First Advisor

Barbera, Jack

Second Advisor

Pacheco, Kimberly, A.O.

Document Type


Date Created



College of Natural and Health Sciences, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Chemistry and Biochemistry Student Work

Embargo Date



The research described in this dissertation is outlined in three phases and is focused on the measurement, interrelationships, and understanding of self-efficacy, interest, and effort beliefs among general chemistry students. The primary drive behind this research was to provide measurement tools to chemistry education researchers and practitioners as a way to evaluate novel and alternative teaching strategies and interventions. The first phase of this study involved gathering evidence for validity and reliability of four previously published scales that measured initial interest, maintained interest, self-efficacy, and effort beliefs. These scales were taken from other disciplines, with the exception of the self-efficacy scale, and modified to fit into a general chemistry context. This phase of the study involved both quantitative and qualitative methods. On the quantitative side, confirmatory factor analysis was used in a pilot study (n1 = 373, n2 = 294) and a cross-validation study (n = 1,160) to evaluate how well the items in each scale described a single construct among general chemistry students. In addition, the changes in students’ scores across the semester were calculated for a sub-sample of each of the full samples in the pilot and cross-validation studies. The qualitative thread included interviewing students from the target population to assess the readability and interpretation of each item from all of the scales. The results of both the quantitative and qualitative analyses were reviewed concurrently to remove problematic items. The four scales were modified by removing a total of five items, resulting in improved model fit and better understanding among students. The second phase of this study built on the first phase by utilizing the modified scales to test the connections between self-efficacy, interest, and effort beliefs as well as their relation to course performance. A total of 143 participants from first-semester general chemistry were included in the analyses, which utilized path analysis, multiple regression, and MANCOVA. Data were collected twice during the semester – once during the first week (time 1) and again during the thirteenth week (time 2). The results revealed that time 2 measures were superior at predicting course grade than time 1 measures. The final model accounted for 34% of the total variance in course grade. The third phase of the study was entirely qualitative and focused on interviewing general chemistry students about the sources and influences of their effort beliefs. Since very little has been reported about effort beliefs, the objective here was to expand what is currently known about how college students acquire their beliefs about effort. A total of 21 students were interviewed over the course of three semesters. Two major sources of effort beliefs were reported by the interviewees – family influence and personal experiences. Most of the participants alluded to one of these, with a few participants mentioning both. By understanding more about where effort beliefs originate, instructors can work toward implementing methods that will target and enhance their students’ effort beliefs.


chemistry, factor analysis, interest, motivation, self-efficacy, structural equation modeling


360 pages

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Copyright belongs to the author.