Developing first-year students’ self-efficacy beliefs about academic writing through online peer collaboration: The case of Facebook
Higher education in South Africa faces the challenge to provide every student with an open and accessible learning environment. Educational institutions, therefore, have to make students feel confident and competent in their own learning practice and provide them with opportunities to develop positive selfefficacy beliefs. In the case of language learning, students foremost need to acquire confidence and competence in communicating in an academic context. This paper reports on a peer collaboration project at North-West University where a closed Facebook group was established to support firstyear students’ development of positive self-efficacy beliefs about a specific aspect of their academic trajectory: their academic writing skills. Students were instructed to collaborate on a writing assignment through Facebook, enabling them to discuss their writing and learning process. The results show that the students in the project feel comfortable interacting with their peers online and feel confident in their academic writing practice. The participating students considered themselves significantly better prepared to complete their task in comparison to the control group. These results provide strong indications that peer collaboration on a Facebook forum may have a positive effect on students’ self-efficacy beliefs and, by extension, facilitate students’ engagement with their peers and the academic community.
Keywords: Computer supported collaborative work, academic writing, Facebook, perceived self-efficacy, academic acculturation