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What is Self Efficacy?

At it's most basic level, self efficacy is the belief in one's ability to complete specific tasks. 

In his paper "Self Efficacy" Albert Bandura, takes it a step further and defines self efficacy beliefs as "beliefs in one's capability to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations." (Bandura, 1997, p. 2)

In other words, your belief in your ability to perform specific tasks widens to an understanding that you can navigate future situations. 

Bandura describes a number of ways in which one can achieve and build efficacy. The most effective is called "Mastery Experiences." 

A classic example of a mastery experience is the completion of a specific physical task, such as climbing a rock wall. Say you master climbing a rock wall you previously believed impossible to climb. Your belief in your ability to climb that wall and thus your self efficacy just went up. Having a strong sense of self efficacy translates to a strong sense of belief in the ability to accomplish difficult tasks. The confidence that mastery attainment brings, can translate into many levels of accomplishment in life. 

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).





Why is Self Efficacy Important?

Kendra Cherry in her article "What is Self Efficacy" writes about ther role of self efficacy. Please see the below text or visit her article at http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/self_efficacy.htm

"Bandura and others have found that an individual’s self-efficacy plays a major role in how goals, tasks, and challenges are approached.

People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:

  • View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered
  • Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate
  • Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities
  • Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments

People with a weak sense of self-efficacy:

  • Avoid challenging tasks
  • Believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond their capabilities
  • Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes
  • Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities"

Cherry, Kendra. "What is Self Efficacy." About.com Psychology. 2013 About.com. Accessed: 6/9/2013


What are the sources of self efficacy?

According to Bandura there are 4 main sources of self-efficacy: 

1) Enactive mastery: Actively engaging in a task and obtaining mastery over it (ie. getting to the top of that rock wall). You can help students on this one by giving them appropriate challenges. This generally works best if difficulty is just above a participants ability level. Too low of a challenge level or too high can decrease efficacy levels. These mastery experiences are the most impactful. 

2) Vicarious Experience: Also called modelling. Use an appropriate model to demonstrate a difficult task. Observing someone else complete a difficult task can increase or decrease efficacy depending on the model and the participant. If possible you want to pick someone who is of similar or slightly higher ability. Also, factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status etc. can come into effect. Intuitively, if you are trying to convince a 13 year old girl to climb a rock wall, you may not want to pick her 25 year old climbing instructor to model that it is a climb she is capable of. 

3) Verbal Persuasion: Use specific feedback! Statements like "Good Job," and "nice work," can actually be be negatively impactful. Feedback should be specific and come from credible sources. 

4) Physiological and affective states:  Fear and excitement are both states or arousal in the brain. Understand when one needs to use a coping mechanism to work through the fear. When that heightened state is mistaken for personal inadequacy efficacy is generally lowered. Learn how to coach students past these states and these can be powerful moments.



Read more on Albert Bandura to learn more about this. 

What is Experiential Education?

Experiential education is both very easy and very difficult to explain. It is, of course, as the name implies, education with a focus on the active experience. However, that definition is both vague and not particularly useful. 

In their essay on "What is Experiential Education?" Steve Chapman, Pam McPhee, & Bill Proudman define experiential education as "an approach that has students actively engaged in exploring questions they find relevant and meaningful, and has them trusting that feeling, as well as thinking, can lead to knowledge." (Warren, Mitten, Loeffler, 7)

The association for experiential education states, "Experiential education is a philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people's capacity to contribute to their communities." (http://www.aee.org/about/whatIsEE)

Basically, experiential education is a learning style that promotes learning by one's experiences. These experiences are facilitated in many different ways. 

Common types of experiential education: Outdoor education, environmental education, group based learning, project based learning, service projects, ropes courses, international study abroad, internships, wilderness therapy. 

Warren, Karren, Mitten. Denise. Loeffler, TA. "Theory & Practice of Expriential Education." Boulder, CO. Association for Experiential Education.  2008

"What is Experiential Education." Association for Experiential Education.  Accessed: 6/9/2013. 


Why Experiential Education Works

Tell me and I will forget.  Show me and I may remember.  Involve me and I will understand.  ~Chinese Proverb

Experiential education works, in part, because it provides experiences which promote self efficacy. 


Self Efficacy v. Confidence?

To summarize the following paragraph by Albert Bandura, confidence is less specific than self efficacy. Confidence is basically a strong belief, be it positive or negative. Self efficacy is a specific belief in one's abilities to attain a certain level of achievement. 

Professor Albert Bandura, wrote the following on Self Efficacy and Confidence. 

"It should be noted that the construct of self-efficacy differs from the colloquial term "confidence." Confidence is a nondescript term that refers to strength of belief but does not necessarily specify what the certainty is about. I can be supremely confident that I will fail at an endeavor. Perceived self-efficacy refers to belief in one's agentive capabilities, that one can produce given levels of attainment. A self -efficacy assessment, therefore, includes both an affirmation of a capability level and the strength of that belief. Confidence is a catchword rather than a construct embedded in a theoretical system. Advances in a field are best achieved by constructs that fully reflect the phenomena of interest and are rooted in a theory that specifies their determinants, mediating processes, and multiple effects. Theory-based constructs pay dividends in understanding and operational guidance. The terms used to characterize personal agency, therefore, represent more than merely lexical preferences." (Bandura, 382)

Bandura, Albert. Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control,  United States of America: W.H. Freeman & CO. 1997. 

Also See: http://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Bandura/banconfidence.html


Self Efficacy v. Self Esteem?

According to the Webster Dictionary, self esteem is a confidence and satisfaction in oneself. However, it has become colloquial to use self-esteem in terms of high self esteem and low self esteem and it is more accurately, how you feel about yourself. Self esteem is affected by societal views of what is important. Things such as money, type of job, level of attractiveness, skill  etc., become key factors in self esteem, as they effect how you feel about yourself. 

This is signifantly different than self efficacy (your belief in your ability to perform specific tasks). Although gaining self efficacy can boost your self esteem and people with high self esteem often have high levels of self efficacy, they are not synonymous, nor do they have a direct relationship. 




The relevant articles and information in this section can give an academic background for the practical application for advancing self-efficacy. This page is a constant work in progress! If you have suggestions of information to add to this page please see the about page to contact me with your suggestions.








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