All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Dennis K Gurley

Advisory Committee Members

Anjanetta Foster

Connie Kohler

Boyd Rogan

Annalise Sorrentino

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education


Academic self-efficacy has been empirically demonstrated to be related to academic performance over a wide range of grade levels and academic settings, but little research exists examining this relationship in medical school. This study sought to fill this gap by investigating academic self-efficacy in first-semester medical students using a sequential mixed methods approach. In the first, quantitative strand, 81 first-semester medical students completed an academic self-efficacy survey during the first science-based course and again at the end of the semester. Academic self-efficacy for out of class academic tasks decreased over the semester; academic self-efficacy for in class academic tasks was positively related to end-of-semester grades. No significant relationship was observed between academic self-efficacy and students’ total MCAT score, classification as underrepresented in medicine, and participation in a rural or pre-matriculation program. During the second, qualitative strand, 47 students responded to an email questionnaire consisting of open-ended questions grounded in the survey results. Four themes emerged from students’ narrative responses: (a) academic self-efficacy varies at the start of medical school, (b) the importance of academic standing, (c) the realization of new demands and challenges, and (d) establishing a support system. The meta-inferences gleaned from the integration of the quantitative and qualitative results supported three major study conclusions. First, a statistically significant decrease in academic self-efficacy on out of class academic tasks was explained by students’ difficulties managing the volume and pace of medical school study requirements that they reported in the qualitative strand. Second, a statistically significant relationship between self-efficacy for in class academic tasks and academic performance was supported by qualitative findings about students’ dependence on grades and class rank as influences on their academic self-efficacy. Third, the lack of a relationship between self-efficacy for out of class academic tasks and academic performance may be explained by qualitative responses indicating that students learned to cope with study demands. The study’s results largely supported self-efficacy theory. Recommendations for future research and implications for medical school educational leaders were provided based on study conclusions.

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