"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)
In short, self-efficacy for a given task both influences and is influenced by students' performance on a task. However, self-efficacy is influenced by how students interpret performance feedback rather than the feedback itself; thus, students who have established high levels of self-efficacy over the course of many experiences are unlikely to suffer lowered self-efficacy as the result of negative performance feedback.
Self-efficacy theory predicts that students work harder and longer when they judge themselves as capable than when they judge themselves as unable to perform a task. In this section, we examine two specific predictions: Self-efficacy is related to study strategy and self-efficacy is related to achievement.
The first prediction of self-efficacy theory is that a student's sense of self-efficacy for a given task is related to the way the student goes about learning a task. That is, the more confident students are in their capacity to learn, the more active they will be in the learning process. To test this hypothesis, a first step is to develop a way of measuring the level of students' self-efficacy and the level of students' learning activity For example, Zimmerman and Martinez-Pons (1990) presented a series of 10 words to elementary and high school students; for each word, students were asked to rate their ability to spell the word on a scale ranging from completely unsure (0) to completely sure (100). The average rating on the 10 words was used as a measure of verbal self-efficacy To measure learning activity, Zimmerman and Martinez-Pons asked students to respond to eight open-ended questions, such as:
Assume your teacher asks students to write a short paper on a topic such as the history of your community or neighborhood. Your score on this paper will affect your report card grade. In such cases, do you have any particular method to help you plan and write your paper? (p 53).
A measure of learning activity was computed by tallying the number of times students mentioned self-regulated learning strategies such as setting goals, seeking information, keeping records, seeking peer assistance, reviewing notes, and organizing information. As predicted, students' perceptions of efficacy were correlated with their reported use of active learning strategies (r = .42). For example, students who expressed confidence in their spelling ability tended to report using more active learning strategies on a verbal task, whereas students who lacked confidence reported fewer active learning strategies.
In another attempt to test the study strategy hypothesis, Pintrich and De Groot (1990) asked seventh-grade students in science and English classrooms to answer questions about their motivation to learn (such as their self-efficacy) and about their level of activity during learning. For example, to evaluate self-efficacy, they asked students to rate agreement or disagreement on a 7 -point scale to statements such as "I expect to do very well in this class" and "I am certain that I will be able to learn the material for this class."
To evaluate degree of active learning, the researchers asked students to rate agreement and disagreement on a 7-point scale to statements such as "When I study for this English class, I put the important ideas in my own words" and "I ask myself questions to make sure I know the material I have been studying." As predicted, Pintrich and De Groot (1990) observed correlations between self-efficacy and use of active learning strategies (r = .33 to r = .44). Similarly, in a study of arithmetic learning, Schunk (1981) found a positive correlation between self-efficacy and persistence on exercise problems during learning (r = .30).
These results are consistent with the idea that self-efficacy is related to deeper and more active processing of information during learning. However, a more practical issue concerns the relation between self-efficacy and academic achievement and lies at the heart of the second prediction of self-efficacy theory The theory predicts that self-efficacy is positively related to academic achievement; that is, the more confident a student is in his or her capacity to learn a certain lesson, the greater the probability of success in accomplishing that goal.
To examine this prediction, Schunk and Hanson (1985) asked elementary school children who were having difficulty in arithmetic to judge their capacity to solve 25 different pairs of subtraction problems. Each pair of problems was presented for 2 seconds, enough time for students to assess problem difficulty but not enough time to actually solve the problems. Students rated their capacity to solve each pair of problems on a 100-point scale ranging from "not sure" (10) to "maybe" (40) to "pretty sure" (70) to "really sure" (100). The average rating for the 25 problems constitutes a measure of Self-efficacy. Then students received instruction in how to solve subtraction problems. The number of problems that were correctly commpleted during instruction provides a measure of ease of learning. Finally, students took a 25-item subtraction test. The number of correct answers on the test constitutes a measure of achievement.
Is self-efficacy related to achievement in subtraction? The answer from Schunk and Hanson's (1985) study is clearly yes. The correlation between self-efficacy and achievement was high (r = .66). Furthermore, Schunk (1989) reported that similarly high rates were obtained across a series of studies in many domains (r = .46 to r = .90). Is self-efficacy related to ease of learning? Again, Schunk and Hanson's (1985) study produced a strong correlation between self-efficacy and ease of learning (r = .38), and Schunk (1989) reported that similarly high correlations were obtained in other studies (r = .33 to r = .42). In conclusion, performance during and after learning appears to be related to students' judgments of their capabilities for learning.
Another test of the achievement hypothesis concerns how changes in self-efficacy are related to changes in achievement. According to the theory, when a student's self-efficacy is raised, the student's academic performance also increases. For example, in Schunk and Hanson's (1985) study previously described, students rated their self-efficacy for subtraction. took a subtraction pretest, received instruction, and then again rated their self-efficacy for subtraction and took a subtraction posttest. Some students received instruction aimed at improving self-efficacy (student-model group). Students in the student-model group viewed two 45-minute videotapes presented on 2 consecutive days. The tapes portrayed a teacher writing subtraction problems on the board and a student successfully solving them. The student model verbalized aloud the steps in solving the problem and occasionally made positive statements such as "I can do that one" or "I like doing these." The student models in the videotape were selected to be similar to students in the study. When a student model finished a problem, the teacher stated that the solution was correct and then wrote another problem on the board, and so on throughout the videotape. After viewing the videotapes, the students received 40 minutes of workbook-based instruction on each of 5 consecutive school days. At the beginning of each session, each student was given a workbook containing a sheet explaining how to carry out the needed operations, two worked-out examples, and a series of pages with similar problems to solve. Students were free to consult with a proctor if they needed help. Other students received the same 5 days of workbook-based instruction but viewed videotapes showing a teacher solving the problems (teacher-model group) or saw no videotapes at all (no-model group).
The student-model group showed a large change in self-efficacy and in achievement, whereas the changes for the no-model and teacher-model groups were more modest. These results support the idea that modeling "can raise self-efficacy because it implicitly conveys to observers that they are capable of performing the modeled operation" (Schunk &: Hanson, 1985, p. 319). Thus, self-efficacy is not based solely on one's prior performance but is also influenced by observing peers. Importantly, the increase in self-efficacy is related to a concurrent increase in academic performance. Schunk and Hanson suggested that "teachers who systematically incorporate peer models into their instruction, at least with children who have skill deficiencies, may help promote children's skills and self-efficacy for acquiring them" (p. 321)
Do students who enter their first year of college with higher self-efficacy tend to get higher college grades? Chemers, Hu, and Garcia (2001) addressed this question in a study involving the entire freshman class at a major university in California. Students were asked to complete a questionnaire that measured their academic self-efficacy as well as several other factors. In addition, the researchers obtained the students' high school grade point average (GPA) and first-year college GPA from university records (with permission, of course). High school grades were significantly related to college grades—confirming the idea that past performance is a good predictor of future performance. Importantly, self-efficacy upon entering college was also significantly related to grades at the end of the first year of college, even when the effects of high school grade-point awrage were statistically eliminated. In other words, for students who had high grades in high school and students who had low grades in high school and everyone in between, there was a strong relation between self-efficacy beliefs and first-year grades. In short, students who believed they were capable of doing well in their courses performed better than students who did not believe they were capable of doing well. Interestingly, high school GPA was also significantly related to self-efficacy beliefs, suggesting a self-perpetuating loop in which obtaining high grades in the past is related to having higher self-efficacy which in turn is related to obtaining high grades in the future. There are many other studies (e.g., Pietsch, Walker, & Chapman, 2003; Pintrich, 2003b) that yield similar results, so there is reason to accept Chemers, Hu, and Garcia's (2001) conclusion that "self-efficacy ... showed powerful relationships to academic performance" (p. 61).
Overall, these results provide a consistent picture of how self-efficacy influences academic performance. Students who have confidence in their capabilities engage in deeper processing of the material during learning, which in turn results in a better understanding of the material. Thus, when achievement tests emphasize understanding, high self-efficacy students are likely to perform better than low self-efficacy students. Pintrich (2003a) summarizes the findings on self-efficacy as follows: "It has been a major finding ... that when people expect to do well, they tend to try hard, persist, and perform better" (p. 671). This pattern was confirmed in a recent review of self-efficacy studies in which 54 out of 60 effects were positive, prompting the authors to conclude that there was a "small favorable influence of positive self-beliefs on academic achievement" (Valentine, DuBois, & Cooper, 2004, p. 126).
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