Self-efficacy, in Bandura´s Essay
Self-efficacy, in Bandura´s
Terminology, is an important mediator to predict whether learning results lead to performance improvements. Because students feel more self-efficient after the learning phase, one might well expect students to perform better than the apprentices, as they actually do. Students have higher scores in the knowledge test and perform better in the transfer task. Because of the fact that apprentices did not acquire as much knowledge during the learning phase as the students, they were disadvantaged right from the beginning of the transfer task, because knowledge acquisition was seen as a foundation for a good transfer task performance.
Apprentices probably realized that themselves, and thus had lower expectations of their results, which is reflected in the lower self-efficacy scores. Less knowledge and a lowered self-efficacy expectation probably then led to a lower transfer performance, possibly due to lower motivation. But it could also be shown that apprentices with higher self-efficacy spent more time working on the tasks than apprentices who felt less self-efficient. The support methods affect self-efficacy in different ways.
Whereas students felt more self-efficient when they were allowed to infer variable relationships on their own, apprentices felt less self-efficient in conditions where they only had support to conduct experiments, without direct access to knowledge. One can assume that apprentices might be more comfortable with a more teacher-centered approach to learning in their vocational training schooling history, whereas students approach more closely to the conceptual idea of Deci and Ryan (1985) that learners want to experience autonomy and to experience themselves as competent while they are in the learning process.
Students might have acquired better error recovery strategies as well, so that they were not as easily frustrated by failure. Yet another result, although not addressed in the first place, showed differences in self-efficacy between female and male participants after the learning phase. Although there is no general main effect of gender on performance indicators, male learners perceive themselves less self-efficient.
This finding supports the assumptions of detractors of experiential learning (such as Anderson, 1988; Boud & Walker, 1993), who criticized that experiential learning does fully not take social and cultural differences or gender specific learning preferences into account. But self-efficacy explains only part of the variance of the knowledge test score, and to an even lower extent, that in transfer task performance. Looking at the task analysis, handling the simulation, and performing the transfer task required numerical abilities and skills, e.g. , compound interest calculation and mental arithmetic (because there were no pocket calculator available).
It required, secondly, the ability to derive and build up an abstract conceptualization from the data observed during the learning phase in experiential learning. This abstract conceptualization subsequently needs to be applied in the transfer task. So a second reason for the belief that target group is of importance may be students’ higher analytical and numerical faculties, and their ability to develop
an abstract conceptualization and a more accurate plan for the transfer tasks. There might also be differences in working memory and reasoning abilities, a notion which needs to be tested in future studies in order to be supported or rejected. Experiential learning methods should be arranged on a continuum which orders the methods of experiential learning according to their proportion of assistance and structuring.
Additionally, for all learning activity that is concluded with an exam, it should be ensured that the learning method has given all learners with different previous knowledge a chance to obtain the necessary information and therefore to acquire a “correct” schema. Too early purely experience based learning can for example discourage rather than motivate apprentices and will therefore not be a good basis for self-responsible learning in organizations.
This supports the criticism of Anderson (1988), who considers that learning methods with possibly incompatible alternative cognitive styles tend to discriminate against certain groups of learners. In summary, students possessed more of the skills and competencies that were needed to solve the task, or they developed these kinds of skills which were supposed to be the primary learning goals. But it should not be forgotten that students and apprentices are not only different in their target groups but also in their age.
Whereas the students in question were about 20-22 years old, apprentices were about 16-19 years old. That means that covariates of the target group are years of experience and years of training in school or university. To check whether age and experience cause the differences in the transfer task performance, one would need to plan an additional experiment in which one compares “students” at the high school level (who are going to study mechanical or electrical engineering at the age of 16-19), and skilled workers without an A-level degree but with about 2-3 years of experience gained between the ages of 20 and 23.
Coming back to the initially introduced training trends in organizations and their learning philosophies: What does this mean for pre-professional education and life-long learning? Many countries in the US have to face the challenge of an aging workforce (OECD, 2003) against the background of decreased birth rates and increasing of retirement age.
Employers consider increased personal responsibility regarding learning and qualification as a solution for the problems of caused by this development, namely competence retainment and further competence development over the life span. Thereby, it is frequently assumed that it is sufficient to supply learning settings and learning material for the employees to acquire the necessary competences. The results of this research caution against this general assumption however and suggest a diversity approach taking previous education and specifics of the target group into account.
Subject: Boud & Walker,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 19 May 2017
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