Educational Psychology, Department of


Sources of Self-Efficacy Information for Writing: A Qualitative Inquiry

Mary E. Holmes, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Document Type Article

A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Educational Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professor Kathleen M. Rudasill. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2016

Copyright © 2016 Mary Holmes


This study explored the sources of information that inform students’ self-efficacy beliefs in the area of writing. A qualitative phenomenological case study approach was use to capture the experiences of gifted middle school students.

Writing is a critical skill for success in school and beyond, and many students in the United States are not able to adequately write extended texts (Bruning & Horn, 2000; National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). Understanding students’ motivation for engaging with writing might provide insight into how to better support students’ experience with writing in school. Self-efficacy is a key construct within motivation, and it has been found to be predictive of persistence, completion, and performance (Bruning, Dempsey, Kauffman, McKin & Zumbrunn, 2013; Klassen, 2002; Pajares, 2003). Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s perception of his or her ability to succeed at a given task (Bandura, 1977). Bandura hypothesized that students form their self-efficacy beliefs by interpreting information from four sources: mastery experience, vicarious experience, social persuasion, and physiological and emotional states.

The central question of this study was: What are the salient sources of information that students use to form beliefs about their own writing abilities? Thirty-nine students were surveyed about their writing self-efficacy, and four students were purposefully sampled to participate in a semi-structured interview. The students’ English teacher was also interviewed. Findings confirmed that these students used the four hypothesized sources of information to form their self-efficacy beliefs. Two additional sources of information emerged from the data: self-regulated learning strategies and different types of writing assignments. Different sources of information were salient for each student, and the importance of sources appeared to be connected to their learning and goal orientations. The findings capture the experience of four middle school students and extend the ideas of social cognitive theory.

Advisor: Kathleen M. Rudasill