How to Increase Your Strengthening Self-Efficacy?


What is known about strengthening self-efficacy? A range of strategies that can be used by teachers to enhance self-efficacy has been identified (Schunk, 199la). Strategies that teachers can use to influence self-efficacy include (a) goals and feedback, (b) rewards, (c) self-instruction for verbalization of strategies, (d) participant modeling, and (e) various combinations of these strategies. Keep in mind that self-efficacy, skill development, and strategy use goes hand in hand—whether it be math problem solving, soccer skills, or expository writing. Students learn strategies that enable them to develop skills resulting in increased self-efficacy.

Goals, Feedback, Rewards, and Verbalization

Because task accomplishment is the most powerful source of self-efficacy information, an important approach is to use strategies that can strengthen task accomplishment. The strategies of goal setting, feedback, rewards, and self-talk or verbalization were used in various combinations to help students categorized as LD or remedial to strengthen self-efficacy.

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Schunk and Cox (1986) investigated the combination of strategy verbalization and effort feedback on the performance and self-efficacy of students with LD. While solving subtraction problems, students verbalized or said the task steps aloud to themselves; they were then given feedback that their successes were due to their effort. The combination of verbalization and effort feedback led to problem-solving successes, higher self-efficacy, and subtraction skills. The authors believed that the two strategies verbalization and effort feedback serve different purposes. Verbalization was useful for training students to systematically use the task strategy. Giving students feedback that effort is responsible for success communicated that they are developing skills and that they can continue to perform well with hard work.

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The importance of feedback for enhancing self-efficacy may sometimes be overlooked by a teacher. Pajares and Johnson (1994) conducted a study in a language arts course for preservice teachers. The students received feedback from their teacher on attempting and completing writing tasks, but they did not receive feedback on their specific writing skills. The end of course assessment revealed that, although the students improved on writing skills, their self-efficacy judgments about their skills did not increase. The authors concluded that when teachers note a growth or decline in skills (in this case, writing), it is imperative for them to give the students feedback about their specific skill development. As emphasized earlier, students will make future judgments not just on their actual skills, but also on their perception of their competence in using the skill. These perceptions of self-efficacy are more likely to increase with specific teacher feedback.

Participant Modeling

Vicarious experience is the second most powerful source of self-efficacy. The most frequent form of vicarious experience for students is seeing a model (another student or teacher) perform a skill they are attempting to learn. Who is a more effective model, a peer or teacher, or a mastery or coping model?

Peer or Teacher Model? Schunk and Hanson (1985) had students, ages 8 to 10, observe either a peer or teacher model solving fractions on a videotape. Children who had observed a peer model had higher self-efficacy and achievement scores on the math assessment than did students who had observed the teacher model. The authors concluded that the increase may have been because the children saw themselves as more similar to the peer model. The use of peer models is especially recommended for enhancement of self-efficacy among low-achieving students who are more doubtful about attaining the level of competence demonstrated by the teacher.

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Mastery or Coping Model? Which model do you think will be more effective in strengthening self-efficacy: an expert who demonstrates at a high level of expertise or one who is competent, but demonstrates the strategies they used to acquire the skill? Previous research found that that observer’s beliefs about competence are influenced by their perceived similarity in competence to the model (e.g., Zimmerman & Ringle, 1981). Models can reflect either mastery or coping behaviors (Schunk & Hanson, 1985; Schunk, Hanson, & Cox, 1987). A mastery model demonstrates a task at a high level of expertise with a high level of confidence. In contrast, a coping model demonstrates the task along with the difficulties students experienced and the strategies (e.g., effort) they used to overcome the difficulties. The effectiveness of coping versus mastery peer models was compared by Schunk et al. (1987).

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The two types of models demonstrated strategies as follows:

  1. Peer coping model: Made errors at first and verbalized negative statements that reflected self-efficacy (e.g., “I’m not sure I can do this”). The teacher then gave a prompt (e.g., “What do you do when denominators are the same?”). Next, the coping model made statements about how they overcame failure (e.g., “I need to pay attention to what I’m doing”) and eventually performed at a mastery level.
  1. Peer mastery models: Performed all problems correctly while working at average rate. Verbalized high self-efficacy and ability (e.g., “I’m good at this.” “That was easy”).

The findings indicated that the subjects judged themselves as more similar to the peer coping model. Students who observed the peer coping model demonstrated higher self-efficacy for learning, greater post-test self-efficacy, and skill development compared with those who observed a peer mastery model.

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Modeling is a resource that is readily available in the classroom. This is a case of positive social comparisons with others (Schunk, 2001). The important implication for teachers is to use caution in choosing peer models. An alert, sensitive teacher can identify peer coping models in their classrooms and use them to strengthen the self-efficacy of many students.

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