Self-Efficacy Theory: Sometimes it really is all in your head

High Self-Efficacy

Self-Efficacy Theory: Sometimes it really is all in your head

by: Kaelyn Schulz

When you’re up late, grinding out an impossible task, convinced you’re in over your head, cliches like “mind over matter,” “believe it and you’ll achieve it,” “you can accomplish anything you put your mind to” aren’t generally helpful. Well, those phrases may seem trite, but they’re also true.

Think about the last time you were asked to tackle a new assignment or project. How did you feel? Were you glowing with confidence you’d complete it in record time with impressive results? Did you feel a cold sweat break and your stomach turn because the last time this happened, it was a flop? That’s not Jiminy Cricket, that’s your self-efficacy talking. Self-Efficacy is our belief in our ability to succeed in specific situations. It’s closely related to motivation and different from our self-esteem. Self-esteem is a broad, general feeling of our well-being, whereas, self-efficacy is our confidence in our ability to perform a task in a specific situation.

When given a new task, someone with high self-efficacy will be confident they are capable, putting forth strong effort and persistence, versus someone with low self-efficacy who will be pessimistic about their performance and is likely to exert little effort and may feel threatened by the request. So how can we improve self-efficacy in ourselves and others?

Four factors influence self-efficacy. They are not equally impactful, but each contributes.

Determining Efficacy Judgments

Performance Outcomes

This is our personal inventory of accomplishments and failures. Previous experience shapes how capable we feel about future tasks. Tip: Take time to reflect and celebrate your successes, this strengthens positive memories to draw on for future challenges and increase your self-efficacy for next time.

Vicarious Experiences
Observations of other people’s performance with a task influence our perception of what it will be like for us. Learners are more impacted by observing those similar to them. Tip: This is why peer mentoring and job shadowing are effective in training. Be sure to partner with a positive and competent mentor to create the best experience.

Verbal Persuasion
Encouragement and discouragement shape our self-efficacy. Negative feedback or comments lower self-efficacy whereas pep talks and constructive coaching increase it. Tip: Give yourself a pep talk or ask a trusted peer for feedback and if you see someone else working hard, tell them so!

Physiological States
We use our physical comfort to judge vulnerability and stress. High arousal usually undermines our likelihood of success. Tip: Consider butterflies in your stomach, do you imagine they are foreboding and a
sign of danger coming or can you interpret that feeling to a rush of adrenaline and excitement before a big moment?

There you have it, self-efficacy and how you can influence your own and others’. What’s exciting about this theory is that we can treat our self-efficacy like a muscle, nourish it with positive moments and train it to help us see challenges are opportunities to flourish. Maybe there is something to those clichés after all.

Questions:
Studies show strong evidence that self-efficacy is a positive predictor of performance outcomes, especially in academics. Do you think there is an ideal school age to apply this theory and how would it look to that group?

Do you believe self-efficacy requires group buy-on at a school or workplace to be effective or can an individual follow this theory with success without group support?

Resources:

Redmond, Brian Francis, Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2016). PSYCH 484, Lesson 7: Self-efficacy and social cognitive theories: theory: Retrieved from: https://wikispaces.psu.edu/display/PSYCH484/7.+Self-Efficacy+and+Social+Cognitive+Theories
Self-efficacy. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-efficacy#Social_cognitive_theory

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5 comments

  • Alexandra Edwards

    Do you think there is an ideal school age to apply this theory and how would it look to that group?

    I think people learn from other people from the very beginning. I say this because I am a mother of four children from the ages of 14, 11, 5 & 2. Each learn from each other & my youngest (2) has a shorter learning curve because she observes her older brothers. She began walking at 8 months old, she speaks very clear and she plays well with other children. You can begin to teach one of the four factors to help influence self-efficacy.

    Do you believe self-efficacy requires group buy-on at a school or workplace to be effective or can an individual follow this theory with success without group support?

    No, you don’t need a group buy-on at a school or workplace – you can definitely follow this theory on your own and be successful without any group support. To me, it’s how you take-in what is around you and how it may help you for discourage you from completing a task or determine whether you like something or not.

  • Studies show strong evidence that self-efficacy is a positive predictor of performance outcomes, especially in academics. Do you think there is an ideal school age to apply this theory and how would it look to that group?

    I think that middle school is an ideal age for the performance outcome. This theory would work with high school students as well. This is the age that they need to see and hear more positive information. I try to instill in my students the skills of Self-Awareness, Emotional Intelligence, Healthy Relationships, Visionary Goal Setting, and Leadership. These are just a few skill that I want them to take with them on their journey in life.

    Do you believe self-efficacy requires group buy-on at a school or workplace to be effective or can an individual follow this theory with success without group support?

    Yes, I believe that groups are a great way for self-efficacy to work. Sometimes students need to see and hear that they are not the only ones that are going through something. I hear very often in my groups, “I thought that I was the only one that felt that way”. Groups are a place that you can express your self openly. This can be done individually but it would take a little more time and effort from both parties.

  • Studies show strong evidence that self-efficacy is a positive predictor of performance outcomes, especially in academics. Do you think there is an ideal school age to apply this theory and how would it look to that group?

    I think you could apply quite early in primary school. Given the studies Goldman did on Emotional Intelligence, I see a link between self-efficacy and self-awareness and regulation. How do you recognize and name the butterflies and ultimately get those butterflies flying in formation so they are helping versus hindering your efforts? I think you could start this early in school, and tailor the program to the age level of the students.

    Do you believe self-efficacy requires group buy-on at a school or workplace to be effective or can an individual follow this theory with success without group support?

    In the workplace, I think an individual could take the concepts and work at making improvements on their own. To implement something like this in an academic setting would need buy-in not only at the school level, but potentially district wide.

  • Studies show strong evidence that self-efficacy is a positive predictor of performance outcomes, especially in academics. Do you think there is an ideal school age to apply this theory and how would it look to that group?

    Truthfully, I think parents some form of this theory, unknowing, with their toddlers.

    I agree with Kelly that middle school aged children is an ideal age to start the application this theory. Middle school is a time where children are trying to find themselves and where they have more interaction with peers and teachers.

    Do you believe self-efficacy requires group buy-on at a school or workplace to be effective or can an individual follow this theory with success without group support?

    When it comes to middle school children, I think a group setting would be best to start because they are still under the influences of their parents, teachers and their peers. Self-efficacy could help them at a young age cope with peer-pressure, and promote positive mental health, and foster positive support amongst classmates.

  • Studies show strong evidence that self-efficacy is a positive predictor of performance outcomes, especially in academics. Do you think there is an ideal school age to apply this theory and how would it look to that group?

    I have not worked much in the schools, but I can speak to my experience with middle schoolers at summer camp. I would say that anything earlier than middle school may not be remembered vividly so i don’t think it would count towards Self-Efficacy but self-esteem. When I have worked with middle school groups, especially in theater camps, they need to see someone else succeed, be verbally praised, and shown previous examples to really feel confident performing and up to the task. What we used to do the entire week was put on multiple “mini plays” so that the campers felt that they could tackle the big play at the end of camp infront of parents and peers because they’ve already performed well. I think that it could be taught in the schools at this age as well.

    Do you believe self-efficacy requires group buy-on at a school or workplace to be effective or can an individual follow this theory with success without group support?

    I think that an individual can follow this theory without group by in but I think it also needs to be introduced and enforced by someone initially to stick with an individual.

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