Pathway Progress:

Students who have self-efficacy believe in their own capacity to organize and execute a course of action to meet goals. If students are to act as agents in their own learning, they need opportunities to exercise choice and self-efficacy. Now more than ever, self-efficacy is a critical component of student success. When students believe they cannot accomplish a task or master a skill or concept they set themselves up for failure. But simply telling students to have a positive attitude isn’t enough. Self-efficacy has to be intentionally monitored and developed in order to achieve impact. 

Self-efficacy: Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s ability to succeed. In students it is their ability to achieve a goal, complete a task, or master a new skill. Self-efficacy is a key component of motivation, self-direction, and has a strong impact on one’s overall capacity to learn and thrive. 

Profile of a Student with Self-efficacy

A student with self-efficacy … 

  • Sets learning goals, and believes they can accomplish those goals
  • Plans to address those goals. 
  • Reflects not only on performance but also on engagement and motivation. 
  • Identifies strengths and weaknesses
  • Uses feedback from others, usually welcoming that feedback as an opportunity to learn 
  • Seeks opportunities to leverage strengths and overcome weaknesses 
  • Has a growth mindset 
  • Takes action for their own learning and to achieve personal goals

Background on Self-efficacy

Self-efficacy is a positive predictor of student performance. Self-efficacy of student perceptions around a specific topic or subject is malleable. When student perceptions of abilities or predispositions are addressed at the very beginning of a unit of study and/or continuously throughout specific courses student perceptions of skills and abilities can change to positively impact student performance. Self-efficacy and self-direction go hand in hand. Self-efficacy prepares students with the skills, attitudes, and strategies to become self-directed. When self-efficacy is mastered, self-directed students demonstrate very positive traits. Specifically, highly self-directed students: 

  1. Are independent learners (not waiting for someone to tell them to learn) 
  2. Place an emphasis on learning 
  3. View problems as challenges, rather than obstacles 
  4. Are fueled (rather than districted) by their curiosity 
  5. Know how to manage time and are able to pace themselves towards a goal 
  6. Are okay with change, and even gravitate towards new ideas and concepts 

At times, self-efficacy is a predictor of self-direction. While at other times, self-direction is a predictor of self-efficacy. Either way, when we work with students to improve their self-direction, we in turn help them to support their self-efficacy.

Research Findings 

Research on learning has demonstrated that just having knowledge and skill does not ensure success. Why? Because knowing and doing are two different things. With today’s research, we can also say that knowing and applying are two different things. Research over the past forty years has demonstrated that we have to attend to student motivation and drive to apply what they know are able to do. That is where the underlying factors of self-efficacy come into play for students in today’s classrooms. 

If students are able to pass a test and are able to complete assignments, they may be demonstrating competence and compliance. However, do we know from more traditional demonstrations of learning that they can apply skills and/or understanding to new situations? Too often the answer is no. 

Students who have a high degree of self-efficacy respond to feedback, plan appropriately to complete tasks, and achieve established learning goals. Self-efficacy is the cornerstone of growth mindset and persistence. To increase self-efficacy educators can use the following research-based strategies. 

  1. Use student interests
  2. Allow choice
  3. Give frequent, quality feedback
  4. Task/project planning 
  5. Engage in problem solving 

To learn more about these research-based strategies and access classroom examples, see the section in this Master Class oninstructional strategies.

The figure below depicts the combination of strategies that can increase self-efficacy, a cornerstone of self-direction. This, in turn, builds toward deep authentic learning and readiness for college, career and life in a complex, global and digital age.