Motivation Based on Self-Efficacy

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

"I am confident that I will be able to grasp the main ideas in this chapter." "If I read this section carefully, I will be able to explain what self-efficacy is." "I know that 1 am capable of scoring an A on a test of the material in this book." If you agree with these statements, you have high self-efficacy for mastering educational psychology; if you mainly disagree with these statements, your self-efficacy could be classified as low.

What is self-efficacy? As you can see from this example, self-efficacy is a kind of personal expectation or judgment concerning one's capability to accomplish some task. Schunk (1991) defines self-efficacy as "an individual's judgments of his or her capabilities to perform given actions" (p. 207), Bandura (1986) defines it as "people's judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performance" (p. 391), and Pintrich (2003b, p. 107) defines it as "students beliefs about their ability to do the task."

Self-efficacy is not the same as self-concept (Marsh &: Shavelson, 1985). Self-concept is a general view of one's self across domains; self-efficacy is a specific view of one's capacities in a given domain. Self-concept consists of many dimensions, one of which is self-confidence, which is most like self-efficacy For example, "I am a smart person" relates to self-concept, whereas "I am confident that I can get an A in my educational psychology course" relates to self-efficacy

Why is self-efficacy important? A student's self-efficacy may play an important role in his or her academic achievement. Schunk (1991) claims that "there is evidence that self-efficacy predicts ... academic achievement" (p. 207). According to Bandura (1977), self-efficacy affects the amount of effort and persistence that a person devotes to a task.

Where does self-efficacy come from? Suppose that you are taking a class in how to use a computer program for conducting simple statistical tests; since you have never used a statistics program before, your self-efficacy for this task is still undeveloped. After a few minutes, you find that you are able to use the program easily, so your self-efficacy increases. You look over to see that other first-time learners like yourself are learning to use the program. Your self-efficacy soars because you assume that "if they can do it, I can do it." Your instructor walks by and says, "You can do this!" Again, your self-efficacy grows. Your initial sense of high anxiety, including high heart rate and nausea, has left, and now you feel more relaxed. This bodily change also signals an increase in self-efficacy These examples describe four sources of self-efficacy: interpreting one's own performance, interpreting the performance of others, interpreting others' expressions of your capabilities, and interpreting one's physiological state.

In any learning situation, students enter with a sense of efficacy that is based on their aptitudes and past experiences in similar tasks. Students' self-efficacy influences what they do, how hard they try, and how long they persist—that is, what Schunk calls "task engagement variables." Throughout the learning episode, the students seek efficacy cues signaling how well they are capable of doing on the task. They use these efficacy cues to establish their self-efficacy for similar tasks in the future. According to Schunk (1991):

Students derive cues signaling how well they are learning, which they use to assess efficacy for further learning. Motivation is enhanced when students perceive they are making progress in learning. In turn, as students ... become more skillful, they maintain a sense of self-efficacy for performing well (p 209)

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