programs targeted to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students and individuals with disabilities in their progression through the academic pipeline from middle school to post baccalaureate programs (COE, n.d.).

Upward Bound (UB) - is one of the federal TRIO educational programs designed to prepare high school students to go from poverty-level homes to entry and success into college. It was begun in the summer of 1965, when the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) funded seventeen summer pilot programs on college campuses under the, Community Action component of the Economic Opportunity Amendments of 1965 (COE, n.d.).


Chapter One introduced the background and purpose of this study, which is to examine the question: "Do Opportunity and Education Impact Self-Efficacy?" The purpose of this study is to examine factors that impact students' academic self-efficacy and belief in their capabilities in academics. Additionally, this chapter set the foundation for academic self-efficacy, as a relevant construct which impacts academic achievement, persistence, choice and decision making. Chapter Two will review literature on the following topics: Strain Theory, Social Learning Theory, Self- Efficacy, Relationship of Self-Efficacy to Academic Achievement, Academic Self-Efficacy, Research Studies in Academic Self-Efficacy, and an Overview of TRIO Programs. Chapter Three, will outline the procedures of the study and include the method of data collection and analysis. Chapter Four, will present findings of the study, and finally Chapter Five, will offer conclusions and recommendations.