Date of Award

Winter 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Psychology and Behavioral Sciences

First Advisor

Donna Thomas


Students are likely to avoid academic pursuits if they lack academic self-efficacy (Bandura, 2000). Furthermore, past poor academic performance contributes to the development of low academic self-efficacy. Students who participate in extracurricular activities, like LA GEAR UP, demonstrate better academic achievement and less risk-taking behaviors than non-participating students (Barber, Stone, & Hunt, 2003). Research supports the notion that LA GEAR UP is an effective way to improve students' academic performance and to reduce the number of disciplinary referrals students receive (Beer, 2009). Additionally, within the academic literature research has demonstrated that teachers' attributions about students are based upon their perceptions about students' effort and ability (Clark, 1997; Reyna & Weiner, 2001).

Participants included 733 at-risk middle school and high school students enrolled in the 8th and 9th grades. The Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Self-efficacy was used to measure self-efficacy, a survey utilized by the Board of Regents was utilized to obtain information about suspensions and expulsions and a question about teachers' aspirations was utilized. It was hypothesized that students who participated in LA GEAR UP activities would have higher self-efficacy, higher GPA, and fewer disciplinary referrals than students who did not participate. Furthermore, it was hypothesized that teachers would have higher aspirations for participating students than for non-participants.

The findings of this study were that after camp, students who participated in LA GEAR UP had significantly higher academic self-efficacy and GPA than students who did not attend camp. That is, there was a statistically significant difference between mean self-efficacy scores and GPA for students who attended camp and students who did not attend camp. Further, there were no statistically significant differences in students' mean self-efficacy scores and GPAs prior to camp. Students who participated in more activities had increases in their self-efficacy and GPA. Additionally, teachers' aspirations for students were positively impacted by increased exposure to LA GEAR UP activities. These findings are relevant because they support the idea that LA GEAR UP is a beneficial program that promotes psychological growth and positive behavioral change in students. Future research should determine which specific aspects of LA GEAR UP contribute most to the development of high self-efficacy. Such research would enable program modifications that emphasize those aspects of the program that contribute most to the development of improved academic self-efficacy.