Teachers College, Columbia University

"I Came in Unsure of Everything": Community College Students' Shifts in Confidence

By Susan Bickerstaff, Melissa Barragan & Zawadi Rucks-Ahidiana

Using data from nearly 100 community college student interviews, this paper focuses on the academic confidence of students at the outset of their community college careers, the ways in which confidence impacts behaviors and persistence, and how student confidence is affected by experiences in college. 

The findings suggest that student confidence is shaped in part by past academic experiences and expectations of college upon entry and that student confidence is continually shifting as a result of interactions with peers, faculty, and others. Additionally, the analysis indicates that academic confidence can impact student motivation and academic behaviors that are associated with success. Importantly, this paper identifies the nature of those experiences that positively reinforce student confidence—events that the authors term "experiences of earned success."

The paper concludes by describing ways instructors and administrators can structure classroom and other on-campus environments to create opportunities for students to experience earned success and ultimately enhance their commitment to academic pursuits.

A version of this paper titled "Experiences of Earned Success: Community College Students’ Shifts in College Confidence" appears in the International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, vol. 29, no. 3.

Associated Project(s)

Student Success Courses