A.C.E. (Achieve, Courage, Enrich) Group: Self-Efficacy in Male Students

By Mimi Vo; Christina Miller

    A.C.E. (Achieve, Courage, Enrich) Group: Self-Efficacy in Male Students

    About the Author

    Mimi Vo; Christina Miller
    School Counselor/Psychologist-in-Training
    Hayward, CA, US
    1 Article Published
    Mimi Vo; Christina Miller

    Mimi Vo: I was born and raised in the East Bay, California, and earned my B.A. in Psychology and minored in Education at the University of California, Davis. I am currently working towards my Master of Science in Counseling and Pupil Personnel Services Credential at California State University, East Bay in Hayward, California.
    Christina Miller: I earned my B.A. in Psychology and minored in Spanish at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I am currently working towards my Master of Science in Counseling with a specialization in Clinical Child/School Psychology and Pupil Personnel Services Credential at California State University, East Bay.

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    Project Summary

    This action research project aimed to increase male adolescent student perceptions of self-efficacy and decrease office referral rates. The researchers created a 10-week intervention that focused on developing a sense-of-self, goal identification and planning, recognizing and expressing emotions, and appropriate problem-solving skills. Researcher Christina Miller conducted the group at her middle school field site; participants included two seventh graders and two eighth graders. Researcher Mimi Vo conducted the group at her high school field site; participants included six freshmen and two juniors. We measured students’ perceived self-efficacy before and after the intervention. Research outcomes included: a) significant increase in overall self-efficacy scores for the high school group; and b) significant decrease in referral rates for the high school group. There were no significant findings for the middle school group. We learned that this intervention may help increase male students’ self-efficacy and decrease office referral rates. We plan to continue conducting the group intervention with male students with high referral rates at future sites in order to gather more data and increase validity of our findings.

    Project Context

    The middle school’s enrollment was 921 students with almost half Hispanic students. African-Americans were the second largest group at the school (21%), followed by Caucasians (13%). Less than 10% of students in the school were American Indian/Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders, or students with two or more races. Roughly 17% of the students were English Language learners and more than half were economically disadvantaged (69%). The high school had 1,989 students enrolled. The high school population consisted of more than 50% Asians, followed by 17% Whites, 12% Hispanic or Latino, 11% Filipino, and less than 10% American Indian/Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders, African Americans, and those who are two or more races. About 8% of the high school students were English Language learners and 22% were economically disadvantaged. School administrators at both the middle and high school sites identified a concern with the large number of male students with high rates of office referrals.

    Project Goals, Methods and Outcome

    Research Purpose

    Self-efficacy plays a significant role in health-related processes and outcomes (e.g., autonomic activity and pain regulation), behavioral effects (e.g., changes in diet and exercise and reductions to substance abuse), as well as self-regulation and other psychological factors (Bandura, 1997). A person with higher self-efficacy for a task will exert more energy, persist longer at the task, and acquire more knowledge and skills related to the task as compared to an individual with lower self-efficacy (Harris, Thoresen, & Lopez, 2007). Harris et al. (2007) also described the possibility that the growth and maintenance of positive characteristics and behaviors may attribute to the absence of negative characteristics and behaviors (p. 4). The purpose of our action research project was to increase middle- and high-school male students’ perceptions of self-efficacy and decrease their office referral rates.


    Through a significant amount of collaborative effort with school administration and staff, we identified a common problem at two field sites: a lack of support for many male students with behavioral problems. We understood that these students with consistent office referrals and disciplinary action were seen as having possible low self-confidence and weak perceptions of self-efficacy. The researchers in this action research project collaborated with administration, school counselors, teachers, and campus supervisors at their field site to identify students who might be willing and able to participate in a group setting. The support staff also helped identify possible strategies to address issues of potential low self-efficacy and provided the students with a “safe space” to discuss topics. Each researcher was provided with a male co-facilitator in order to allow time at the end of each session (i.e., approximately 10 minutes) for the male students to address topics that they were uncomfortable discussing with the female co-facilitator present. Through these collaborations, the primary researchers were able to create A.C.E. (Achieve, Courage, Enrich), a 10-week intervention for two groups of male students. The middle-school group took place after school on Wednesdays, and the high-school group took place during alternating class periods on Mondays.  Each session was approximately 45 minutes in length. The session outline was as follows:

    Week 1: Introduction/Pre-Intervention Self-Efficacy Survey

    Week 2: Visualizing Goals

    Week 3: Building a Sense-of-Self

    Week 4: S.M.A.R.T. Goals (Simply Outrageous Youth)

    Week 5: Long-Term and Short-Term Goals (Work Sheet Place)

    Week 6: Goal Planning

    Week 7: Recognizing Emotions

    Week 8: Expressing Emotions

    Week 9: Appropriate Problem-Solving

    Week 10: Goal Revisit and Self-Reflection/Post-Intervention Self-Efficacy Survey

    Week 11: “Graduation” and Party

    The high school’s A.C.E. participants were selected from the 9th- and 11th-grade classes. The group consisted of six freshmen and two juniors. There were no 10th graders due to refusal to participate in the program, and we chose not to include 12th graders because we did not want to create a situation where seniors influence younger students. The middle school’s A.C.E. participants included two 7th grade students and two 8th grade students. There were no 6th graders due to refusal to participate in the program. Data on office referrals were collected through the retention center log and with the help of staff on site.  Pre- and post-data on self-efficacy questionnaire were collected using the Self-Efficacy Questionnaire for Children (SEQ-C) (Muris, 2001). The total self-efficacy score was comprised of academic, social, and emotional self-efficacy scores. Data was analyzed using paired-sample t-tests through the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). After data was analyzed the researchers shared the findings with school administrators and co-facilitators in order to evaluate the importance of running counseling groups and providing extra support for students in schools, particularly, to those students with behavioral issues.


    The pre-post SEQ-C data demonstrated a significant increase in overall self-efficacy scores of participating high school students, p < .05. There were no significant findings for the middle school group. Referral rates for the high school group decreased significantly, p < .05; however, there were no significant findings for the middle group.  Based on our overall findings, it is possible that the intervention curriculum we created may help improve male adolescent students’ perceptions of self-efficacy as well as reduce the rate of office referrals, although only at the high-school level.  The challenges we faced, specifically during the recruiting process, taught us different methods of identifying willing participants. We found that it is essential to meet with each student individually in order to discuss the goals and process of the group, answer any student questions, and, in turn, hopefully ease uncertainties about the group intervention. We also learned that is important to choose a male co-facilitator who is not only willing, but also has a good relationship with students who may participate in the group.


    The low number of participants was a limitation in both research sites. The low participation rate may have been due to the stigma associated with group counseling, social influences, or the time and length of the group sessions (i.e., the middle-school group was constrained to run sessions after school).  Interviews with students would have increased the trustworthiness of the findings. Additionally, not all participants attended each session, and this may have impacted the findings.  Lastly, without a control group, the researchers lack some certainty regarding the extent to which the intervention was responsible for the decreases in referrals and the improved self-efficacy scores.

    We think the curriculum we developed may be useful for other school counselors considering group counseling with students frequently referred for behavioral issues. Continued action research would benefit from having a larger sample size along with focus group or individual interview sessions to determine the effectiveness of the intervention.


    Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.

    Harris, A. H. S., Thoresen, C. E., & Lopez, S. J. (2007). Integrating positive psychology into counseling: Why and (when appropriate) how. Journal of Counseling and Development, 85(1), 3-13.

    Muris, P. (2001). A brief questionnaire for measuring self-efficacy in youths. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 23, 145-149

    S.M.A.R.T. Goals. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.simplyoutrageousyouth.net/sitebuilder/files/GoalsActivity.pdf

    Short and Long Term Goals. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://worksheetplace.com/mf/Short-and-Long-Term-Goals.pdf

    To cite this work, please use the following citation:

    Miller, C., & Vo, M. (2015, June 10). A.C.E. (Achieve, Courage, Enrich) group: Self-efficacy in male students. Social Publishers Foundation.  https://www.socialpublishersfoundation.org/knowledge_base/a-c-e-achieve-courage-enrich-group-self-efficacy-in-male-students/

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