How Important Is “Feeling Good about Yourself”? (page 2)
Ask a group of educators what are important school outcomes and undoubtedly one reply will be that students should “feel good about themselves.” The perceived importance of ego enhancement has resulted in various programs designed to build students’ self-esteem that stress their worth as individuals and praise from others.
Although self-efficacy is a key variable in Bandura’s social cognitive theory, self-efficacy is not the same as “feeling good about yourself.” Self-efficacy refers to specific beliefs about what one believes one can do. The best (most reliable) source of information to gauge self-efficacy comes from one’s actual accomplishments. Programs that seek to raise self-esteem and that are not tied to learning or performance are ineffective in raising task-specific self-efficacy, motivation, or skills (Pajares & Schunk, 2001).
It is true that self-efficacy can be raised by persuasion from others (e.g., “You can do this.”). But this increase will not endure if students actually try the task and fail. A real danger of self-esteem enhancement programs is that they do not prepare students for life’s realities. Sooner or later everyone fails, receives criticism, and becomes discouraged. More important than raising self-esteem is to teach students strategies for coping with difficulties and rebounding from setbacks, which likely requires changes in the school curriculum. In short, although developing in students a healthy sense of self-esteem is a laudable goal, it should not be the preeminent goal of schooling and must be tied to a curriculum that teaches them skills and strategies for self-regulating learning.
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