Lecturer self efficacy: Its related dimensions and the influence of gender and qualifications
Brian Hemmings and Russell Kay
Charles Sturt University
In this study, a sample of Australian academics from two institutions, was used to investigate factors which relate to lecturer self-efficacy. A questionnaire was utilised to obtain responses in three separate areas, namely, research, teaching, and service (i.e., administration/professional engagement). Subsequent factor analysis resulted in the identification of four research self-efficacy factors, two teaching self-efficacy factors, and two service self-efficacy factors. The relationships among these factors were then explored and consideration was given to the influence of gender and level of qualifications. Significant multivariate differences were found for gender, level of qualifications, and their interaction on the set of the self-efficacy factors. An examination of the univariate test results revealed a number of significant findings, including that males and those holding doctoral qualifications tended to report higher levels of research self-efficacy. These results are discussed in terms of their implications for university managers, lecturers, and other researchers.
Social cognitive theory highlights the interactions among personal factors, environmental conditions, and behaviours (Bandura, 2001). A key construct grounded in this theory is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy refers to an individual's belief in his/her capability to organise and implement actions to reach a certain level of performance. Bandura (1997) contends that self-efficacy beliefs are influenced by a number of different sources, with previous performance (particularly mastery experiences) being the main source of influence. Researching within a higher education context, Major and Dolly (2003, p. 91) noted that self-efficacy "...encapsulates the way that faculty members see themselves as teachers, researchers, and academic citizens as well as their beliefs about whether they can successfully complete tasks in each of these areas". Other researchers, including Bailey (1999), Blackburn and Lawrence (1995), Schoen and Winocur (1988), and Vasil (1992) have also drawn on the self-efficacy construct when investigating the work of faculty members. Although their chief focus has been research self-efficacy and its relationship with research productivity, there has been some consideration given to both teaching self-efficacy and service self-efficacy. Teaching self-efficacy has been typically described in terms of preparation, delivery, and assessment; whereas, service self-efficacy has been defined in a number of ways. To exemplify, Bailey (1999) defined service self-efficacy, through factor analytic means, in terms of administration and consulting, while Blackburn, Lawrence, Bieber, and Trautvetter (1991, p. 406) viewed service more generally by drawing on three elements: "public (dealing with the nonacademic outside world), professional (working with associations, for example) and campus (committees, etc.)".
According to Schoen and Winocur (1988) and Bailey (1999), the academics they surveyed reported higher levels of self-efficacy for teaching compared with other work tasks. The explanation offered for this finding was that teaching is performed more frequently and therefore more opportunities are afforded to successfully master this activity. They also demonstrated, in their respective studies, that there were no significant differences between male and female academics in relation to self-efficacy for research. However, this finding is contrary to that of Vasil (1992) who found that male academics report stronger research self-efficacy beliefs than their female counterparts. It needs noting that Vasil's (1992) study was based on the responses of North American academics; whereas, Schoen and Winocur and Bailey used data from samples of Australian academics. These Australian researchers also investigated the effect of rank on levels of research self-efficacy beliefs and concluded that senior academics, compared to junior academics, were more self-efficacious with respect to research. Bailey (1999), unlike Schoen and Winocur (1988), examined the relationship between self-efficacy for research and self-efficacy for teaching and found a correlation coefficient of .142. From this single result, he argued that the two constructs were essentially independent. However, he did show using mean comparisons that research self-efficacy was clearly related to research productivity and the level of qualification held by the academics sampled.
In Australia, the last reported study of self-efficacy in the context of faculty work was conducted by Bailey (1999) who collected data from lecturers (n=100) working in one institution. Given the differing context and the rapid change in the higher education sector in Australia since the 1990s (see, for example, Coates, Goedegebuure, van der Lee, & Meek, 2008; Karmel, 2003), it is timely to explore how these work tasks, using a self-efficacy framework, are currently viewed and conceptualised by faculty members. Moreover, because of the challenge to recruit and retain faculty members in the forthcoming decade (Hugo, 2005), this exploration should especially focus on matters pertaining to gender and academic training. No doubt, developing an understanding as to how faculty members assess their skills and abilities in performing work-related tasks will be of utmost interest to managers and planners employed in the sector.
In summary, this study was designed to serve three purposes: first, to identify the major dimensions of the lecturer self-efficacy construct; second, to develop subscales to measure lecturers' self-efficacy on these dimensions; and third, to test for differences with respect to gender and qualifications across these subscales.
|Delivering conference papers||.901||-.072||.006||.054|
|Preparing conference papers||.842||.025||.040||.067|
|Delivering research findings at staff seminars||.704||.187||.036||.084|
|Writing for an academic audience||.694||-.018||.282||.053|
|Presenting invited research papers in other institutions||.611||.181||.188||.069|
|Submitting papers for publication||.607||.085||.341||-.001|
|Writing journal articles||.580||.036||.364||.067|
|Resubmitting papers for publication||.531||.176||.324||.014|
|Supervising students' research projects||.509||.333||.213||-.167|
|Supervising postgraduate students||.481||.284||.301||-.186|
|Analysing research results||.291||.626||.012||-.006|
|Preparing a research budget||-.068||.608||.316||.147|
|Working with research assistants||.201||.568||.237||.006|
|Leading research projects||.139||.563||.283||.143|
|Conducting pilot studies||.179||.544||.045||.252|
|Applying for research grants||.037||.498||.356||.163|
|Collaborating with colleagues about research||.345||.466||-.077||.181|
|Adhering to research ethics requirements||.422||.437||-.249||.163|
|Writing research-based books||.055||.052||.747||.218|
|Reviewing journal articles||.315||.237||.520||-.115|
|Applying for study leave||.127||.205||.490||.102|
|Keeping up to date with research literature||-.038||.026||.089||.803|
|Reviewing literature for a research project||.239||.204||.023||.574|
|Generating research ideas||.118||.228||.194||.538|
An analysis of the 22 teaching items revealed two factors and these accounted for approximately 64 percent of the variance (refer to Table 2). Twenty-one of the 22 items were used to delineate the components.
|Factor||teaching item||Factor 1||Factor 2|
|Providing feedback on assessment items||.881||-.071|
|Assessing students' skills||.865||.000|
|Responding to student feedback||.860||-.023|
|Designing subject assessment||.793||.084|
|Consulting with colleagues about coursework||.646||.136|
|Supervising the teaching in a subject||.604||.208|
|Consulting with students||.512||.332|
|Facilitating student discussion in class||.061||.714|
|Revising teaching strategies||.238||.661|
|Keeping up to date and revising lecture material||.142||.652|
|Selecting reading materials||.294||.499|
Finally, the majority of the service items, numbering 13, were aligned with two major factors accounting for approximately 59 percent of the variance (refer to Table 3). Interestingly, the small number of items which did not coalesce in the respective factor structures tended to be linked with specific information communications technology tasks.
|Factor||Service item||Factor 1||Factor 2|
|Responding to the media||.851||-.064|
|Answering public enquiries||.837||.015|
|Liaising with external agencies regarding courses||.786||-.067|
|Advising prospective students||.640||.298|
|Entertaining visitors on campus||.613||.224|
|Liaising with external agencies about research||.606||-.155|
|Participating in courses/programs outside the University||.513||.152|
|Participating and school/faculty committees||.042||.911|
|Participating in university-wide committees||-.045||.867|
|Chairing academic meetings||.071||.719|
|Participating in professional associations||.347||.407|
Next, eight subscales were derived from a grouping of the items as defined by the major factors. This derivation resulted by adding the raw scores of each item loading on a factor and then dividing by the number of items in the subscale. Descriptive labels of the subscales, as well as distributions for the two dichotomous measures used as independent variables in the study, are presented in Table 4.
|Research Subscale 1||Reporting and supervising research|
|Research Subscale 2||Conducting and managing research|
|Research Subscale 3||Writing major works and reviewing articles/books|
|Research Subscale 4||Having a broad view of a research area|
|Teaching Subscale 1||Designing and assessing instruction|
|Teaching Subscale 2||Delivering tutorials and lectures|
|Service Subscale 1||Carrying out professional engagement activities|
|Service Subscale 2||Executing administrative tasks|
|Gender||Male=1 [n=170]; Female=2 [n=161]|
|Level of qualification||Masters degree or lower=0 [n=150]; Doctoral degree=1 [n=181]|
The means, standard deviations, as well as the reliability coefficients of the eight subscales, are shown in Table 5. More detailed information about these subscales, including the kurtosis and skewness values, can be found in Hemmings and Kay (2008).
An inspection of the correlation matrix (n=331) presented in Table 6 reveals that all the subscales are positively and significantly related (p<.01). This examination also shows that the correlation coefficients of the subscales forming the three groupings were high, whilst the coefficients of the subscales across the groupings tended to be more moderate in magnitude. To illustrate, the coefficient for the Teaching Subscales 1 and 2 was .81, whereas the coefficients between the two teaching subscales and the four research subscales varied from .216 to .357.
|1. Research Subscale 1||1|
|2. Research Subscale 2||.823*||1||
|3. Research Subscale 3||.818*||.736*||1|
|4. Research Subscale 4||.632*||.692*||.542*||1|
|5. Teaching Subscale 1||.357*||.225*||.326*||.216*||1|
|6. Teaching Subscale 2||.303*||.227*||.256*||.290*||.810*||1|
|7. Service Subscale 1||.552*||.517*||.563*||.346*||.518*||.486*||1|
|8. Service Subscale 2||.568*||.506*||.525*||.352*||.466*||.397*||.699*||1|
A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA), based on a factorial design, was used to examine differences with respect to gender, level of qualification, and their interaction across the eight subscales. Significant differences were found for gender (Pillai's Trace = .092, F[8, 320] = 4.040, p<.001) and level of qualification (Pillai's Trace = .276, F[8, 320] = 15.278, p<.001). The gender x level of qualification interaction was also significant (Pillai's Trace = .050, F[8, 320] = 2.094, p=.036). Using a Bonferroni adjustment as a guide, an alpha level of p<.005 was set to provide a stringent interpretation of the univariate test results. Differences were found between male and female lecturers on Research Subscale 3 and Service Subscale 1. That is, males reported being more efficacious in performing tasks that pertained to writing major works and reviewing articles/books as well as undertaking professional engagement activities. Differences were also identified between those lecturers holding a masters degree or lower and those with doctoral qualifications on all four research subscales. To elaborate, those lecturers with doctoral qualifications reported more confidence in undertaking a range of research tasks such as planning, conducting, and discussing their research. It is worth noting that in spite of the significant multivariate result for an interaction effect, there was no significant univariate result for the gender and level of qualification interaction.
Substantial adjusted R2 values of approximately 18 percent for the complete model for Research Subscale 1 and Research Subscale 2 were largely due to the influence of level of qualification. That is, those lecturers with a doctoral qualification tended to report being more confident with respect to particular research activities. There was also a similar amount of variance accounted for in Research Subscale 3 by the combined significant main effects of gender and level of qualification. This result indicates that male academics and those with a doctorate were more likely to express confidence in writing major works and acting as a reviewer of this form of work. Finally, a smaller amount of variance (3.7 percent) was accounted in Research Subscale 4, which was again primarily due to level of qualification. The direction of this influence was the same as discussed earlier. In the case of the teaching and service variables, only one subscale, namely, Service Subscale 1, with 5.4 percent of the variance explained, merited mention and this was due to the effects of gender. Once again, males were more likely to report higher levels of self-efficacy and this was in respect to participating in professional engagement activities such as consultations with outside bodies and responding to the media.
Not surprisingly, the level of self-efficacy for teaching (means of 7.57 and 7.56) was higher when compared with the respective research and service means. This result is in accord with previous Australian research findings reported by Schoen and Winocur (1988) and Bailey (1999). Interestingly, the relationship between all the teaching and the research subscales were positive and significant, with the correlations varying from .216 and .357. This finding is at odds with a conclusion drawn by Bailey (1999) who stated that teaching self-efficacy and research self-efficacy were basically independent. Even though the correlations are not strong, they do indicate that a common thread is apparent and that further investigation of the two constructs is warranted.
The third purpose of the study was to test each of the lecturer self-efficacy subscales in light of gender differences and academic qualifications held. It was found that although there are no marked differences between male and female academics with regard to teaching self-efficacy, females are less confident in performing a range of research tasks. University managers would be well served if they focused their attention on building the confidence of female lecturers, low in confidence, by employing strategies such as mentoring. Appropriate mentoring from experienced researchers helps to achieve task mastery and to develop collaborative ventures (La Rocco & Bruns, 2006). Boosting confidence from positive research-based experiences, in low-threat settings, will more than likely lead to well-planned research and subsequent dissemination of that research in scholarly outlets.
In light of the fact that gender inequities have been evident in academe (see, for example, Becher & Trowler, 2001; Blackmore & Sachs, 2007; Skolnick, 2000), particularly at the professorial and senior management levels, it was pleasing to note that there was no significant difference recorded between male and female academics in terms of their self-confidence in the performance of administrative tasks (a component of the service dimension of self-efficacy). The relatively high level of self-efficacy reported by the females sampled suggests that tasks such as participating in university-wide committees and chairing academic meetings, integral to leadership positions within the sector, can be confidently performed. By logical extension, it can be argued that a solid foundation has been laid for those female academics seeking higher level administrative appointments.
Those faculty members new to the academy should find the list of items forming the various subscales a useful tool to promote discussion with an assigned mentor and other colleagues about the myriad of possible tasks expected to be performed across an academic career. Even though some faculty members, because of their appointment conditions, would not carry out all of these tasks, most faculty members would be required to execute the majority of the tasks in order to move through probation and gain subsequent promotion or salary increments.
In terms of qualifications, there was a significant difference in the level of research self-efficacy across the four research subscales. That is, those holding doctoral qualifications compared with those holding masters degrees or lower were more efficacious. Interestingly, no significant differences appeared between these two groups in relation to particular teaching and service subscales.
It is important to recognise several limitations of the present study. First, there may have been a bias in the study, as about two-thirds of the surveys distributed were not returned. However, subsequent testing did not show any substantial differences, with regard to gender and rank, between the two sub-samples and their respective populations. Second, the study is potentially limited by the overall sample size. Still, it needs to be pointed out that the participants from the two institutions sampled represent approximately 5 percent of the staff members working in the public and private universities in Australia.
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|Authors: Dr Brian Hemmings is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education, Charles Sturt University and is currently the Sub-Dean (Graduate Studies). He has published widely and his most recent publications appear in Higher Education and Youth Studies Australia. Email: BHemmings@csu.edu.au
Russell Kay is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Education, Charles Sturt University and his research interests focus on quantitative research methodological issues. He has authored papers in a range of journals, including the Journal of Educational Research and Issues in Educational Research.
Please cite as: Hemmings, B. & Kay, R. (2009). Lecturer self efficacy: Its related dimensions and the influence of gender and qualifications. Issues In Educational Research, 19(3), 243-254. http://www.iier.org.au/iier19/hemmings3.html