People acquire their self-efficacy beliefs from the
following four sources:
- past performance
- vicarious experiences
(observing others perform)
- verbal persuasion
- physiological cues.
Past performance is the single greatest contributor to students' confidence.
If students have been successful at a particular skill in the past,
they will probably believe that they will be successful at the skill
in the future. The old adage, “Nothing breeds success like success”
certainly is true when it comes to developing self-efficacy.
Students bring a wide variety of past experiences
with them when they enter your classroom. Some of those experiences
have been positive, others have not. How students interpret their
past successes and failures can have a dramatic impact on their
self-efficacy. If students believe their success in a particular
area is the result of the skills they developed (their ability),
they are much more likely to be confident about future success in
that area. On the other hand, if students attribute their success
solely to hard work, they may not necessarily expect future success,
since they may not choose or even want to work equally hard on future
assignments. Or they may believe they do not have the necessary
skills to succeed in the future regardless of how hard they work.
Although we, as teachers, know how much effort one puts into a task
has a direct effect on the quality of the completed task, students
often do not see the relationship. As late as eighth grade, students
report that the amount of effort they put into a subject is less
important than their ability. Our highest achieving students may
also believe that if they must work hard at something, they may
not have high ability or be skillful in that area.
A pattern often exists for students who do
not do well. Students who explain their poor performance as a lack
of effort demonstrate higher self-efficacy than those who explain
it as low ability. Students who have not done well, but believe
that all they must do to succeed is work harder may still be very
confident about their skills.
A Note About
Gender Differences and Performance:
Some evidence also exists that boys and girls view their success
and failure experiences in school differently. Boys tend to attribute
their successes to skills, whereas girls often attribute their successes
to effort. The reverse is true when viewing poor performance.
Girls often attribute their poor performance to low ability, while
boys blame theirs on low effort.
Males and females react differently to average
and low grades. Females often drop a class when they are receiving
a C, while males may not. Barbara Kerr (1997) found that young women
and men majoring in engineering receive similar grades in their
introductory college calculus class. Unfortunately, young women
often change career majors after receiving Bs and Cs, while young
men with similar grades tend to continue in their engineering program.
When a student sees another student accomplish a task, the vicarious
experience of observing a model can also have a strong influence on
self-efficacy. By observing others like themselves perform tasks,
individuals make judgments about their own capabilities. If a student
sees a friend publish a poem, he might believe he can also have one
published. A third grader observing other third graders learn
multiplication tables is likely to believe that he can also learn
them. The more students relate to the model being observed, the more
likely the model's performance will have an impact on them.
Unlike the self-efficacy beliefs derived from past experience, self
efficacy information gleaned through observation is less stable. Once
strong self-efficacy is developed from one's own personal successes,
an occasional failure may not have negative effects; however, self-efficacy
based on observing others succeed will diminish rapidly if observers
subsequently have unsuccessful experiences of their own.
Self-modeling, where students observe themselves
succeed, is also a powerful influence. Watching video tapes of successful
performances or viewing photographs of past accomplishments can
increase student confidence.
Telling your students, "You can do this," can also increase their
confidence to do a task. Although verbal persuasion such as this
can be important, it does not contribute as much as an individual's
own experiences or vicarious experiences. The short-term effects
of persuasion need to be coupled with actual successes.
The teacher's credibility is also an important
factor with verbal persuasion. Students experience higher self-efficacy
when they are told they are capable by someone they believe is trustworthy.
Students will also tend to discredit a teacher if they believe the
teacher does not fully understand the demands of the task being
faced. The old phrase, “Get real,” applies here.
The final source upon which self-efficacy beliefs are based are
physiological cues. Sweaty hands or a dry mouth are often interpreted
as signs of nervousness. Students may feel that such signs indicate
they are not capable of succeeding at a particular task. Conversely,
students may be aware of feeling relaxed before confronting a new
situation and develop a higher sense of efficacy toward the task
they face. Physiological cues are the weakest influence of the four
Check Your Understanding:
- Past performance is the single best
predictor of confidence for future performances.
- Viewing others succeed or fail has
little impact on the viewers' confidence.
Next Section: What
We Need to Know Before Starting
Previous Section: An
Introduction to Self-Efficacy
c. 2000 - Del
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