What affects the self-efficacy of postsecondary students with disabilities in STEM fields?

Date Updated

A study conducted by KC-BANCS Alliance, an NSF-funded alliance to increase the number of individuals with disabilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), looked at the perceptions of self-efficacy of students with disabilities in STEM fields. They found that successes in STEM classes and having opportunities to apply what they’d learned had positive effects on students’ overall sense of self-efficacy. In addition, students’ self-confidence was boosted when they saw other students with disabilities succeed, through participating in teamwork where they observed the success of other students, and when they received positive feedback from instructors. Students’ sense of self-efficacy decreased, however, when they felt as though they were being judged based on their disabilities.

The researchers highlighted three themes related to self-efficacy of students with disabilities in STEM fields:

  1. Instructors set the tone for learning and consequently highly influence confidence, motivation, anxiety and stress, and ultimately success.
  2. Applied learning is important, especially in team settings.
  3. A student’s sense of self influences his or her perceptions of self-efficacy.

This summary was based on information reported in Jenson, R.J., Petri, A.N., Day, A.D., Truman, K.Z., and Duffy, K. (2011). Perceptions of self-efficacy among STEM students with disabilities. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 24(4), 269-283 and developed through the RDE Collaborative Dissemination Project (National Science Foundation Research in Disabilities Education Award #HRD-0929006) and Building an Alliance for New Careers in STEM (KC-BANCS): A Collaborative Model for the Inclusion of Youth and Veterans with Disabilities (National Science Foundation Research in Disabilities Education Award #HRD-0929212).