We love focusing on external events to compare our successes and failures. We celebrate our success stories by being grateful for the institutions, teachers, and supportive systems. But what about the belief you had as a learner? What about the choices you made? Why do we forget that the hundred external events that help us achieve our goals come together when the learner puts things into action? The learner makes things happen! 

Belief in one’s capability, also known as self-efficacy, has been widely recognized as a critical factor in achievement and learning. Learners with high self-efficacy are likely to persevere through challenges, exhibit a growth mindset, and ultimately excel in their pursuits. 

In this research-backed article, we will dive into the meaning of self-efficacy and its sources, explore behaviors that highlight high self-efficacy, and provide actionable ways learners can build self-efficacy to enhance their learning experiences.

What is Self-Efficacy?

Self-efficacy, as defined by Albert Bandura, is peoples’ judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances.’

From this definition, two findings are important to note:

  • A learner’s belief in their capability does not necessarily match their actual capability. A learner might believe that they might achieve a task, but that does not depend on their skill set. 
  • A learner’s belief in their capability is referred towards a goal. It is specific to a task, not self-competency. 

Individuals with low self-efficacy regarding a specific task tend to avoid it, while those who believe in their capabilities are more likely to engage in it. Additionally, individuals who possess a sense of efficacy are expected to invest more effort and demonstrate greater perseverance when faced with challenges compared to those who are uncertain about their abilities.

Sources of Self-Efficacy 

Self-efficacy beliefs are shaped by four primary sources of information. 

  • Enactive mastery experiences:  A learner’s past success boost self-efficacy. Past performance is the most influential source for future attempts.   
  • Secondary observations: Observing other learners’ successes and failures influence self-efficacy. These are mild influences in comparison to active experiences.   
  • Verbal persuasion: Persuasion from others can bolster self-efficacy, but overly optimistic or inaccurate feedback may undermine it. 
  • Individuals’ physiological and emotional feedback: Stress and emotions can impact self-efficacy during performance. 

The Impact of Self-Efficacy on Learning 

Self-efficacy plays a significant role in learners’ choices, efforts, and persistence. Learners with high self-efficacy are more likely to embrace challenges, invest more effort, and persist longer in the face of difficulties.

Conversely, individuals with low self-efficacy may avoid tasks, doubt their abilities, and may be more prone to giving up. Building self-efficacy is crucial as it enables learners to overcome obstacles, take on difficult material, and develop a growth mindset that fosters continuous learning and improvement.

Common behaviors shown by learners with high self-efficacy

– Learners have a positive outlook

Learners who focus on challenges positively, rather than as threats are more likely to move forward than pause during difficult tasks. 

– Learners test their skills

Learners with high self-efficacy tend to push themselves to try harder tasks until they master the content. They are less likely to choose an easy task over a tough one. 

– Learners recover quickly from failures

Learners with high self-efficacy tend to pick themselves up quickly from a setback. They view negative feedback as a way to reflect and improve. 

How can we embrace self-efficacy to learn better?

1. Be specific and intentional

Establishing realistic and specific goals helps learners break down complex tasks into manageable steps. By achieving these milestones and celebrating their accomplishments, learners reinforce their self-efficacy and boost their confidence to tackle more challenging material.

2. Build a support system

Creating a supportive network of peers, mentors, or instructors fosters an environment where learners receive constructive feedback, encouragement, and guidance. Collaborating with others and sharing experiences can provide reassurance, increase motivation, and enhance self-efficacy.

3. Reflect and learn

Encouraging learners to reflect on their progress, analyze their strengths and areas for improvement, and learn from their mistakes promotes self-efficacy. Emphasize that setbacks and failures are growth opportunities and that resilience and perseverance are key to success.

Learning starts with the learner, and how the learner feels about the experience. 

Unlearning Thought

You can never be too positive when it comes to learning.