Lapa Wrap or Lab Coat? Identity, Self-Efficacy, and Academic Persistence in Emerging Adults in STEM
This study investigated whether social identity (i.e., ethnic, science, or a combination of ethnic and science identities) and self-efficacy (i.e., general academic and science) predict academic persistence in STEM (i.e., graduating with a baccalaureate degree in a STEM or STEM-related discipline). The study drew on social cognitive theory (SCT, Bandura, 1986) and social identity theory (SIT, Tajfel & Turner, 1986) to test three hypotheses. Hypothesis 1 was that science identity would be a stronger predictor of academic persistence than ethnic identity. Hypothesis 2 was that science self-efficacy would mediate the ability of social identity to predict academic persistence. Hypothesis 3 was that the college context (community college or four-year-university) would moderate the abilities of identity and self-efficacy to predict academic persistence. One hundred ethnically diverse emerging adults (n = 38 female) comprised of 25 European American, 33 underrepresented minorities (URM), and 42 Asians from a four-year university (n = 50) and a community college (n = 50) contexts participated. They completed an online survey examining the associations between strength of social identity and types of academic self-efficacy. Persistence was operationalized as graduating with a baccalaureate degree in a STEM or STEM-related field. Results supported both SCT and SIT. Binary logistic regression analyses supported the first two hypotheses: (1) Models with science identity as a predictor variable correctly identified more cases of graduation status than models using ethnic identity as a predictor variable. (2) Science self-efficacy fully mediated the ability of science identity to predict academic persistence. Consistent with SCT and SIT, both the college context and science self-efficacy remained separate, significant predictors of STEM graduation status (i.e., hypothesis three was not supported). Attending a four-year university, having a higher GPA, and having a strong science self-efficacy greatly increased the odds of graduating with a baccalaureate degree in a STEM or STEM-related discipline. However, gender, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity did not.
Keywords: social identity, self-efficacy, academic persistence, college context