Date of Award

12-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Douglas Lare, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Jennifer V. Rotigel, D.Ed.

Third Advisor

Richard Wesp, Ph.D.

Abstract

Student development and identity formation have long been considered an important outcome of attending college. However, the introduction of web-based social networking technologies has played a significant role in fundamentally altering many aspects of campus life. The most popular social networking site, Facebook.com was initially developed on a college campus, specifically for use by other students. Despite Facebook’s prevalence on campus and beyond, little is known about the impact that Facebook may be having on student development. This mixed-method study examined variables associated with undergraduate college student Facebook use in relation to perceived sense of general self-efficacy and autonomy development. General self-efficacy is a construct that implies feelings of preparedness to deal with small and large hardships and challenges and is generally considered a fundamental characteristic of individuals who are thought to have attained autonomy. The first stage of the study involved 311 full-time undergraduate students at a medium sized university in Eastern Pennsylvania who completed the Facebook Influence on Coping and Adaptation Scale (FICAS) survey instrument. Semi-structured interviews were then conducted with 20 volunteers from the group that completed the survey. The FICAS was developed to assess participants’ activities and level of engagement on Facebook. Quantitative analysis of survey data found no significant relationships between the various FICAS subscales and general self-efficacy, however qualitative analysis of interview data revealed that Facebook use does appear to be associated with experiences related to the development of autonomy within the specific constructs of venturing and instrumental autonomy. These constructs represent specific ways to describe experiences that have been found to be related to the development of autonomy. These results appear to indicate that specific uses of Facebook may be beneficial for enhancing opportunities for autonomy development among undergraduate college students. However, it did not appear that Facebook was responsible for students’ high levels of autonomy. Rather, participants’ profiles served as extensions of self and those that appeared to have well-developed autonomy tended to use Facebook in more constructive and innovative ways than those who appeared to have a less developed sense of autonomy.

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