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Self-evaluation bias of school competence: risks or opportunities for future academic success? – SchoolBias

Students adjust better to school when they overestimate their own competence

Following the conclusion of OECD reports, one of the major problems that the French education system faces, seems to be the construction of negative beliefs of competence and consequently, the incapacity to enable certain students to acquire necessary skills for future academic and social success.The Schoolbias program focused on this problem.It deals with the study of students’ biased judgments about their academic competence and the effects of these judgments on basic learning.

Self-evaluation bias in basic learning skills and its relationship with school adjustment and success

Beliefs about competence can have both positive and negative effects on the acquisition of basic knowledge, which may impact students’ future school and social success. The SchoolBias program focused on the judgments that students make of their own school competence, and paid special attention to the gap between this self-evaluation of competence and their actual potential. This gap is in fact their self-evaluation bias of school competence, which may be positive (overestimation) or negative (underestimation). The program consisted of two distinct levels of analysis. At the intra-individual level (student), we collected data about the dynamics of self-evaluation bias (positive and negative) and their effects on basic learning at different stages in the school cycle. At the inter-individual level (teacher judgment), we studied how teachers judge students who have a positively or negatively biased evaluation of their school competence. Finally, we extended our study to include the impact of these beliefs in other cultures.

Twenty-two studies in ordinary classroom situations were carried out within the framework of the SchoolBias program. They involved more than 5000 students of various grades in elementary and junior high schools, and more than 200 teachers.
This program was based on a combination of mixed methodologies. The studies used longitudinal and transversal approaches, as well as experimental and correlational methods. Structured interview methodologies were also used to analyze the thought patterns of positively and negatively biased students after a reminder of a school test success or failure. Examining students' competence beliefs in different cultures (China, France, Canada-Quebec and Russia) also required a methodology for cross-cultural validation of the material used. Since the studies involved more than 200 teachers and 5,000 students in elementary and secondary schools, the coordination with the Grenoble Education Authorities (Rectorat de l’Académie de Grenoble, France) ensured the success of the research program.

The results clearly indicate that overestimating one’s academic competence is beneficial to the student, while underestimating it is detrimental to their academic adjustment. At the intra-individual level, students who overestimate themselves are more motivated, self-regulate well, are more actively involved in their learning, and perform better than their negatively biased peers. At the inter-individual level, since they appear to be more in line with school expectations, teachers judge positively biased students more favorably. This pattern also appears in other cultural systems. Finally, we observed that teachers lack the ability to correctly identify positively and negatively biased students.

The results of this research program should encourage education professionals to better understand the complexity of student self-evaluations of competence, and how they impact the learning process and teacher judgment. It also opens up avenues of reflection for better handling of students with unrealistic negative self-perceptions.

In addition to the scientific papers presented at (inter)national conferences and the articles published or being evaluated, we communicated the results of the project to education professionals, for example during the Priority Education Days of the Grenoble Education Authorities (Académie de Grenoble). Further actions are planned, such as the creation of digital resources for teachers by 2022.

Following the conclusion of PISA (2012), one of the major problems that the French education system faces, seems to be the construction of negative beliefs of competence and consequently, the incapacity to enable certain students to acquire necessary skills for future academic and social success. This research program deals with the study of students’ judgments about their academic competence and the effects of these judgments on basic learning in French (e.g., language, reading, and writing) and mathematics (e.g., counting, and logical reasoning). A main concern will be to consider the discrepancy between the student’s actual potential (measured from standardized tests) and their self-evaluation of school competence (subjective potential), that is: the self-evaluation bias of school competence (for review, see Bouffard & Narciss, 2011; Bouffard, Pansu, & Boissicat, 2013). This bias can either be positive (overestimation of school competence) or negative (underestimation of school competence). Its size may also be more or less important. The aim of the present program is twofold and includes two distinct levels of analysis. First, at an intra-individual level (student), the aim will be to gather information about the dynamics of the self-evaluation bias of school competence (positive and negative) and about their effects on basic learning at different levels of schooling. To do so, the research program will examine two age groups: 9-12 years old and 15-18 years old. We will explore how their self-perception profile of school competence is shaped or re-shaped at each stage of schooling. We will also examine for whom, when and how the bias in self-evaluation of school competence affects basic learning and performances in French and mathematics. Second, at an inter-individual level (teachers’ judgment), we will examine how teachers perceive the functioning and achievement of students who have a self-evaluation bias of school competence (positive or negative) compared to students who don’t have such a bias. Then, we will investigate the relationship between student’s self-evaluation bias of school competence and the corresponding teacher’s evaluation. Indeed, recent results suggest that young students who overestimate their own competence are evaluated more positively regarding their school functioning and achievement. Additionally, young students, who underestimate their own competence, are more likely to be negatively evaluated by their teachers. However, this issue needs to be clarified and verified at each stage of schooling. Consequently, we will examine how and under which condition(s) self-evaluation biases of school competence lead to more or less favorable teachers’ judgments. In addition, the intercultural generalization of the outcomes at an intra- or inter-individual level is an issue that will be taken into account in the present program. This will allow us to verify the correlates of evaluation biases and their perception from one culture to another.
In conclusion, this research program aims to improve the understanding of the dynamics of the self-evaluation bias of school competence, and to develop our knowledge about the consequences of such a bias at both intra- and inter-individual levels. On an applied perspective, the new knowledge issued from this research program could contribute to guide the reflections on teaching practices and thus improve the efficiency of the actors of the French educational system.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Pascal Pansu (Laboratoire des Sciences de l'Education)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

Rectorat de l'Académie de Grenoble Rectorat de l'Académie de Grenoble / Inspection de l'Education Nationale Haut Grésivaudan
URAMAS Unité de Recherche sur l'Affectivité, la Motivation et l'Apprentissage Scolaires, Université du Québec A Montréal
LSE - U-GRENOBLE ALPES Laboratoire des Sciences de l'Education
CLLE-LTC / CNRS Midi Pyr. Cognition, Langues, Langage, Ergonomie-Laboratoire Travail et Cognition

Help of the ANR 128,991 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: October 2016 - 36 Months

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