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Issue 1, 2018
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Using self-efficacy beliefs to understand how students in a general chemistry course approach the exam process

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Retention of students who major in STEM continues to be a major concern for universities. Many students cite poor teaching and disappointing grades as reasons for dropping out of STEM courses. Current college chemistry courses often assess what a student has learned through summative exams. To understand students' experiences of the exam process, including how students prepare for an exam, take an exam, and respond to feedback from an exam, data was collected through interviews with students in an introductory college chemistry course. The interview data was analyzed using emergent coding to describe students' experiences of the exam process using phenomenography. Data indicated that students' experiences with the exam process could be categorized based on their reported exam performance. Overall, differences could be seen between these students' self-efficacy beliefs and metacognitive skills based on the grade each student reported receiving on the exam. The students who performed highest on the exam had self-efficacy beliefs primarily from their mastery experience, and middle performing students' self-efficacy beliefs came from vicarious experience. The lowest performing student had low self-efficacy beliefs. Students who received the highest grades on the exam viewed learning as making meaningful connections between topics, and students who received lower grades viewed learning as memorization. By further understanding students study habits, their views on the exam process, and the development of their self-efficacy beliefs, instructors may be better able to assist low and middle performing students in our general chemistry courses. The findings from this study suggest several ways instructors could facilitate more effective studying and promote higher self-efficacy beliefs, including promoting group work, talking with students about study skills, and encouraging attendance at office hours to review exam responses.

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Publication details

The article was received on 18 Apr 2017, accepted on 13 Nov 2017 and first published on 13 Nov 2017

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7RP00073A
Citation: Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2018,19, 265-275
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    Using self-efficacy beliefs to understand how students in a general chemistry course approach the exam process

    A. Willson-Conrad and M. Grunert Kowalske, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2018, 19, 265
    DOI: 10.1039/C7RP00073A

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