Learning theories in practice/Self-Efficacy
Building Self-Efficacy in Higher Education Students
Self Efficacy is a rising interest among those in the field of higher education. Many researchers are determined to find ways to increase the motivation and self efficacy beliefs of the students of today. Researchers posit that students beliefs in their ability to succeed in courses or activities and their amount of science self efficacy, influences their choices of school related tasks, the effort they expend on those activities, the perseverance they show when encountering difficulties, and the ultimate success they experience in their courses. The research of self efficacy goes back to original ideas of Albert Bandura. According to Bandura (1995), self efficacy is the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations. Another definition of self efficacy is the strong belief that a student has that they can succeed in any given task or activity, having the ability to persevere in the face of difficulty, and being able to promote confidence as they meet obstacles. Self efficacy is also known as a judgment of confidence. It is context sensitive, it can be task specific. It is made and used in reference to some type of goal. It is domain specific. It is more of a question of can. Students with self efficacy ask themselves “Can I do this?” The purpose of this wiki book chapter is to inform higher education students and educators of the importance of strong self efficacy belief in students and to engage and encourage the conversation on motivation strategies and ways to promote self efficacy in students.
Most of the research done on self efficacy and the field of motivation has been conducted by Albert Bandura and Robert Zimmerman. In Bandura’s research he states that self efficacy influences the choices that students make concerning their education(Bandura, 1986). The amount of self efficacy a student has can determine the amount of effort. If a student has a high level of self efficacy then they will make wiser choices about their education and put more effort into making sure that they are successful in school. Self efficacy also influences how long students persist when they confront obstacles or failures in the classes that they take. Most of all, it impacts how the students feel. This impacts whether or not a student has a high or low self esteem in life in general. How a student feels in their academic life determines how they feel in their personal, non academic life. Self efficacy beliefs affect academic performance by influencing a number of behavioral and psychological processes (Bandura, 1986).
Self efficacy beliefs are also positively associated with key motivation constructs such as self concept (Bong & Skaalvik, 2003) ( the students’ perceptions about their ability and their feelings of self worth associated with this ability), self- regulation ( "students are able to set goals for their learning and then attempt to monitor, regulate, and control their cognition, motivation, and behavior, guided and constrained by their goals and the contextual features of the environment”(Pintrich, 2000, p.453) mastery goal orientation (Urdan, 1997), and adaptive causal attributions ( Stajkovic & Sommer, 2000).
Types of Self Efficacy:
There are different ways for those to develop self efficacy, however it is not a fixed trait. Everyone does not have the same levels of self efficacy beliefs. There are four sources of self efficacy that are formed by students as described by Bandura(1986, 1997). The four sources are mastery experience, social persuasion, physiological states, and vicarious experience.
Mastery experience is the most influential of the four. Mastery experience is referring to the learners’ previous success at a given task. This experience is when students are engaged in tasks and activities. Mastery experiences happen when the student has reached the point where they understand the content knowledge enough to perform a task own their own. It happens with plenty of prior exposure to the content. They are able to interpret the results of their actions and use those results to develop their capability to engage in future actions or tasks. These students are able to participate in tasks on a first hand basis with little or no assistance from outside influences. Through a strong mastery experience, a student should be able to get feedback on their own learning capabilities. This is when a student feels confident to conduct a research project or a science experience with little direction from the instructor.
Vicarious experience is the second source of self efficacy. It is when the learner is primarily gaining self- efficacy or confidence in a given task through observation of a role model attaining success at a task (Bandura, 1986). The learner does not play an active role in the learning experience. They are learning more through the watching of someone who already understands the task or the objective or is on the same skill level as the observer. This type of experience would not be as effective if the person being observed was on a lower skill level or have not mastered the given objective or task. This source of self efficacy is known to be a weaker source than that of the mastery experience. Students in this source are often unsure of how they are able to perform an academic task independently. These are the same students that work well with their peers or need to see a finished product before they are able to construct a way to complete an assignment.
Physiological States is the next source of self efficacy beliefs for students. Students gage their degree of confidence by the emotional state they experience as they contemplate or engage in an action. Physiological states are when the student has a “gut feeling” as to whether or not they have the ability to succeed or fail at an academic task. These feelings can include many things such as anxiety, stress, arousal, fatigue, and mood states. If a person is considered to be in a good mood, then they are will more confident about their academic abilities. However, if something was said or happened to that person to make them have a bad mood or to become stressful, then they will begin to doubt their academic abilities due to that bad feeling that they have. Tired or anxious people are most likely not able to feel as confident about their abilities to succeed. This source of self efficacy is the most unstable of the four because a person’s mood or feelings can change by the minute, hour, or day. A person’s feelings is never a stable thing and for it to be connected to a person’s academic confidence is not a stable situation. In research conducted, it has been discovered that women are more likely than men to allow the physiological states affect their academic self efficacy beliefs.
The last source of self efficacy is the social persuasion or the verbal persuasion as it is also called. This is the exposure to the verbal and nonverbal judgments that others provide that can impact the level of self efficacy that a student has. There are both positive and negative verbal persuasions. Positive persuasions can work to encourage and empower the student to succeed for better. This means that the student needs to surround themselves with a support system that uplifts them and encourages them at going to school and give empowering statements when the students feels unsure about continuing. Professors and college advisors are able to play a major part in this encouragement. They can form relationships and bonds with the students and use the experience that they have in learning and education to guide and advise the students.
How Students can develop their own self efficacy:
Individuals have to be motivated to learn before the actual learning has taken place, during the process of learning and after the task has been learned. In order to increase a student’s self efficacy beliefs they should surround themselves with positive and encouraging role models. This peer modeling works best for all types of students whether they are considered to be gifted, special education, or regular students. Students need to be taught what it looks like to have high self efficacy beliefs, because many students do not have the proper role models to teach or encourage high self efficacy traits. If students are around people that are positive confident in their own abilities then that is a very good way to motivate the students to strive for better.
Rewards and positive reinforcement is not a factor that is used when encouraging higher self efficacy beliefs in students. Majority of the beliefs of self worth and confidence must be derived from within the student and based on their knowledge and success at a task. The student should not be confused by receiving rewards for having confidence. Many extrinsic rewards will undermine the effects of self efficacy. It has been stated in research that providing rewards only for participation in an activity has generally led to decreased interest in that activity (Bates, 1979) and that is not the results that we desire in the students that we teach. We want them to continue to have interest in the tasks that are presented to them.
Students can develop their own self efficacy by knowing how they learn best. Once a student is more knowledgeable about their own learning and what works best for them, they will be able to experience more success. That student should then focus more on their strengths, but still attempt to work at the task that are more difficult for them.
What can educators do?
When some students experience failure in school or a particular subject matter, it can at times cause them to have a low self -efficacy belief about their skills to succeed. When a student has those failure experiences multiple times, it can cause a student to shut down emotionally and mentally from the learning process. This shut down effect can block the pursuit of future educational plans and the pursuit of certain careers that is similar to that content area where they were unsuccessful. Educators play a huge role of impacting students to strive for more. Educators must be educated and aware of the sources of self efficacy in order to make sure that students are making future decisions on career choices and academics based on the level of interest they have and not for fear or lack of confidence. Educators must set up expectations for their students and push them to meet those expectations and strive to exceed those expectations. The teacher must start with smaller expectations that are on a level that is comfortable for the students. After the student sees success, then the educator can gradually increase the level of expectations held.
For educators in the primary and secondary education arena, the scaffolding technique is very beneficial in developing self efficacy beliefs as the students move from concepts in lecture or textbooks to hands on assignments. The students must become engaged in authentic inquiry in for them to become motivated. It is the job of a knowledgeable instructor to pair the weaker student with one that is stronger in that content knowledge. This allows for peer tutoring. Peer tutoring is good at strengthening the stronger student’s mastery experiences while the weaker student is being assisted in the task or content that they needed extra help with. The students are able to assist with the development of self efficacy beliefs as well. It is best to use vicarious experiences for those students who have very limited mastery experiences. It is up to the educators to play the role in making the students feel comfortable in the classroom in order to relieve them of any anxieties or fears they might have concerning the content matter.
In the science curriculum, educators can assist in building self efficacy by using a more constructive model of learning. Have the students to determine the task. Let the students build on their previous knowledge. Another way is the use more of the inquiry method of learning and not a direct instructional method. Let the students have the opportunity to explore their own learning. Allow for a more hands on approach to learning. Some students are more comfortable with being able to see actual examples of the content that they are learning. If the students are more comfortable then they will be more confident at the learning.
When educators are knowledge about their students, it helps in making their students more confident in learning. Teachers can give an interest survey at the beginning of the year to see what successes and failures that the student has already experiences. They can also learn their strengths and weaknesses as well. When the teacher knows in advance about their student, they can tailor their instruction based on that knowledge. If they know that the student learns better with a partner assisting them, then the teacher can attempt to use small grouping when the students are participating in independent practice.
The future of self efficacy research is very bright. There are still some research that could be conducted on the varying self efficacy beliefs among different cultures, socio economic groups, genders, and age groups. All of this impacts the type of learning that occurs in the classroom, so in order to be of service to the universities and the students’ additional research is much needed on the topic.
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