Sources of math and science self-efficacy in rural Appalachia: A convergent mixed methods study

Ellen Usher, Calah J. Ford, Caihong R. Li, Brianna L. Weidner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Rural living, particularly in economically distressed areas, may reduce students’ educational opportunities and alter their self-beliefs. According to social cognitive theory, the contexts in which people live influence how they feel about their capabilities. The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences that raise and lower the math and science self-efficacy of students living in a rural, high-poverty area in Central Appalachia. A convergent mixed methods design was used to examine quantitative and qualitative survey data from 673 students in Grades 6–12 who took part in a multi-year study on academic motivation (Year 1 = 511; Year 2 = 391; Year 3 = 418). In the quantitative phase, structural equation models showed that Year 1 mastery experience raised and physiological states lowered students’ math and science self-efficacy in Year 2. Deductive coding of students’ responses to 4 open-ended questions in Year 3 indicated that other sources were also salient and differed by domain, their effect on self-efficacy, and student gender. Integrative analyses showed that students consider information from multiple sources when judging their capabilities. This research extends findings related to the sources of self-efficacy to the understudied population of rural learners, the less-studied context of science, and to the factors that not only increase but decrease perceived efficacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-53
Number of pages22
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
StatePublished - Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the students, teachers, and staff from our collaborating school district for sharing their time and experiences with us. We also thank Chelsea Adams, Amanda Butz, Yin Chen, Kelsey Corcoran, Tiffany Thomas, Jessica Toler, Natalie Hewlett, Laura Page, John Eric Lingat, Abbey Love, Trisha Douin, and members of the P20 Motivation and Learning Lab for their valuable contributions to data collection, data coding, analysis, and copy-editing.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.


  • Appalachia
  • Math
  • Mixed methods
  • Rural
  • Science
  • Self-efficacy
  • Sources of self-efficacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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