Citation Information

Nietfeld, J. L., & Enders, C. K. (2003, March 17). An examination of student teacher beliefs: Interrelationships between hope, self-efficacy, goal-orientations, and beliefs about learning. Current Issues in Education [On-line], 6(5). Available:

An Examination of Student Teacher Beliefs: Interrelationships Between Hope, Self-Efficacy, Goal-Orientations, and Beliefs About Learning

John L. Nietfeld
State University of West Georgia

Craig K. Enders
University of Miami


This study examined the interrelationship between important affective beliefs of a group of elementary education student teachers at one institution. In particular, the study focused on goal orientations, self-efficacy, hope, and beliefs about knowledge. Student teachers with higher levels of hope tended to have higher levels of personal teaching efficacy and maintain a mastery goal orientation. Surprisingly, no relationship was found between adopting a mastery goal orientation and either personal teaching efficacy or general teaching efficacy. Higher levels of hope also led to a belief in omniscient authority. Finally, all four of the belief constructs were independent of general ability.

Table of Contents

Arrow Up

Does Hope Lead to Higher Self-Efficacy and a Mastery Goal Orientation? An Examination of Student-Teacher Beliefs

Within the last decade there has been a surge of interest in how beliefs affect the teaching and learning process. We have been informed about belief systems through a number of different research camps, including beliefs about intelligence (Dweck & Leggett, 1988), beliefs about knowledge (Perry, 1970; Schommer, 1990), self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977; Bandura, 1997), reflective judgment (Kitchener & King, 1981), and hope (Snyder, Harris, Anderson, Holleran, Irving, Sigmon, 1991). Unfortunately, this newfound knowledge about beliefs has yet to trickle down to applied teacher-education programs as evidenced by teachers leaving their training programs with many of the same naive beliefs and attitudes that they had when they entered (Borko & Putnam, 1996).

The purpose of this study is to investigate the interrelationship among some of the key variables that are most frequently being measured in studies on belief systems. We have selected goal orientations, self-efficacy, hope, and beliefs about knowledge as the focus of our investigation. Each of these topics maintains a growing literature but there is not a dearth of studies that have attempted to show if and to what extent they are interrelated. Furthermore, this study also sought to look more closely at groups who score high and low on hope to see if they display different profiles in relation to the other belief constructs. This component of the study is important because hope has been given little attention in educational research relative to the other three belief constructs.

Arrow Up

Important Belief Constructs

Probably the two most widely studied belief constructs related to the teaching and learning process have been goal-orientations and self-efficacy. Dweck and Leggett (1988) have described two major types of implicit theories of intelligence that individuals hold. The first is an incremental theory of ability that views learning and intelligence as malleable and a product of effort and effective strategy use. Subsequently, incremental theorists tend to adopt learning (Ames & Archer, 1988) or mastery goals (Elliott & Dweck, 1988) where the emphasis in the learning process is placed upon gaining competence through persistence. The second implicit theory is the entity theory of ability that views learning and intelligence as relatively fixed and unchanging and a product of stable factors such as inherited ability. Entity theorists tend to adopt performance goals where the emphasis in the learning process is in performing well relative to peers, seeking recognition, and ensuring that others view them as "intelligent." Individuals who adopt mastery goals have been shown to elicit numerous positive behaviors related to academic engagement (see Bruning, Schraw, & Ronning, 1999 for a more complete review). For instance, Schunk (1996) found that 4th graders who worked towards a learning goal had higher motivation and achievement outcomes than their 4th grade counterparts who worked toward performance goals. Similar outcomes have been found with adults. Greene and Miller (1996) found that a mastery goal orientation can lead to deeper cognitive engagement. Archer (1994) found that college students who adopt a mastery orientation reported a higher frequency of using effective strategies. Although Dweck and Leggett (1988) have pointed out that there are adaptive performance concerns, most current introductory educational psychology texts used in teacher preparation courses focus almost entirely on structuring classrooms around mastery goals (Eggen & Kauchak, 2001; Ormrod, 2000).

Self-efficacy is another topic that has gained much attention in education, starting with and continuing alongside Bandura's seminal research (Bandura, 1977; 1997). Self-efficacy has been defined as a judgment of one's ability to perform a task within a specific domain (Bandura, 1997). The study of self-efficacy in education has brought to light the importance of not only considering the ability level of an individual but the individual's belief that they will succeed on a task. Self-efficacy has even been shown to contribute a direct effect to performance that is equivalent to general ability itself (Pajares, 1996).

The study of self-efficacy specific to teaching has uncovered an important distinction between general teaching efficacy (GTE) and personal teaching efficacy (PTE) (Gibson & Dembo, 1984). General teaching efficacy refers to confidence in the profession as a whole to play an important role in student motivation and performance. Personal teaching efficacy refers to the teacher's personal evaluation to implement effective teaching strategies and to effect positive change in student learning. The two scales have been shown to be independent of one another on self-report measures (Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990). Woolfolk (2000) has found that PTE and GTE both rise for pre-service teachers during their preparation program and student teaching, but then drop during their first year of teaching. Woolfolk also found a correlation between level of support and self-efficacy during the first year of teaching. She argues that we need to ensure support for novice teachers over an extended period of time in order to maintain their high levels of self-efficacy.

Bandura has described mastery experiences as the most powerful source of information upon which to base efficacy (Bandura 1977; 1997). Moreover, Schunk and Pajares (2002) argue that "Learning goals that are specific, short-term, and viewed as challenging but attainable enhance students' self-efficacy better than do goals that are general, long-term, or not viewed as attainable " (p. 15). This begs the question "Is there a direct relationship between adopting a mastery goal orientation and having high personal teaching efficacy?" There has been limited but mostly indirect evidence for this claim. For instance, in her review of teacher beliefs Kagan (1992) summarizes the differences between teachers with high and low self-efficacy by concluding that high-self-efficacy teachers used less criticism and persisted longer in helping struggling students than did low-self-efficacy teachers. A more direct test of this relationship seems appropriate in order to bridge the two areas of work.

Another related - but less studied - belief construct is that of hope. Snyder and his colleagues (Snyder, et al., 1991) have defined hope as "a cognitive set that is based on a reciprocally-derived sense of successful agency (goal-directed determination) and pathways (planning to meet goals)" (p. 571). Self-report inventories of hope measure both agency and pathways that are also referred to as the will and the ways (Snyder, et al., 1991; Snyder, et al., 1996). These two components of hope are highly correlated and have state and dispositional influences (Snyder et al., 1996). Snyder et al. (1996) showed that state or dispositional measures of hope change in direct relation to successful and unsuccessful intellectual pursuits. Linking goal orientations and hope, Roedel, Schraw, and Plake (1994) found a correlation between pathways and learning goals. In a study of female cross country runners, Curry, Snyder, Cook, Ruby, and Rehm (1996) found that hope was a significant predictor of grade point average over and above the variance accounted for by cumulative grade point average and self worth. In that same study they also found hope to be a predictor of athletic performance. Beyond these studies hope has had little attention in educational research, although it appears to be a promising predictor of confidence, persistence, and achievement.

The fourth construct covered in this study focuses on beliefs about knowledge. Perry (1970) completed some of the first work in this area as he differentiated between individuals with a dualist perspective of knowledge (knowledge is either right or wrong) versus a relativistic view (knowledge must be evaluated on a personal basis). He found that as individuals became more educated they tended to view knowledge in a more relativistic manner. Schommer (1990) has extended this literature by arguing that beliefs about knowledge are more complex than the dualist/relativist continuum. She proposed four separate beliefs about knowledge that warrant consideration. The first, simple knowledge, refers to the belief that knowledge is discrete and unambiguous. The second, certain knowledge, is the belief that knowledge is constant and unchanging. The third, fixed ability, is the belief that one's ability to learn is inborn and cannot be improved through either effort or strategy use. The fourth, quick learning, is the belief that learning occurs quickly or not at all. Bendixen, Schraw, and Dunkle (1998) extended the work of Schommer by adding a fifth belief, omniscient authority, the belief that authorities have access to otherwise inaccessible knowledge. Research following Schommer's initial development of these four beliefs produced some interesting findings related to academic variables. Schommer (1992) had undergraduates learn about introductory principles of statistics by reading excerpted passages from texts. She found an inverse relationship between the belief in simple knowledge and performance on a test about the passage and the students' ability to assess their comprehension. In her review, Schommer (1994) reported that the more education students have, the less likely they are to adopt a belief in certain knowledge. Bendixen, et al. (1998) found that individuals who adopt more complex views of knowledge also score at higher levels on tests of moral reasoning.

Each of these four belief system constructs discussed above have contributed much within their own niche in the educational literature. Taken together, they show the powerful influence that beliefs play in facilitating learning or even approaching a learning situation altogether. Yet, there remains a lack of connection in the literature between the constructs. The aim of this paper is to come to a better understanding of these constructs by examining their interrelationships.

Arrow Up

Overview of the Present Research

The purpose of the present research is twofold. The first purpose is to examine the interrelationships of goal-orientations, self-efficacy, hope, and beliefs about knowledge. Other studies have examined the relationship between various combinations of these variables but not these four as a whole. An understanding of these relationships is critical to begin developing a rough taxonomy of belief constructs and to begin informing teacher education programs of their relevancy. The second purpose of this study is to examine hope more closely in terms of how profiles on the agency and pathways subtests (scoring high or low) relate to the other belief constructs. Hope has been understudied relative to the other three belief constructs in this study but has shown some promising links to important academic variables.

The subjects chosen for this experiment were an entire cohort of early childhood majors just starting their semester of student teaching. As a group they completed inventories for the four belief constructs and also completed a test of general ability. The inventories included the Teacher Efficacy Scale (Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990) to measure both personal teaching efficacy and general teaching efficacy. In order to measure goal orientations we chose the Goals Inventory (Roedel, Schraw, & Plake, 1994) that measures both mastery and performance goals. Hope was measured using Snyder et al.'s (1991) Hope scale that accounts for both the agency and pathways dimensions. Finally, beliefs about knowledge were measured using the Epistemic Beliefs Inventory (EBI) (Bendixen, et al., 1998). The EBI measures the four beliefs about learning factors identified by Schommer (1990) that include simple knowledge, innate knowledge, quick learning, and certain knowledge, in addition to also measuring belief in omniscient authority. The Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices (Raven, 1962) was chosen to measure general ability.

Arrow Up

Research Questions

This study focused on the following four research questions:

  1. In general, are there relationships between the belief constructs of goal orientations, self-efficacy, hope, and beliefs about knowledge?
  2. Are there meaningful differences in goal orientations, self-efficacy, or beliefs about knowledge between individuals who score high versus low on agency and pathways?
  3. Is mastery goal orientation related to personal teaching efficacy?
  4. Are the belief constructs in this study - goal orientations, self-efficacy, hope, and beliefs about knowledge - independent of general ability?

The first question relates to the primary purpose of this study that is to gain a better awareness of how the four belief constructs interrelate. Face value and themes from existing research would indicate that the constructs have a significant degree of overlap. For instance, the complexity of knowledge, the utility of persistence, and confidence to succeed at a given task run throughout findings from all four beliefs constructs. Uncovering the degree to which these variables covary with one another will be valuable for future research.

The second question is important because hope is a belief construct that has not received the amount of attention relative to goal orientations, self-efficacy, or beliefs about knowledge in the educational literature. Hope is a positive affective variable that has been shown to be related to important academic variables and appears to be measuring traits in common with the other three belief constructs. This question is designed to test that notion.

The third question relates to previous literature that describes the tendency for high efficacy individuals to also be mastery oriented. Bandura (1993) reported the relationship between self-efficacy and mastery-orientation while engaged on difficult tasks. The question to be examined here is, does this relationship remain consistent when personal teaching efficacy is considered?

The fourth question is important to establish the value of studying belief constructs for their unique contributions to important outcome variables. There now exists limited evidence for particular belief constructs being independent of general ability, but this study will measure all four constructs simultaneously along with a highly regarded measure of general ability.

With regard to the first research question, we hypothesized that mastery goal orientation, personal teaching efficacy, general teaching efficacy, and agency and pathways would show significant positive intercorrelations. We also expected a significant inverse correlation with these variables and the simple knowledge, certain knowledge, and quick learning variables. For the second question we expected subjects who score high on the two dimensions of hope to also score high on mastery goal orientation and personal self-efficacy and lower on simple knowledge, certain knowledge, and quick learning. For question three, we hypothesized that we would find a significant correlation between mastery goal orientation and personal teaching efficacy. For the final question, we expected general ability to be independent of all of the belief constructs as indicated by showing no predictive value for scores on the beliefs constructs in a regression analysis.

Arrow Up


Arrow Up


The subjects in this study included sixty-one early childhood student teachers enrolled at a moderate-sized regional university in the Southeast. The average age of the students was 25.4 with a range of 21 to 46. Fifty-eight of the subjects were female and three male. Fifty of the subjects were Caucasian and eleven were African American. The subjects participated in this study on a voluntary basis as part of a student-teacher seminar. Two subjects were omitted from the analysis for failure to complete all of the inventories and/or tests.

Arrow Up


The subjects completed four inventories and one test of general ability. The inventories measured self-efficacy for teaching, beliefs about knowledge, goal orientation, and hope (see Appendix). Each is described below in the order that they were administered.

Teacher self-efficacy was measured using a 20-item inventory called the Teacher Efficacy Scale (Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990). The items for this scale were developed by Gibson and Dembo (1984) and were selected partly because they showed sufficient reliability coefficients in their study. The items were also chosen because Gibson and Dembo (1984) and Woolfolk and Hoy (1990) have shown through factor analysis that these items produce two independent factors they have termed Personal Teaching Efficacy (PTE) and General Teaching Efficacy (GTE). The PTE factor represents one's efficacy as a teacher to positively impact student learning. The GTE factor represents one's efficacy for the teaching profession as a whole to impact student learning. Of the 20 items, twelve were included in the PTE factor and eight were included for the GTE factor. The items were answered on a six-point Likert scale. A subject's score for personal teaching efficacy could range from a low of 12 to a high of 72. Scores for general teaching efficacy could range from eight to 48.

The second inventory, the 25-item Epistemic Beliefs Inventory (Bendixen, et al., 1998), was given to measure five different factors regarding the nature of knowledge and the origins of individuals' abilities. The five factors were developed by Bendixen, et al. (1998) and based upon earlier work by Schommer (1990). The factors include certain knowledge (i.e., absolute knowledge exists and will eventually be known), simple knowledge (i.e., knowledge consists of discrete facts), omniscient authority (i.e., authorities have access to otherwise inaccessible knowledge), quick learning (i.e., learning occurs in a quick or not-at-all fashion), and innate ability (i.e., the ability to acquire knowledge is innate). The items were answered on a six-point Likert scale. Scores for each of the five subscales could range from five to 30.

The third inventory was the 17-item Goals Inventory (Roedel, et al., 1994). The Goals Inventory measures one's tendency to adopt mastery and performance goals and is based upon Dweck and Leggett's (1988) seminal paper on this subject. The version of the Goals Inventory used in this study consisted of items that showed significant factor loadings on either the mastery or performance factor from Roedel et al.'s (1994) study. This resulted in including twelve items under the mastery factor and five items under the performance factor. The items were answered on a five-point Likert scale. Scores for the mastery goals variable could range from 12 to 60 and scores for the performance goals variable could range from five to 25.

The fourth inventory was the Hope Scale (Snyder et al., 1991). This scale contains 12 items answered on a 4-point Likert scale. It measures two constructs of hope related to pursuing goals that include agency (or the will) and pathways (or the ways). Four items are included for each of the agency and pathways factors and four items are filler items. Scores for both the agency and pathways variables could range from four to 16.

The final task was the 36-item Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices (Raven, 1962). The Raven's Test is a nonverbal test of general ability that consists of 36 problems. Each problem consists of a 3 X 3 matrix, in which the lower right entry is missing and must be selected from among eight alternatives. Problems consist of eight entries that share common features across rows and columns. Individuals must infer these features and match them to one of the eight alternatives. The Raven's Test was included in this study in order to observe the relationship of general ability to the other variables of interest that are primarily based upon affective beliefs.

Arrow Up


The study was conducted in a one-hour session involving all of the participants. Everyone worked at their own pace on the inventories with no time limit. The Raven's test was administered following the inventories with a 40-minute time limit.

Arrow Up


The analyses that are reported on in this section include descriptive statistics for and correlations among the major study variables, canonical correlation analyses, and a regression analysis. All significance tests used an alpha level of .05.

Arrow Up

Descriptive Statistics

The means and standard deviations for the major study variables are shown in Table 1 below. It is interesting to note the means for the beliefs about knowledge subscales: simple knowledge 3.59; innate knowledge 3.01; omniscient authority 4.59; quick learning 1.85; and certain knowledge 3.27. In general it appears that the student teachers in this study do not view learning as a quick, all or nothing process. On the other hand, this particular group of teachers did tend to ascribe to obedience to authority. Another important overall finding was an average response of 4.26 on the mastery-goal orientation questions. This indicates that, as a whole, the student teachers are highly mastery oriented. The group also shows a high degree of hope as reflected by their means on the agency (M = 3.50) and pathways (M = 3.12) subscales.

Table 1: Means and Standard Deviations for Study Variables

Variable N Mean SD
Mastery 59 51.15 5.93
Performance 59 12.93 2.77
Personal Teaching Efficacy 59 52.53 5.83
General Teaching Efficacy 59 29.89 5.11
Simple Knowledge 59 16.42 3.90
Innate Knowledge 59 15.07 4.18
Omniscient Authority 59 22.95 2.87
Quick Learning 59 9.24 2.62
Certain Knowledge 59 16.37 3.77
Agency 59 13.98 1.49
Pathways 59 12.47 1.48
Raven's Test 59 19.71 3.80

Arrow Up

Correlation Analyses

Pearson's correlations are shown in Table 2 with coefficient alphas for each scale listed on the diagonal. Mastery goal orientation produced a statistically significant correlation with agency, pathways and omniscient authority. The correlation between agency and pathways with mastery goal orientation replicates the results of Roedel et al. (1994). Agency was also correlated with omniscient authority and negatively correlated with performance goal orientation. In addition, the pathways subscale was correlated with PTE and omniscient authority. General teaching efficacy was correlated with the Raven's Test and negatively correlated with simple knowledge. There was no correlation between PTE and GTE; this replicates Woolfolk and Hoy's (1990) findings. Scatterplots are provided in Figures 1-9 of noteworthy significant relationships from Table 2.

Table 2: Correlations among major study variables

Table 2

Arrow Up

Canonical Correlation Analyses

A series of six canonical correlation analyses were used to examine the relationships among the following constructs: self-efficacy, goal orientation, hope, and epistemic beliefs. These analyses were employed in an attempt to examine relationships at the construct level in addition to the bivariate scales. Each construct is a composite of the scales that measure it, and the scales are weighted according to their importance in defining the construct. Our constructs were each defined by two scales, with the exception of epistemic beliefs, which were defined using the five subscales described above.

Nonsignificant relationships were observed between the following pairs of constructs: a) self-efficacy and goal orientation, lambda = .89, F (4, 110) = 1.68, p = .16, b) beliefs and goal orientation, lambda = .82, F (10, 104) = 1.12, p = .36, and c) hope and self-efficacy, lambda = .87, F (4, 110) = 2.21, p = .07. In each analysis it was possible to describe the relationship between the pairs of constructs using a total of two dimensions, or canonical variates. The magnitude of the canonical correlations was as follows: a) self-efficacy and goal orientation (rc1 = .29, rc2 = .17), b) beliefs and goal orientation (rc1 = .35, rc2 = .26), and c) hope and self-efficacy, (rc1 = .37, rc2 = .08).

Arrow Up

Hope and Goal Orientation

A significant multivariate relationship was observed between the hope and goal orientation constructs, lambda = .57, F (4, 110) = 8.89, p < .01. Because these constructs could be related on two possible dimensions, it was of interest to determine the dimensionality of this relationship. After removing the variability due to the first dimension, the second dimension produced a statistically significant relationship, lambda = .91, F (1, 56) = 5.48, p = .02. Thus, it was determined that the relationship between these two constructs could best be described using both canonical variates.

The two dimensions essentially represented a pair of univariate relationships. The hope construct for the first dimension was primarily defined by the agency scale; the standardized weights for agency and pathways were .96 and .12, respectively, while the corresponding structure coefficients were .99 and .42. The first dimension of the goal orientation construct was mainly defined by mastery; the standardized weights for performance and mastery were -.41 and .92, respectively, while the structure coefficients were -.39 and .91. Thus, the first canonical relationship essentially represented the relationship between agency and mastery. The canonical correlation associated with this dimension was .61, and the squared canonical correlation (i.e., R2) was .37.

The interpretation of the second canonical relationship involved the other pair of variables. In this case, the pathways scale in large part, defined the hope construct. The standardized weights for agency and pathways were -.44 and 1.05, respectively, while the structure coefficients for these two variables were -.11 and .91. In contrast, the performance scale primarily defined the goal orientation construct; standardized weights for performance and mastery were .91 and .39, while the corresponding structure coefficients were .92 and .41. Thus, the second canonical correlation represented the relationship between pathways and performance. The magnitude of this relationship was substantially weaker than that of the first dimension; the canonical correlation was .30, and the squared canonical correlation was .09.

Arrow Up

Epistemic Beliefs and Self-Efficacy

A canonical correlation analyses produced a significant relationship between the self-efficacy and epistemic beliefs constructs, lambda = .63, F (10, 104) = 2.70, p = .005. Furthermore, it was determined that only a single dimension was needed to describe the relationship between these two constructs; after removing the variability due to the first dimension, the second canonical correlation was non-significant, lambda = .89, F (4, 53) = 1.61, p = .19. The canonical correlation associated with the largest root was .54, while the second canonical correlation was .33. The corresponding squared canonical correlations were .29 and .11, respectively.

To better understand this relationship, the standardized weights and structure coefficients are given in Table 3. As seen in the table, the self-efficacy construct was defined by both general efficacy and personal efficacy, although the weight given to general efficacy was approximately twice that of personal efficacy. Furthermore, these two scales were inversely related to the efficacy construct, such that individuals who scored low on the general efficacy scale had higher levels of teaching efficacy. Said another way, positive feelings of personal efficacy are outweighed by stronger negative feelings regarding general teaching efficacy. In contrast, a single scale, simple knowledge, primarily defined the beliefs construct; the standardized and structure weights for this scale were substantially higher than those of the remaining four scales. Thus, the significant canonical correlation represented the relationship between the efficacy construct (weighted more heavily by general efficacy) and beliefs about simple knowledge.

Table 3: Canonical Correlation Weights for the Efficacy and Epistemic Belief Constructs

Scale Standardized
  Personal Efficacy .48 .46
  General Efficacy -.89 -.88
Epistemic Beliefs    
  Simple Knowledge 1.08 .92
  Innate Ability .21 .18
  Omniscient Authority .22 .42
  Quick Learning -.18 .29
  Certain Knowledge -.28 .26

Arrow Up

Hope and Epistemic Beliefs

Finally, a significant multivariate relationship was observed between the hope constructs and epistemic beliefs, lambda = .64, F (10, 104) = 2.62, p = .007. Again, it was determined that only a single dimension was needed to describe this relationship, as the second canonical variate was not significant, lambda = .88, F (4, 53) = 1.84, p = .13. The magnitude of the two canonical correlations was .52 and .35, and the corresponding squared correlations were .27 and .12.

The standardized weights and structure coefficients for each scale are shown in Table 4. The definition of the hope construct is straightforward, as it was defined chiefly by the agency scale. However, the definition of the beliefs construct was complex. Based on the standardized weights, the omniscient authority and certain knowledge scales were approximately equally weighted, but in opposite directions (beta = .75 and -.84, respectively). The simple knowledge and innate ability constructs were also positively related to the beliefs construct (.35 and .44, respectively). The structure coefficients provided a similar interpretation, except that the certain knowledge scale was not weighted as heavily. Thus, the higher scores on the belief construct (i.e., canonical variate) were defined by higher values on omniscient authority, simple knowledge, and innate ability, but lower scores on certain knowledge. Quick learning contributed little to the definition of the construct relative to the other scales.

Table 4: Canonical Correlation Weights for the Hope and Epistemic Belief Constructs

Scale Standardized
  Agency 1.02 .99
  Pathways -.06 .26
Epistemic Beliefs    
  Simple Knowledge .35 .26
  Innate Ability .44 .37
  Omniscient Authority .75 .59
  Quick Learning .19 .16
  Certain Knowledge -.84 -.33

Arrow Up

Belief Constructs and General Ability

A multiple regression analysis was performed to determine whether the belief constructs (goal orientations, self-efficacy, hope, and beliefs about knowledge) were related to general ability. The 11 subscales underlying these constructs were used as predictors, and the Ravens total score was used as the outcome variable. The correlations among these variables are given in Table 5.

The omnibus F test was not statistically significant, F (11, 47) = 1.53, p = .15, R2 = .26. While the null hypothesis that R2 = 0 was retained, it should be noted that the effect size associated with the omnibus test, f2 = .36, can be characterized as large in magnitude according to Cohen's (1988) benchmarks.

Table 5: Coefficients from Regression Analysis of Ravens Scores

Scale b SE beta t p
 Personal Efficacy .04 .09 .06 .40 .69
 General Efficacy .27 .11 .37 2.41 .02
 Agency -.37 .49 -.15 -.76 .45
 Pathways .42 .39 .16 1.08 .29
 Performance .04 .20 .03 .19 .85
 Mastery .07 .10 .11 .68 .50
Epistemic Beliefs          
 Simple Knowledge -.04 .19 -.04 -.22 .83
 Innate Ability .26 .13 .29 2.02 .05
 Omniscient Authority .00 .20 .00 .00 1.00
 Quick Learning .33 .23 .23 1.45 .15
 Certain Knowledge -.08 .17 -.08 -.50 .62

The regression coefficients for each scale are shown in Table 5. As seen in the table, the largest beta weights were observed for the general efficacy, innate ability, and quick learning subscales (beta = .37, .29, and .23, respectively); only general efficacy was statistically significant, however.

Arrow Up


This study examined the interrelationships amongst four major beliefs constructs that have, thus far, been examined in relatively independent bodies of literature. Our hypotheses for our four research questions were partially confirmed. We will discuss our findings in this section followed by limitations of the study and will conclude with future directions.

Arrow Up


Our first question asked to what extent there were interrelationships amongst goal orientations, self-efficacy, hope and beliefs about knowledge. We predicted significant relationships between each of these major constructs due to the overlap in what they proposed to measure. We found partial support for this hypothesis through the use correlational analysis. Analysis at the construct level using canonical correlations revealed significant relationships between hope and goal orientations, epistemic beliefs and self-efficacy, and hope and epistemic beliefs.

The relationship between epistemic beliefs and self-efficacy was explained primarily by one dimension that was best represented through the GTE scale within the self-efficacy construct and the simple knowledge scale within the epistemic beliefs construct. In addition, Pearson's correlations revealed a significant inverse relationship between GTE and simple knowledge. We failed to find significant relationships at the construct level between self-efficacy and goal orientation, epistemic beliefs and goal orientation, or hope and self-efficacy.

Our second research question asked to what extent there were meaningful relationships to goal orientations, self-efficacy, or beliefs about learning between individuals who score high versus low on agency or pathways. The relationship between hope and goal orientation was defined by two dimensions representing essentially a pair of univariate relationships. The first dimension of the hope construct was primarily defined by the agency scale while the first dimension of the goal orientation construct was defined by the mastery scale. This relationship between agency and mastery was strong with a canonical correlation of .61. This finding replicates that of Roedel et al. (1994). A much weaker relationship was found with the second dimension that was defined primarily by the pathways scale within the hope construct and by the performance scale with the goal orientation construct. Pearson's correlations also revealed a significant relationship between PTE and pathways.

Furthermore, those high on agency showed an inverse relationship with performance goal orientations.

The relationship between the hope and epistemic beliefs constructs was somewhat more complex in that the hope construct was defined primarily through the agency scale while the beliefs construct was defined by higher values on omniscient authority, simple knowledge, and innate ability, but also by lower scores on certain knowledge. Pearson's correlations showed that omniscient authority was related to agency, pathways, and mastery goals orientation. This finding is somewhat difficult to explain but was consistent across two constructs and warrants attention. It is possible that hopeful and mastery-oriented individuals derive their perception of these beliefs from a sense of personal autonomy and determination that are somewhat distinct from their views of authority. It appears possible that one might simultaneously hold strong beliefs about one's personal autonomy while maintaining confidence and trust in the decision making skills of persons in positions of authority. The extent to which this finding is generalizable beyond this sample can only be known by future studies employing these same variables.

Surprisingly, no relationship was found between simple knowledge, certain knowledge or quick learning with mastery-goal orientation, PTE, or hope. This was particularly surprising given that persistence is at the heart of mastery orientation, an outgrowth of self-efficacy and an indirect assumption of each of the beliefs about knowledge dimensions.

Another surprising finding revolved around our third research question in which we predicted a relationship between mastery goal orientation and self-efficacy. No such relationship was found between mastery orientation and PTE or GTE. This finding is counter to much of the existing self-efficacy literature (Bandura, 1977; 1993; 1997; Schunk & Pajares, 2002).

Our fourth research question regarded the relationship between general ability and the four beliefs constructs. Our hypothesis that general ability is independent of beliefs was primarily supported through regression analysis. We found that performance on the Raven's test of general ability was not predicted by goal orientations, self-efficacy, hope or beliefs about learning. However, the effect size represented by the variables is considered large (Cohen, 1988) with GTE being the only variable showing a statistically significant beta weight. It is difficult to interpret a meaningful relationship between general ability and GTE in this study but this question is an avenue for future studies to investigate. Nevertheless, our data provides evidence that variance contributed by belief constructs is largely independent of general ability. Beliefs, in addition to other variables such as domain-specific knowledge, quality of teacher education training, metacognitive reflection, and self-regulation, are important components in studies that seek to understand the development of expertise in teaching. Beliefs, like the other variables just mentioned warrant separate study regarding their contributions to teacher expertise.

In sum, it seems appropriate to conclude that the student teachers in this study that were more hopeful were also generally more personally efficacious for their teaching and also tended to be mastery-oriented. Hope was the belief construct that showed the most interrelationships with all of the other belief constructs. Overall, means tended to be high for the sample as a whole on mastery orientation and hope. In addition, scores for quick learning were generally low.

Arrow Up


It is important to note two limitations of this study. First, our findings for agency and pathways subsumed under the variable hope may actually have been attenuated given the use of the four-point Likert scale. A broader scale (e.g., eight-point scale) may have introduced more variability and given a truer picture of individual differences on this construct.

Second, there are limitations in the generalizability due to the size and homogeneity of the sample. All of the subjects in this study were early-childhood majors, all were from the same institution, and nearly all were female. Future studies should attempt to replicate the findings in this study to see if they generalize to larger and more heterogeneous samples.

Arrow Up

Future Directions

This study opens the door to follow-up investigations of the interrelationships of major beliefs constructs. We suggest that future research go beyond correlational analyses to focus on differences in classroom and learning outcomes by teachers who have various belief profiles. By doing this we would be able to examine which of the beliefs constructs or possibly which combination of the constructs are most predictive of behaviors such as persistence with struggling students, ability to deliver effective lessons, and the use of effective strategies for pedagogy and behavior management. While the focus of the present study was primarily exploratory, this type of analysis would reveal how beliefs impact interactions that occur everyday in classrooms.

In addition, this study revealed at least two other avenues for future research. The first is the role that beliefs about knowledge play in the teaching and learning process. In this study, beliefs about knowledge were, for the most part, not related to the other belief constructs (except in the case of omniscient authority). Future investigations should seek to determine how classroom processes are affected by teachers holding different beliefs about knowledge. Second, future studies should take a closer look at the relationship between mastery goal orientation and PTE. Our study found no relationship between these two variables on self-report measures but this finding is contrary with much of the existing literature. A more appropriate test of the relationship between these two variables might involve observing actual classroom behaviors of teachers who report being high on PTE to see if their behavior represents a mastery orientation.

Arrow Up


John L. Nietfeld is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at the State University of West Georgia. His primary interests are in the study of metacognition and in the development of human expertise. He is also interested in research related to best teaching practices, motivation, adult reading, and sports psychology. He teaches courses in Educational Psychology, Lifespan Development, Classroom Learning, and Research Methods. He may be contacted at

Craig K. Enders is an Assistant Professor of Educational and Psychological Studies at the University of Miami. He specializes in structural equation modeling methodology, in particular, issues related to missing data. He teaches courses in Advanced Multivariate Statistics, Computer Applications for Educational Research, Research and Design Statistics, and Introduction to Research. He may be contacted at

Arrow Up


Ames, C., & Archer, J. (1988). Achievement goals in the classroom: Student learning strategies and motivation processes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 260-267.

Archer, J. (1994). Achievement goals as a measure of motivation in university students. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 19, 430-446.

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.

Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28, 117-148.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Bendixen, L.D., Schraw, G., & Dunkle, M.E. (1998). Epistemic beliefs and moral reasoning. Journal of Psychology, 132, 187-200.

Borko, H., & Putnam, R.T. (1996). Learning to teach. In D.C. Berliner & R.C. Calfee (Eds.), The handbook of educational psychology (pp. 673-708). New York: Macmillan.

Bruning R.H., Schraw, G.J., & Ronning, R.R. (1999). Cognitive Psychology and Instruction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (rev. ed.). New York: Academic Press.

Curry, L. A., Snyder, C. R., Cook, D. L., Ruby, B. C., & Rehm, M. (1996). The role of hope in academic and sport achievement. Unpublished manuscript, The University of Kansas, Lawrence.

Dweck, C.S., & Leggett, E.S. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95, 256-273.

Eggen, P., & Kauchak, D. (2001). Educational psychology: Windows on classrooms (5TH Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Elliott, E.S., & Dweck, C.S. (1988). Goals: An approach to motivation and achievment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 5-12.

Gibson, S., & Dembo, M. (1984). Teacher efficacy: A construct validation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 569-582.

Greene, B.A., & Miller, R.B. (1996). Influences on achievement: Goals, perceived ability, and cognitive engagement. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 21, 181-192.

Kagan, D.M. (1992). Implications of research on teacher belief. Educational Psychologist, 27, 65-90.

Kitchener, K.S., & King, P.A. (1981). Reflective judgment: Concepts of justification and their relationship to age and education. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 10, 73-95.

Ormrod, J.E. (2000). Educational psychology: Developing learners (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Pajares, F. (1996). Self-Efficacy beliefs in academic settings. Review of Educational Research, 66, 543-578.

Perry, W.G., JR. (1970). Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years. San Diego: Academic Press.

Raven, J.C. (1962). Advanced Progressive Matrices, Set II. London: H.K. Lewis (Distributed in the United States by the Psychological Corporation, San Antonio, Texas).

Roedel, T.D., Schraw, G., & Plake, B.S. (1994). Validation of a measure of learning and performance goal orientations. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 54, 1013-1021.

Schommer, M. (1990). Effects of beliefs about the nature of knowledge on comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 498-504.

Schommer, M. (1992). Epistemological beliefs and mathematical text comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 435-443.

Schommer, M. (1994). Synthesizing epistemological belief research: Tentative understandings and provocative confusions. Educational Psychology Review, 6, 293-320.

Schunk, D.H. (1996). Goal and self-evaluative influences during children's cognitive skill learning. American Educational Research Journal, 33, 359-382.

Schunk, D.H, & Pajares, F. (2002). The development of academic self-efficacy. In A. Wigfield & J.S. Eccles (Eds.), Development of achievement motivation (pp. 15-31). San Diego: Academic Press

Snyder, C.R., Harris, C., Anderson, J.R., Holleran, S.A., Irving, L.M., Sigmon, S.T., et al. (1991). The will and the ways: Development and validation of an individual differences measure of hope. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 570-585.

Snyder, C.R., Sympson, S.C., Ybasco, F.C., Borders, T.F., Babyak, M.A., & Higgins, R.L. (1996). Development and validation of the Hope State Scale. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 321-335.

Woolfolk, A.E. (2000, April). Changes in teaching efficacy in the early years of teaching. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.

Woolfolk, A.E., & Hoy, W.K. (1990). Prospective teachers' sense of efficacy and beliefs about control. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 81-91.

Arrow Up


Teacher Efficacy Scale

Please indicate your level of agreement or disagreement to the following statements. If you strongly agree, for example, write the number 6 in the blank provided to the left.

Disagree Slightly
Agree Strongly
1 2 3 4 5 6

___ 1. When a student does better than usually, many times it is because I exert a little extra effort.

___ 2. The hours in my class have little influence on students compared to the influence of their home environment.

___ 3. The amount a student can learn is primarily related to family background.

___ 4. If students aren't disciplined at home, they aren't likely to accept any discipline.

___ 5. I have enough training to deal with almost any learning problem.

___ 6. When a student is having difficulty with an assignment, I am usually able to adjust it to his/her level.

___ 7. When a student gets a better grade than he/she usually gets, it is usually because I found better ways of teaching that student.

___ 8. When I really try, I can get through to most difficult students.

___ 9. A teacher is very limited in what he/she can achieve because a student's home environment is a large influence on his/her achievement.

___ 10. Teachers are not a very powerful influence on student achievement when all factors are considered.

___ 11. When the grades of my students improve, it is usually because I found more effective teaching approaches.

___ 12. If a student masters a new concept quickly, this might be because I knew the necessary steps in teaching that concept.

___ 13. If parents would do more for their children, I could do more.

___ 14. If a student did not remember information I gave in a previous lesson, I would know how to increase his/her retention in the next lesson.

___ 15. If a student in my class becomes disruptive and noisy, I feel assured that I know some techniques to redirect him/her quickly.

___ 16. Even a teacher with good teaching abilities may not reach many students.

___ 17. If one of my students couldn't do a class assignment, I would be able to accurately assess whether the assignment was at the correct level of difficulty.

___ 18. If I really try hard, I can get through to even the most difficult or unmotivated students.

___ 19. When it comes right down to it, a teacher really can't do much because most of a student's motivation and performance depends on his/her home environment.

___ 20. My teacher training program and/or experience has given me the necessary skills to be an effective teacher.

Goals Inventory

Please respond to the questions below by indicating how true or false each statement is about you. If a statement is always true, for example, write the number 5 in the blank provided to this right of each statement.

Always False Usually False Sometimes True Usually True Always True
1 2 3 4 5

___ 1. I enjoy challenging school assignments.

___ 2. It is important for me to get better grades than my classmates.

___ 3. I persevere even when I am frustrated by a task.

___ 4. Academic success is largely due to effort.

___ 5. Sticking with a challenging task is rewarding.

___ 6. I try even harder after I fail at something.

___ 7. I adapt well to challenging circumstances.

___ 8. I am willing to cheat to get a good grade.

___ 9. I work hard even when I don't like a class.

___ 10. I am very determined to reach my goals.

___ 11. Personal mastery of a subject is important to me.

___ 12. I work very hard to improve myself.

___ 13. I like others to think I know a lot.

___ 14. It bothers me the whole day when I make a big mistake.

___ 15. I feel angry when I do not do as well as others.

___ 16. I am naturally motivated to learn.

___ 17. I prefer challenging tasks even if I don't do as well at them.

___ 18. I feel most satisfied when I work hard to achieve something.

The Hope Scale

Read each item carefully. Using the scale shown below, please select the number that best describes you and write that number in the blank next to the item.

Definitely False   Mostly False     Mostly True   Definitely True
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

___ 1. I can think of many ways to get out of a jam.

___ 2. I energetically pursue my goals.

___ 3. I feel tired most of the time.

___ 4. There are lots of ways around any problem.

___ 5. I am easily downed in an argument.

___ 6. I can think of many ways to get the things in life that are most important to me.

___ 7. I worry about my health.

___ 8. Even when others get discouraged, I know I can find a way to solve the problem.

___ 9. My past experiences have prepared me well for my future.

___ 10. I've been pretty successful in life.

___ 11. I usually find myself worrying about something.

___ 12. I meet the goals that I set for myself.

Beliefs about Learning

Please indicate your level of agreement or disagreement to the following statements. If you strongly agree, for example, write the number 6 in the blank provided to the left.

Disagree Slightly
Agree Strongly
1 2 3 4 5 6

___ 21. Most things worth knowing are not very complicated.

___ 22. People should respect the opinions of authorities.

___ 23. Really smart students learn things with less effort.

___ 24. There are certain truths in life that won't ever change.

___ 25. Working on a problem with no quick solution is a waste of time.

___ 26. What is true today will be true tomorrow.

___ 27. Society needs strong laws to work well.

___ 28. When someone in authority tells me what to do, I usually do it.

___ 29. Really smart students don't have to work as hard to do well.

___ 30. Solutions to problems usually come quickly or not at all.

___ 31. Most important ideas are pretty simple when you get down to it.

___ 32. Some people are born with more ability than others.

___ 33. Teachers should focus on facts instead of abstract ideas.

___ 34. Basic truths exist even though we might not know what they are.

___ 35. How well you do in school depends on how smart you are.

___ 36. Too many theories just complicate things.

___ 37. Things are simpler than most experts would have you believe.

___ 38. If you don't learn something quickly, you won't ever learn it.

___ 39. If two people are arguing about something, at least one of them must be wrong.

___ 40. Children should never question their parents' authority.

___ 41. If you don't understand a problem right away, going back over it won't help.

___ 42. People should obey the law.

___ 43. The moral rules I live by apply to everyone.

___ 44. Smart people are born that way.

___ 45. Most of what you learn, you learn during the first try.

Scatterplots: Figures 1-9

Figure 1

Figure 1. Pearson's correlation scatterplot between mastery orientation and omniscient authority.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Pearson's correlation scatterplot between mastery orientation and agency.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Pearson's correlation scatterplot between mastery orientation and pathways.

Figure 4

Figure 4. Pearson's correlation scatterplot between performance orientation and agency.

Figure 5

Figure 5. Pearson's correlation scatterplot between simple knowledge and GTE.

Figure 6

Figure 6. Pearson's correlation scatterplot between Raven's performance and GTE.

Figure 7

Figure 7. Pearson's correlation scatterplot between Omniscient Authority and Agency.

Figure 8

Figure 8. Pearson's correlation scatterplot between Omniscient Authority and Pathways.

Figure 9

Figure 9. Pearson's correlation scatterplot between PTE and Pathways.

Arrow Up