Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 24, Issue 5, pp 696–708 | Cite as

Scientific Inquiry Self-Efficacy and Computer Game Self-Efficacy as Predictors and Outcomes of Middle School Boys’ and Girls’ Performance in a Science Assessment in a Virtual Environment

  • Bradley W. Bergey
  • Diane Jass Ketelhut
  • Senfeng Liang
  • Uma Natarajan
  • Melissa Karakus


The primary aim of the study was to examine whether performance on a science assessment in an immersive virtual environment was associated with changes in scientific inquiry self-efficacy. A secondary aim of the study was to examine whether performance on the science assessment was equitable for students with different levels of computer game self-efficacy, including whether gender differences were observed. We examined 407 middle school students’ scientific inquiry self-efficacy and computer game self-efficacy before and after completing a computer game-like assessment about a science mystery. Results from path analyses indicated that prior scientific inquiry self-efficacy predicted achievement on end-of-module questions, which in turn predicted change in scientific inquiry self-efficacy. By contrast, computer game self-efficacy was neither predictive of nor predicted by performance on the science assessment. While boys had higher computer game self-efficacy compared to girls, multi-group analyses suggested only minor gender differences in how efficacy beliefs related to performance. Implications for assessments with virtual environments and future design and research are discussed.


Self-efficacy Scientific inquiry Computer games Immersive virtual environments Gender differences 



We acknowledge the contributions of Brian Nelson, Catherine Schifter, Martha Caray, Mandy Kirchgessner, Chris Teufel, Angela Shelton, and other SAVE Science team members for their contributions to the larger project of which this study is a part. We also are grateful to Jennifer Cromley and anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback on previous versions of this manuscript. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0822308.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bradley W. Bergey
    • 1
  • Diane Jass Ketelhut
    • 2
  • Senfeng Liang
    • 3
  • Uma Natarajan
    • 4
  • Melissa Karakus
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Psychological and NeuroscienceDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Teaching and Learning, Policy and LeadershipUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.University of Wisconsin—Stevens PointStevens PointUSA
  4. 4.Education Development CenterWalthamUSA
  5. 5.Department of Psychological, Organizational and Leadership StudiesTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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