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  • Self-Efficacy and Learning in Sorority and Fraternity Students
  • Jon G. Thompson Jr. (bio), Crystal D. Oberle (bio), and Jennifer L. Lilley (bio)

Past research consistently reveals that self-efficacy, referring to one's perceived ability to obtain a desired outcome, in academic courses is linked to academic achievement and motivation in those courses (Coutinho & Neuman, 2008; Elias & MacDonald, 2007; Hoffman & Schraw, 2009; Klomegah, 2007; Lynch, 2008). In particular, high self-efficacy in courses is associated with high academic performance, and low self-efficacy in courses is associated with low academic performance. Yet, the relationship is confounded by the fact that some students report lower effort levels in difficult courses (Lynch). In these situations, students may adopt performance-avoidance goals, whereby they try to hide their feared lack of ability and intentionally sabotage themselves by not putting forth much effort to learn and succeed in these courses, with the idea that failing due to lack of effort is more personally acceptable than failing due to intellectual inadequacies (Hsieh, Sullivan, & Guerra, 2007). For students who rise above their fears and devote greater effort to learning, their efforts lead to greater self-efficacy and academic performance (Hoffman & Schraw; Shell & Husman, 2008).

Regarding benefits of Greek-letter organization membership in these domains, several researchers (Saville & Johnson, 2007; Wilder, Hoyt, Surbeck, Wilder, & Carney, 1986) found that students in sororities and fraternities (referred to as Greek students in this article) do have greater self-efficacy than students who are not members of any sorority or fraternity (referred to as non-Greek students in this article), but the findings have been mixed with respect to academics. Some researchers found that Greek students' academic performance was slightly higher than non-Greek students' (Gardner, 1991; Pike, 2003; Strange, 1986); whereas others found either that Greek students performed nearly identically to non-Greek students in learning and academics (Marji, 1994), or that non-Greek students academically outperformed Greek students (DeBard, Lake, & Binder, 2006; Pascarella, Flowers, & Whitt, 2009).

As indicated above, greater self-efficacy is associated with better academic performance (Coutinho & Neuman, 2008; Elias & MacDonald, 2007; Hoffman & Schraw, 2009; Klomegah, 2007; Lynch, 2008), and Greek students tend to have greater self-efficacy than non-Greek students (Saville & Johnson, 2007; Wilder et al., 1986). Combined, these findings suggest that Greek students would benefit academically from greater self-efficacy; but past research investigating this relationship leaves more questions than answers. We explored the questions of whether Greek affiliation helps students academically and whether self-efficacy plays a role in their academic performance. We expected that Greek students would score higher on a self-efficacy scale than non-Greek students, and that these scores would positively correlate with academic effort and performance. Accordingly, we expected that Greek students would exert more effort and outperform non-Greek students academically. [End Page 749]



The 186 participants (140 women, 75%; 46 men, 25%) were recruited from undergraduate psychology courses. Their ages ranged from 17 to 49 years old (M = 19.89, SD = 3.38), and the majority were White (59%), Hispanic (29%), and African American (5%). Regarding sorority and fraternity membership, 32 (17%) were Greek students and 154 (83%) were non-Greek students. The participants, who received extra credit for participation, were unaware of the study's hypotheses.

Materials and Procedure

Participants first spent 10 minutes reading a 1,700-word article about how brain wave technology has helped paralyzed patients communicate (Winters, 2003). Participants were told that the material would be difficult, and they were informed when 2 minutes and 1 minute remained for the purpose of adding urgency and anxiety that are associated with real test conditions. After 10 minutes expired, participants returned the article and received a test with 10 multiple-choice questions to assess their retention of the material. Finally, participants completed a survey with demographic questions, one item asking for their self-reported grade point average (GPA), an 8-item New General Self-Efficacy Scale (NGSES; Chen, Gulley, & Eden, 2001), and 2 items addressing effort to learn ("I tried my best to learn the material in the reading passage") and effort to do well on the test ("I tried my best to do well on the test of the...


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