In educational programs, student perceptions are often overlooked; yet, have been shown to contribute to motivation, engagement, and academic performance. Conversely, a lack of self-efficacy can be a barrier to professional and effective clinical practice.
The objective of this research is to explore student self-efficacy in various dietetics programs.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
A cross-sectional study design assessed self-efficacy among dietetics students (n = 44) in 4 programs: coordinated undergraduate, coordinated graduate, dietetic internship, and the Future Education Model Graduate Program. Students were classified as first year of the program or subsequent year, as well as first year or subsequent year(s) as undergraduate and graduate students.
The Self-Efficacy Scale for Nutrition Students in the Clinical Setting is a survey consisting of 20 statements based on ACEND competencies for programs. Survey statements are rated on a 4-item Likert scale ranging from ‘not at all confident’ to ‘fully confident.’ This survey was administered electronically and mean self-efficacy scores across all items were compared using independent samples t test and ANCOVA.
Students in the first year of a dietetics program had significantly lower scores (2.9 ± 0.53) than in students in subsequent years (3.4 ± 0.41, P = 0.004). First year graduate students had significantly lower scores (2.79 ± 0.38) than second year graduate (3.37 ± 0.46) and undergraduate students (3.47 ± 0.29, P = 0.008). Areas of highest confidence among all students were ability to abide by the code of ethics, collect food and nutrition-related history, and seek assistance when needed. Students demonstrated lowest confidence in the ability to review medications, identify drug/nutrient interactions, and demonstrate negotiation skills in the clinical setting.
First year students demonstrated lower self-efficacy, even at the graduate level; however, self-efficacy was higher in students after completing supervised practice. This work identifies potential areas of growth in dietetics programs and highlights the need for experiences that enhance self-efficacy.