Co-constructing self-efficacy narratives : a study of four mature age university students

du Preez, Jan (2010) Co-constructing self-efficacy narratives : a study of four mature age university students. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This thesis reports on a study in which research participants, four mature aged females starting an undergraduate degree at a regional Australian university, collaborated with the researcher in co-constructing a self-efficacy narrative. For the purpose of the study, self-efficacy was conceptualized as a means by which an individual initiates action to engage in a task or set of tasks, applies effort to perform the task or set of tasks, and persists in the face of obstacles encountered in order to achieve successful completion of the task or set of tasks. Qualitative interviews were conducted with the participants, initially investigating their respective life histories for an understanding of how they made the decision to embark on their respective academic program. Additional data were generated from a written exercise, prompting participants to furnish specific examples of self-efficacy. These data were incorporated into the individual's self-efficacy narrative, produced as the outcome of the "narrative analysis". Another aspect of the study entailed "analysis of narrative" in which analytic procedures were used to identify themes common to the self-efficacy narratives. Five main themes were identified: (a) participants' experience of schooling . for several participants their formative experience of school was not always positive, and yet their narratives demonstrated their agency in persevering and taking on university-level studies as mature aged persons; (b) recognition of family as an early influence . these influences were described as being both positive, in the sense of being supportive and encouraging, as well as posing obstacles that participants had to overcome in order to pursue their goals; (c) availability of supportive persons – the support of particular persons was acknowledged as a factor that enabled participants to persist in their respective endeavours; (d) luck or chance factors were recognised as placing participants at the right place at the right time, from which circumstances they applied considerable effort in order to convert the opportunity into a successful outcome; and (e) self-efficacy was identified as a major theme found in the narratives. The study included an evaluation of the research process by participants. A number of themes were identified in respect of the manner in which the research process was experienced as a helpful process. Participants commented that: (a) the research process was helpful in clarifying their respective career goals; (b) they appreciated opportunities provided by the research process to view their life from a different perspective and to better understand what motivated them, and what their preferred learning styles were; (c) their past successes in a range of different spheres were made more evident to them as they were guided in self-reflection, and their self-efficacious behaviour was affirmed; and (d) the opportunities provided by their participation in the research process to identify strengths of which they had not been consciously aware, to find confirmation of strengths they knew they possessed, and in some instances to rectify misconceptions they had held about aspects of their personality. The study made three important contributions to knowledge. Firstly, it provided a detailed explication of a qualitative narrative method in exploring self-efficacy, with the potential for application to other issues in educational, counselling and psychotherapy research. Secondly, it consolidated and illustrated social cognitive theory by proposing a dynamic model of self-efficacy, drawing on constructivist and interpretivist paradigms and extending extant theory and models. Finally, the study made a contribution to the debate concerning the nexus of qualitative research and counselling by providing guidelines for ethical practice in both endeavours for the practitioner-researcher.

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ID Code: 44050
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Ehrich, Lisa & Spooner-Lane, Rebecca
Keywords: mature-age students, university
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Cultural & Professional Learning
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 18 Aug 2011 04:22
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2013 08:22

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