Understanding the Transient Nature of STEM Doctoral Students’ Research Self-Efficacy Across Time: Considering the Role of Gender, Race, and First-Generation College Status

This study examined both within- and between-person stability of research self-efficacy from semester to semester over 4 years, focusing on doctoral students in biological sciences

Kaylee Litson


Scholarcy highlights

  • Self-efficacy is defined as one’s belief about their ability to be successful in a given domain
  • Continuing generation students had statistically significantly higher within-person stability than firstgeneration students between spring and summer of year 1, summer of year 1 and fall of year 2, fall and spring of year 2, spring and summer of year 2, summer of year 2 and fall of year 3, spring of year 3 and summer of year 3, and fall of year 4 and spring of year 4. Deviations from their expected value did not predict future deviations; individuals were deviating from their expected trajectory of self-efficacy in a way that was not influenced by prior deviations, suggesting a lack of withinperson stability
  • racially minoritized and first-generation college students show a noticeable drop in the within-person stability of those beliefs on the basis of the beliefs they held in prior semesters, despite mean levels of self-efficacy being essentially equivalent compared to White/Asian and continuinggeneration students
  • STEM graduate training can only serve this purpose if we attend to inequities across myriad outcomes, including experiential differences that may affect the stability of individuals’ self-efficacy
  • Social cognitive theory highlights the dynamic role of the structures and functions of graduate education can play in self-efficacy development, influencing belief stability, which may have subsequent derivative effects
  • As stated by Bandura, “forms of self-efficacy are for navigating the journey, not just reaching the destination.”

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