Self-Efficacy and Persistence in a Digital Writing Classroom: A Case Study of Fifth-Grade Boys

Self-Efficacy and Persistence in a Digital Writing Classroom: A Case Study of Fifth-Grade Boys

Jessica S. Mitchell (University of North Alabama, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2838-8.ch007


Utilizing a New Literacies perspective, the purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the digital writing experiences of one classroom of fifth-grade boys. Research questions for this study included the following: (1) What features of the digital writing environment impact student expressions of confidence in their abilities as writers? (2) How do expressions of confidence align with performance for students who are the least persistent in digital writing tasks? (3) How do expressions of confidence align with performance for students who are the most persistent in digital writing tasks? Through an embedded analysis, eight confidence features were identified. Compared against a holistic analysis of individual focal student experiences, this chapter provides two student vignettes to illustrate the differences between high-persisting and low-persisting students in a digital writing classroom.
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In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life. Albert Bandura



Many students today spend large portions of their days in digital spaces. From new advances in virtual reality devices to the ever-present barrage of social media notifications, students can easily and affordably connect with anyone, anywhere at any time. While some researchers have argued the accessibility of technology has brought new opportunities for addressing concerns related to a “digital gap” between high performing and low performing students (Morrisett, 2001), researchers over the last decade have reported that the problem of the digital divide is no longer only about how to give students greater access to technology, but also how to teach students to use technology to both read and construct meaning within these digital contexts (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004; Warschauer, Zheng, Niiya, Cotten, & Farkas, 2014). New skills needed for these digital contexts have further extended the definition of the “digital divide” to include a “skills divide” (Mossberger, Tolbert, & Stansbury, 2003). Such a gap in skills from participatory digital culture requires special considerations for educational decisions, as Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Robison, and Weigel (2006) have contended,

The school system’s inability to close this participation gap has negative consequences for everyone involved. On the one hand, those youth who are most advanced in media literacies are often stripped of their technologies and robbed of their best techniques for learning in an effort to ensure a uniform experience for all in the classroom. On the other hand, many youth who have had no exposure to these kinds of participatory cultures outside school find themselves struggling to keep up with their peers. (p. 13)

One way to explore the digital skills gap is to explore writing self-efficacy within a digital learning environment. According to Bandura (1977), self-efficacy is the belief in one’s ability (confidence) to achieve a specified target and provides a powerful predictor for future performance. The current study explores the nature of boys’ self-efficacy when participating in digital writing experiences from perspectives informed by New Literacies Theory (NLT), the body of research seeking to explore the literacy practices created by emerging digital technologies such as blogs, message systems, virtual gaming communities, social networking sites, and a host of continually evolving technologies (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006; Leu, O’Byrne, Zawilinski, McVerry, & Everett-Cocapardo, 2009). Specifically important to the educational context, new literacies embody a nuanced skill set for interpreting information from the Internet and other communication technologies (Kiili, Laurinen, & Marttunen, 2008). Moreover, new literacies extend the definition of traditional literacies as online reading is seen as an increasingly collaborative, social practice (Zawilinski, 2009). Echoing previous sociocultural frameworks for interpreting the social nature of learning and the meaning-making process (Vygotsky, 1986; Wertsch, 1991), such understandings of digital writing experiences are linked to social practices within individual contexts.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital skills divide: A term to further extend the definition of the digital divide to include the specific skills and knowledge bases required to be proficient with the use of technology.

Digital Divide: A term used to define the differences between individuals with greater access to information and communication tools of the Internet. These discrepancies can be found across geographic locations such as urban or rural areas or across socio-economic status.

New Literacies Theory: A body of research involving the multiple ways in which social beings interact through digital technologies. New Literacies continually broaden the definition of literacy to include ways of communicating meaning beyond text.

Sociocultural Learning Theory: Theories of learning which emphasize the social nature of learning in the meaning-making process.

Self-Efficacy: The belief in one’s ability to persevere through a desired or designated task; more commonly referred to as confidence.

21st Century Learning: A pedagogical approach to preparing students for college and career contexts beyond the immediate school context by utilizing a core set of skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, and digital literacy.

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