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Evaluating learning about research methods using self-efficacy ratings. Anne Quinney and Professor Jonathan Parker Bournemouth University, UK London: May 2009 aquinney@bournemouth.ac.uk parkerj@bournemouth.ac.uk. Backgound .

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evaluating learning about research methods using self efficacy ratings

Evaluating learning about research methods using self-efficacy ratings

Anne Quinney and Professor Jonathan Parker

Bournemouth University, UK

London: May 2009




Part of the Evaluating the Outcomes of Social Work Education (OSWE) UK project, which aimed to enable social work educators to:

  • gain information about ways in which teaching and learning may be effective, and ways it might be improved
  • test the feasibility of outcome measures and research designs
  • make use of opportunities to compare and contrast practice between programmes.

Funded by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (www.scie.org.uk) and the Higher Education Academy social policy and social work subject centre (www.swap.ac.uk)

specific project
Specific Project

The research question

Does student confidence in understanding research terminology and completing specific research tasks increase after participation in a Using Research for Practice module?


Year 2 undergraduate Social Work students studying a research module delivered using a blended learning approach (whole class sessions, individual and small group consultations and electronic learning resources supported by an on line learning course).

3 consecutive cohorts 2005-06; 2006-07; 2007-08.

(Comparison at Hull – (2005-6 only) M level students.)

developing research mindedness
Developing research mindedness

Research mindedness:

  • a faculty for critical reflection informed by knowledge and research;
  • an ability to use research to inform practice which counters unfair discrimination, racism, poverty, disadvantage and injustice, consistent with core social work values;
  • an understanding of the process of research and the use of research to theorise from practice

(see www.resmind.swap.ac.uk)

mentoring approach
Mentoring approach

Background literature:

The research was informed by the work of Holden et al (1999),Montcalm (1999), Unrau and Beck (2004), Unrau and Grinnell (2005), Holden et al. (2007) and Holden et al. (2008) in the USA and Canada, and Parker in the UK (2005; 2006).

Mentoring approach

Gary Holden, whose work on self efficacy in social work education underpins the project, provided initial guidance on the RSE scales.

The lead researcher (Quinney), new to this methodology, was mentored by an experienced academic familiar with the theory & methodology (Parker).

what is self efficacy
What is self efficacy?
  • Triadic reciprocal causation:
      • Environment
      • Behaviour
      • person
  • Outcome and efficacy expectations
  • Confidence in ability to perform specific actions to achieve a goal
  • Higher self-efficacy = greater perseverance and achievement
self efficacy in research training
Self efficacy in research training

“While professional and academic expectations are that students integrate research into their practice frameworks…it is not at all clear to what degree students….are learning research skills” Unrau and Beck(2004 p188).

Self efficacy ratings in research are consistently predictive of future behaviour (Holden et al 1999).


Quantitative data from a 15-question research self efficacy (RSE) scale was collected pre- and post- participation in a Using Research for Practice module (BA year 2). 10 questions focused on knowledge and skills about research and 5 questions on computer and information technology to support research.

Paired data were analysed by cohort (2005-6 n=30, 2006-7 n=23, 2007-8 n=14) and as a combined group.

research self efficacy rse scales
Research Self Efficacy (RSE) scales

How confident are you that you can successfully…(on a scale of 1-10)

  • Perform an electronic search for research information (e.g. journal articles) using the internet
  • Read and understand research findings and discussions in academic journals
  • Reference other people’s work using the University’s Harvard system of referencing
  • Briefly define ‘qualitative’ and ‘quantitative’ research methodologies
  • Debate whether a proposed research study is ethical or unethical
  • Design a questionnaire
  • Design an interview schedule
  • Conduct a research interview
  • Analyse basic quantitative and qualitative data
  • Present findings both verbally and in written form
  • Access the resources for this unit on [VLE] using university computer facilities
  • Perform an electronic literature search using databases (eg socialcareonline)
  • Access research findings in academic journals using the internet
  • Access research findings from research bodies, social work organisations, government departments etc (eg JRF, SCIE) using the internet
  • Follow an online learning programme

(After Holden et al., with additions from Quinney and Parker)

data collection and analysis
Data collection and analysis
  • 3 subscales (Qs 2-5; 6-10; 1,11-15) were analysed using SPSS. The subscales comprised:
        • Understand and read research
        • Undertake research tasks
        • Use e-technologies for research purposes
  • T-tests were used to compare the mean for each data set and a combined analysis was undertaken. Internal reliability of questions was tested. Self efficacy increased to a significant extent.

Subscale 3 (using e-technologies)

Subscale 1 (understanding and reading)

Subscale 2 (undertaking research tasks)

the so what questions follow up phase
The ‘so what?’ questions!Follow up phase
  • A follow up phase of the project will ask students (at the end of their final year) to reveal their research project code and student number in order to consider correlations with their RSE and assignment mark. Means from the combined analysis will be compared with the outcome of assignment to extrapolate mean point parameters which may indicate individual, or indeed group, support needs.
  • To avoid response shift bias students will be asked to complete the RSE rating identifying how they think they would have rated themselves at T1 when completing T2. This can be compared to the T1 scores.
  • Data analysis can provide individual student self efficacy scores as well as for the group. (Data about male/female differences and age differences, can also be extracted.)
  • Self-assessment and graded learning tasks can be negotiated.
implications applications
Implications - applications
  • The project data can be used to inform adjustments in the curriculum (for the present cohort as they prepare for their extended study/dissertation module in year 3 and future year 2 cohorts) the development of teaching resources and additional support arrangements.
  • The scale is easy to use and can be adopted by other programmes to identify research confidence issues and adapt teaching accordingly.
  • The scale can be used formatively and students can use it to monitor their own progress.
  • The RSE Scale has been used in part of a UK research Council research development initiative (ERSC RDI2 project)
future plans
Future plans
  • An academic paper on the use of the RSE is in production
  • Whilst the formal project has ended the scales will continue to be used as a self assessment aid and to support a reflective approach to academic practice
  • A publication on the whole project is in development, with contributions from all the universities who participated in the OSWE project
contact details
Contact details

We would welcome interest from other programmes who would like to use the scales and compare findings.

Please make contact with us by emailing either

Anne Quinney, aquinney@bournemouth.ac.uk

or Jonathan Parker

  • parkerj@bournemouth.ac.uk
  • Holden, G., Baker, K., Meenaghan, T. and Rosenberg, G. (1999) Research self-efficacy: a new possibility for educational outcomes assessment. Journal of Social Work Education, 35, 3, 464-76.
  • Holden, G., Barker, K., Rosenberg, G. And Onghena, P. (2007) Assessing progress toward accreditation related objectives: evidence regarding the use of self-efficacy as an outcome in the advanced concentration research curriculum, Research on Social Work Practice 17, 4, 456-65.
  • Holden, G., Barker, K., Rosenberg, G. And Onghena, P. (2008) The Evaluation Self-Efficacy scale for assessing progress toward CSWE accreditation related objectives: a replication. Research on Social work Practice 18, 1, 42-6.
  • Montcalm, D.M. (1999) Applying Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy to the teaching of research. Journal of Teaching in Social Work 19, 1/2 , 93-107.
  • Parker, J. (2005) Should you encourage students to assess themselves in practice learning? A guided self-efficacy approach to practice learning assessment, The Journal of Practice Teaching in Health and Social Work, 6, 3, 8-30.
  • Parker, J. (2006) Developing perceptions of competence during practice learning. British Journal of Social Work, 36, 6, 1017-36
  • Unrau, Y.A. and Beck, A.R. (2004) Increasing research self-efficacy among students in professional academic programs, Innovative Higher Education 28, 3, 187-204.
  • Unrau, Y.A. and Grinnell, R.M. (2005) The impact of social work research courses on research self-efficacy for social work students, Social Work Education 24, 6, 639-51.