Primary school students' learning experiences of, and self-beliefs about competence, effort, and difficulty: Random effects models

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Expanding research on individual differences in students' self-beliefs about ability, effort and difficulty, we investigated the variability and interrelatedness of situation-specific learning experiences of competence evaluation, effort exertion and task difficulty during one week at school. In total, 292 students in years 5 and 6 (Mage 10.5years) filled in electronic questionnaires during 15.3 learning episodes on average during one week (SD=4.3; Range=2-34, Total nexperiences=4,566). Students' learning experiences varied substantively across situations (rICC from .21 to .28), and were differentially interrelated between students (rSD from .28 to .40; random slope SDs .14 to .20). Using multilevel structural equation models (MSEM), we found that students who on average, across situations, evaluated their competence higher exerted less effort in situations and evaluated their competence higher at difficult tasks. Higher performers exerted more effort at difficult tasks, girls exerted more effort than boys for the same level of competence evaluation, and students who in general found school difficult evaluated their competence higher at easier tasks. The investigation of situation-specific learning experiences provides insights into student belief systems in educational contexts which complement our knowledge of individual difference in such beliefs. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.

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Learning and Individual Differences