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Professional Competency Self-Efficacy of Undergraduate Environmental Studies Students: A Case Study of Gender Differences and Longitudinal Change
1David C. Gosselin,2Ronald J Bonnstetter, 3Eric Gehrig,4Robert Stokes
1Environmental Studies Program, 150 Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68583-0941
2,3,4Target Training International, Ltd., 17785 North Pacesetter Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85255
DOI : https://doi.org/10.47191/ijmra/v4-i4-04

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Business leaders and political leaders have asked institutions of higher education to improve graduates’ cognitive and affective skills, sometimes referred to as “soft skills”, personal competencies, professional competencies, “21st century skills” or 21st century competencies. As a result of their importance, demands for these skills in the workforce, and increased pressure to be accountable, higher education is challenged to assess student achievement and performance related to these competencies. The goal of this paper is to investigate the longitudinal changes in relative self-efficacy of undergraduate environmental students across three domains of professional competencies – cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal. More specifically, the objectives are to: 1. Examine the extent to which there are differences in self-efficacy for male and female students in an environmental studies program; 2. Assess the extent to which self-efficacy of the environmental studies students change over the time they are involved in the undergraduate program and their relationship to learning outcomes.

An examination of pre-program self-efficacy data indicate statistical differences between males and females that are consistent with social role theory that posits that gender traits are developed as a result of the differential roles that women and men occupy in society. The observed statistical differences between males and females based on effect size are generally maintained between pre- and post-program data for the unpaired data. However, differences in the effect size of five competencies between pre- and post-data suggest that the impact of the educational experiences for male and female students is different.

A comparison of the pre- and post-scores for paired female data indicate that overall female self-efficacy showed a general increase for 18 of 23 competencies. Statistically significant increases in female-student confidence in their abilities occurred in continuous learning, employee development, presenting, diplomacy, and written communication. Paired pre-post male data indicate that overall male self-efficacy for 19 of 23 competencies increased. Statistically significant increases in male-student selfefficacy occurred in employee development/coaching and diplomacy. Increases in self-efficacy data supports the contention that development of 21st century competencies is occurring as the students actively engage in activities where they can practice these skills.


Assessment, Professional Competencies, soft skills, 21st century skills, Self-Efficacy, Effect Size, Gender Differences


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