Optimal relative self-efficacy for effective learning of high school physics.

This paper is in progress.


In this study, the interaction between the students' effort-believe (their self-efficacy related to their work attitude) in physics and other aspects of physics education concerning Dutch pre-academic high school students is investigated. This effort-belive and other variables related to physics education are measured in a large scale nation-wide survey. Two innovations in the investigation of self-efficacy based on Bandura's social cognitive theory are introduced: Specific 'relative parameters' in order to quantify the students' self-efficacy relative to their potential and a statistical analysis of the data investigating the non-linear relationship between effort-believe and achievement. The students' effort-believe relative to their potential to achieve in physics (relative effor-believe) has an optimum where the students maximize their performance relative to their potential (relative achievement). Lower effort-belive than this optimum is associated with low operating interest or discouragement. In physics education, teachers providing teacher-centered lessons are associated positively with their students' operating interest. Male advanced physics students show to be motivated to work by frequent labs during lessons and teacher enthusiasm. Other students are discouraged by relatively strict grading of tests and/or exams. Higher relative effort-believe than the optimum is associated with overconfidence. Overconfidence occurs with relatively lenient grading in all students except males in regular physics. Providing accurate feedback, e.g. through grading or explaining examples in class lectures, can prevent overconfidence. Male regular physics students show to need a (not appreciated) dominant teacher in order to optimize their effort-believe. Optimization of relative effort-believe improves both female and male physics performance. However, in students with optimal relative effort-believe one still detects a significant gender difference in achievement both in regular and in advanced physics.