Self-Efficacy (page 2)
In general, self-efficacy is a person’s self-constructed judgment about his or her ability to execute certain behaviors or reach certain goals. To see examples of your own self-efficacy for various activities, try the following exercise.
Experiencing Firsthand • Self-Appraisal- Take a moment to answer the following questions:
- Do you believe you’ll be able to understand and apply educational psychology by reading this textbook and thinking carefully about its content? Or do you believe you’re going to have trouble with the material regardless of how much you study?
- Do you think you could learn to execute a reasonable swan dive from a high diving board if you were shown how to do it and given time to practice? Or do you think you’re such a klutz that no amount of training and practice would help?
- Do you think you could walk barefoot over hot coals unscathed? Or do you think the soles of your feet would be burned to a crisp?
People are more likely to engage in certain behaviors when they believe they will be able to execute the behaviors successfully—that is, when they have high self-efficacy (e.g., Bandura, 1997). For example, I hope you believe that with careful thought about what you read, you will be able to understand the ideas in this textbook. In other words, I hope you have high self-efficacy for learning educational psychology. You may or may not believe that with instruction and practice, you would eventually be able to perform a passable swan dive. In other words, you may have high or low self-efficacy about learning to dive. But you are probably quite skeptical that you could ever walk barefoot over hot coals, so my guess is that you have low self-efficacy regarding this activity.
Self-efficacy is a component of one’s overall sense of self. It may seem similar to such concepts as self-concept and self-esteem, but important qualities distinguish it from them (Bong & Skaalvik, 2003; Pajares & Schunk, 2002; Pietsch, Walker, & Chapman, 2003). When psychologists talk about self-concept and self-esteem, they are typically describing a fairly general self-view that pervades a broad range of activities (e.g., “Am I a good student?”) and may encompass feelings as well as beliefs (e.g., “How proud am I of my classroom performance?”). In contrast, self-efficacy is more task- or situation-specific and involves judgments (rather than feelings) almost exclusively (e.g., “Can I master long division?”).
How Self-Efficacy Affects Behavior and Cognition
Students’ sense of self-efficacy affects their choice of activities, their goals, and their effort and persistence in classroom activities. Ultimately, then, it also affects their learning and achievement (Bandura, 1982, 2000; Schunk & Pajares, 2004).
Choice of Activities Imagine yourself on registration day, perusing the hundreds of courses in the semester schedule. You fill most of your schedule with required courses, but you have room for an elective. Only two courses are offered at the time slot you want to fill. Do you sign up for Advanced Psychoceramics, a challenging seminar taught by the world-renowned Dr. Josiah S. Carberry? Or do you sign up for an English literature course known across campus as being an easy A? Perhaps you find the term psychoceramics a bit intimidating, and you think you can’t possibly pass such a course, especially if Dr. Carberry is as grouchy and demanding as everyone claims. So you settle for the literature course, knowing it is one in which you can succeed.
People tend to choose tasks and activities at which they believe they can succeed and to avoid those at which they think they will fail. Students who believe they can win a role in the school musical are more likely to try out than students with little faith in their acting or singing ability. Students who believe they can succeed at mathematics are more likely to take math courses than students who believe they are mathematically incompetent. I
Goals People set higher goals for themselves when they have high self-efficacy in a particular domain. For instance, adolescents’ choices of careers and occupational levels reflect subject areas in which they have high rather than low self-efficacy (Bandura et al., 2001). Their choices are often consistent with traditional gender stereotypes: Boys are more likely to have high self-efficacy for, and so aspire to careers in, science and technology, whereas girls are more likely to have high self-efficacy for, and so choose, careers in education, health, and social services (Bandura et al., 2001).
Effort and Persistence People with a high sense of self-efficacy are more likely to exert effort when attempting a new task. They are also more likely to persist (to “try, try again”) when they confront obstacles to their success. In contrast, students with low self-efficacy about a task will put in little effort and give up quickly in the face of difficulty. For example, in the opening case study, Nathan is convinced he can’t learn French. With such low self-efficacy, he gives up quickly on French homework assignments whenever he encounters something he doesn’t immediately understand.
Learning and Achievement People with high self-efficacy tend to learn and achieve more than those with low self-efficacy. This is true even when actual ability levels are the same (Bandura, 1986; Eccles, Wigfield, et al., 1989; Klassen, 2002). In other words, when several individuals have equal ability, those who believe they can do a task are more likely to accomplish it successfully than those who do not believe they are capable of success. Students with high self-efficacy may achieve at superior levels partly because they engage in cognitive processes that promote learning—paying attention, organizing, elaborating, and so on (Bong & Skaalvik, 2003; Pintrich & Schunk, 2002).
Most 4- to 6-year-olds are quite confident about their ability to perform various tasks and, in fact, often overestimate what they can do (R. Butler, 1990; Eccles et al., 1998; Nicholls, 1979). As they move through the elementary grades, however, they can better recall their past successes and failures, and they become increasingly aware of how their performance compares with that of their peers (Eccles et al., 1998; Feld, Ruhland, & Gold, 1979). Presumably as a result of these changes, they become less confident, although usually more realistic, about what they can and cannot do (Bandura, 1986; Schunk & Zimmerman, 2006).
Ideally, learners should have a reasonably accurate sense of what they can and cannot accomplish, putting them in a good position to capitalize on their strengths and address their weaknesses (Försterling & Morgenstern, 2002; Wang & Lin, 2005). However, a tad of overconfidence can often be beneficial, because it entices learners to take on challenging activities that will help them develop new skills and abilities (Assor & Connell, 1992; Bandura, 1997). Within this context it is useful to distinguish between self-efficacy for learning (“I can learn this if I put my mind to it”) and self-efficacy for performance (“I already know how to do this”) (Lodewyk & Winne, 2005; Schunk & Pajares, 2004). Self-efficacy for learning (for what one can eventually do with effort) should be on the optimistic side, whereas self-efficacy for performance should be more in line with current ability levels.
Sometimes students, girls especially, underestimate their chances of success, perhaps because of a few bad experiences (D. A. Cole et al., 1999; D. Phillips & Zimmerman, 1990). For example, a girl who gets a C in science from a teacher with exceptionally strict grading criteria may erroneously believe that she is no good in science. Or a new boy at school whose attempts at being friendly are rejected by two or three thoughtless classmates may erroneously believe that no one likes him. In such circumstances students set unnecessarily low goals for themselves and give up easily in the face of small obstacles.
But it’s also possible to have too much of a good thing. When learners are too overconfident, they may set themselves up for failure by forming unrealistically high expectations or exerting insufficient effort to succeed (Bandura, 1997; Paris & Cunningham, 1996; D. Phillips & Zimmerman, 1990). And they will hardly be inclined to address weaknesses that they don’t realize they have (McKeachie, 1987; Pintrich, 2003).
© ______ 2008, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
Washington Virtual Academies
Tuition-free online school for Washington students.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- The Homework Debate
- Social Cognitive Theory
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- First Grade Sight Words List