Academic self-efficacy: from educational theory to instructional practice
First, self-efficacy is specific to a given behavior and challenge a patient faces. . First, the relationship between outcome and self-efficacy expectancies has. Self-efficacy judgments are both more task- and situation-specific, contextual if you Outcomes interpreted as successful raise self-efficacy; those interpreted as .. nature of the relationship between self-efficacy beliefs and other expectancy. ability, and efﬁcacy beliefs about relating to speciﬁc relationship partners later relationship outcomes when other self-efﬁcacy indicators are.
A person with high self-efficacy will attribute failure to external factors, where a person with low self-efficacy will blame low ability. For example, someone with high self-efficacy in regards to mathematics may attribute a poor test grade to a harder-than-usual test, illness, lack of effort, or insufficient preparation.
A person with a low self-efficacy will attribute the result to poor mathematical ability. Health behaviors[ edit ] Choices affecting health, such as smokingphysical exercisedieting, condom use, dental hygiene, seat belt use, and breast self-examination, are dependent on self-efficacy. Self-efficacy influences how high people set their health goals e.
A number of studies on the adoption of health practices have measured self-efficacy to assess its potential to initiate behavior change. Greater engagement in healthy behaviors, result in positive patient health outcomes such as improved quality of life. Relationship to loss of control[ edit ] Further information: Locus of control Bandura showed that difference in self-efficacy correlates to fundamentally different world views. For example, a student with high self-efficacy who does poorly on an exam will likely attribute the failure to the fact that they did not study enough.
However, a student with low self-efficacy who does poorly on an exam is likely to believe the cause of that failure was due to the test being too difficult or challenging, which the student does not control.
Factors affecting self-efficacy[ edit ] Bandura identifies four factors affecting self-efficacy. Experience, or "enactive attainment" — The experience of mastery is the most important factor determining a person's self-efficacy. Success raises self-efficacy, while failure lowers it.
Current Directions in Self-Efficacy Research
According to psychologist Erik Erikson: They may have to accept artificial bolstering of their self-esteem in lieu of something better, but what I call their accruing ego identity gains real strength only from wholehearted and consistent recognition of real accomplishment, that is, achievement that has meaning in their culture.
When we see someone succeeding, our own self-efficacy increases; where we see people failing, our self-efficacy decreases. This process is most effectual when we see ourselves as similar to the model. Although not as influential as direct experience, modeling is particularly useful for people who are particularly unsure of themselves. Social persuasion — Social persuasion generally manifests as direct encouragement or discouragement from another person.
Discouragement is generally more effective at decreasing a person's self-efficacy than encouragement is at increasing it. Physiological factors — In stressful situations, people commonly exhibit signs of distress: Perceptions of these responses in oneself can markedly alter self-efficacy.
Getting ' butterflies in the stomach ' before public speaking will be interpreted by someone with low self-efficacy as a sign of inability, thus decreasing self-efficacy further, where high self-efficacy would lead to interpreting such physiological signs as normal and unrelated to ability. It is one's belief in the implications of physiological response that alters self-efficacy, rather than the physiological response itself. Perception of Ability — whether your perception of ability is fixed or acquirable.
If your perception of ability is fixed, you are less likely to increase self-efficacy whereas if you think ability is acquired and can change over your life, you are more likely to increase your level of self-efficacy. Genetic and environmental determinants[ edit ] In a Norwegian twin study, the heritability of self-efficacy in adolescents was estimated at 75 percent.
The remaining variance, 25 percent, was due to environmental influences not shared between family members. The shared family environment did not contribute to individual differences in self-efficacy.
One study examined foreign language students' beliefs about learning, goal attainment, and motivation to continue with language study. It was concluded that over-efficaciousness negatively affected student motivation, so that students who believed they were "good at languages" had less motivation to study. As a predictor, self-efficacy is supposed to facilitate the forming of behavioral intentions, the development of action plans, and the initiation of action.
As mediator, self-efficacy can help prevent relapse to unhealthy behavior. Academic contexts[ edit ] Parents' sense of academic efficacy for their child is linked to their children's scholastic achievement. If the parents have higher perceived academic capabilities and aspirations for their child, the child itself will share those same beliefs.
This promotes academic self-efficacy for the child, and in turn, leads to scholastic achievement. It also leads to prosocial behaviorand reduces vulnerability to feelings of futility and depression. Self-efficacy beliefs will differ in predictive power depending on the task they are asked to predict. In general, efficacy beliefs will best predict the performances that most closely correspond with such beliefs. Thus, understanding that beliefs differ in generality is crucial to understanding efficacy assessment.
The most general self-efficacy assessments consist of an omnibus-type instrument that attempts to measure a general sense of efficacy or "confidence. In essence, these instruments assess people's general confidence that they can succeed at tasks and in situations without specifying what these tasks or situations are. Even domain-specific measures are problematic if composite multiscale scores drawn from differing subsections of the domain are used.
Various researchers have assessed general academic self-perceptions of competence see the meta-analysis of Multon et al. The problem with such assessments is that students must make judgments about their academic capabilities without a clear activity or task in mind. As a result, they generate the judgments by in some fashion mentally aggregating related perceptions that they hope will be related to imagined tasks.
Domain-specific assessments, such as asking students to provide their confidence to learn mathematics or writing, are more explanatory and predictive than omnibus measures and preferable to general academic judgments, but they are inferior to task-specific judgments because the subdomains can differ markedly in the skills required.
Academic domain-specific assessments of self-efficacy are especially common in educational research in part because the criterial outcome tasks such as semester grades or achievement test results that are often used do not lend themselves to particularized self-efficacy assessment. The typical strategy of researchers in this regard is to use multiple items to restate different facets or even similar facets differently phrased of the same academic subject.
It is not unusual for a mathematics self-efficacy scale to be populated with items such as "I am confident about my ability to do the work in this class"; "I am certain I can understand the math presented in this class"; and "I am confident I can perform as well or better than others in this class.
Banduraargued that reasonably precise judgments of capability matched to a specific outcome afford the greatest prediction and offer the best explanations of behavioral outcomes because these are the sorts of judgments that individuals call on when confronted with behavioral tasks. This is an especially critical issue in studies that attempt to establish causal relations between beliefs and outcomes. All this is to say that capabilities assessed and capabilities tested should be similar capabilities.
Lent and Hackett rightly observed that specificity and precision can be purchased at the expense of external validity and practical relevance.
Bandura argued that "efficacy beliefs are multifaceted and contextual, but the level of generality of the efficacy items within a given domain of functioning varies depending on the degree of situational resemblance and foreseeability of task demands" p.
Judgments of competence need not be so microscopically operationalized that their assessment loses all sense of practical utility.
Domain specificity should not be misconstrued as extreme situational specificity, and there is no need to reduce efficacy assessments to atomistic proportions. They compared students' confidence to succeed in math-related courses with three career-related outcomes -- intention to take the courses listed on the instrument, grades obtained in math-related courses that students took during the subsequent term, and interest in the math courses listed on the instrument.
Self-efficacy beliefs were predictive on each account. In general, the research question of interest will dictate the desirable level of self-efficacy assessment. In many cases, intermediate levels of specificity provide the appropriate balance between rigor and relevance Lent et al. But there is no index against which to gauge the appropriateness and accuracy of a particular measure used to assess self-efficacy judgments.
And, although it can be argued that correspondence between belief and performance is critical in studies that attempt to establish an empirical connection between the two, requirements of specificity will differ depending on the substantive question of interest and the nature of the variables with which self-efficacy beliefs will be compared.
To be both explanatory and predictive, self-efficacy measures should be tailored to domain s of functioning being analyzed and reflect the various task demands within that domain. In the final analysis, evaluating the appropriateness and adequacy of a self-efficacy measure will require making a theoretically-informed and empirically sound judgment that reflects an understanding of the domain under investigation and its different features, of the types of capabilities the domain requires, and of the range of situations in which these capabilities might be applied.
These understandings can then be used to evaluate an efficacy measure by the level of specificity of its items and the range of task demands that it includes Bandura, Inability to Distinguish Among a Proliferation of Expectancy Constructs A second reason for the lack of clarity regarding the relationship between, and the differing effects of, self-efficacy and other expectancy beliefs has to do with the proliferation of expectancy constructs and the similarity of their conceptualizations see Bong, Expectancy constructs that can be found in the literature include task-specific self-concept, self-concept of ability, expectancies, expectancy beliefs, expectancy for success, performance expectancies, perceptions of competence, perceptions of task difficulty, self-perceptions of ability, ability perceptions, perceived ability, self-appraisals of ability, perceived control, subjective competence, and, of course, confidence.
There is no reason why theorists should conceptualize expectancy beliefs in identical fashion or agree, without empirical evidence, that one construct is superior to others. It may be that one conceptualization and definition best explains the role that these judgments play in human motivation and behavior. Consequently, the process of normal science requires that differing conceptualizations be subjected to empirical investigation so that the most useful and explanatory one may emerge and others are "read out" of the discipline.
Alternatively, it may be that differing judgments can be found to play differing roles, and so different expectancy constructs may well provide different insights. Such progress in the evolution of construct and theory might occur if theorists were better able to distinguish among the expectancy beliefs currently in use. That is not the case, however. Typically, most are defined in nearly identical fashion.
Compare Boekaerts' definition of subjective competence as "a person's knowledge, beliefs, and feelings about his capabilities and skills" p. Moreover, expectancy constructs are assessed with questions that, although similar, are just different enough to make comparing findings a formidable task.
When these similarly conceptualized but differently operationalized self-perceptions of competence are differently used to suit specific research agendas, researchers are left with the imposing task of sifting through expectancy constructs, determining their "decisive characteristics" Bong,evaluating whether findings are consistent or inconsistent with theoretical tenets and prior research, and planning follow-up investigations.
Problems are compounded when researchers identify inaccurately defined and used assessments of competence as "self-efficacy" perceptions. As is the case with self-efficacy and other expectancy constructs, the conceptual difference between self-efficacy and self-concept is not always clear to researchers or in investigations. Some researchers use the terms synonymously Reyes, ; others describe self-concept as a generalized form of self-efficacy Harter, ; still others define academic self-concept as self-perceptions of ability and suggest that one reason why these self-percepts affect performance is because of their effect on students' effort, persistence, and anxiety Felson, Eccles, Adler, and Meecein an overview of self-concept theories, wrote about a self-concept of ability that affects "a variety of achievement behaviors including academic performance, task persistence, and task choice; people with positive perceptions of their ability approach achievement tasks with confidence and high expectations for success and, consequently, perform better on these tasks" p.
The two constructs differ primarily in that self-efficacy is a context-specific assessment of competence to perform a specific task, "an individual's judgment of his or her capabilities to perform given actions" Schunk,p.
Self-concept is measured at a more general level of specificity and includes the evaluation of such competence and the feelings of self-worth associated with the behaviors in question.
Self-concept judgments can be domain-specific but are not task-specific. Compared to self-efficacy judgments, they are more general and less sensitive to context. The typical self-concept item "I am quite good at mathematics" Marsh, differs from a self-efficacy question that may begin with "How confident are you that you can successfully. A student may feel highly efficacious in mathematics but without the corresponding positive feelings of self-worth, in part because she may take no pride in accomplishments in this area.
Marsh, Walker, and Debus saw the distinction between the two constructs as a difference in the source of an individual's judgment. Self-concept judgments, they argued, are based on social- and self-comparisons, which they described as "frame of reference effects.
By comparing one's own performance with those of others "I am a better math student than most of my friends" and also one's own performance in related areas "I am better at math than at English"an individual develops a judgment of self-worth -- a self-concept.
Self-efficacy judgments, on the other hand, focus on the specific ability to accomplish the criterial task; hence, frame of reference effects do not play a prominent role. This is an arguable basis for a distinction, given that judgments of personal competence are also influenced by such comparisons Bandura, and that social comparative information is critical to the development of self-efficacy beliefs Schunk, a.
Models, for example, provide just the sort of external efficacy information that helps create a frame of reference Schunk, Rosenberg and Kapland wrote that self-concept percepts include judgments of confidence, along with judgments of self-esteem, stability, and self-crystallization.
Self-concept theorists view as particularly troubling the loss in practical utility that results from the microanalytic assessment of a particularized judgment matched directly to a criterial task.
Most academic outcomes are seldom as particularized as one's capability to solve specific problems or successfully accomplish specific tasks, the levels of specificity at which self-efficacy judgments are most predictive of academic performances.
Findings have consistently shown that academic domain-specific self-concept is related to academic achievement and to other motivation constructs across domains see Hattie, Few researchers have explored the relationships among self-efficacy, self-concept, and academic performances, and results are inconsistent. Chapman and Tunmer found that the reading performance of beginning readers during their first year of schooling had a stronger effect on their subsequent self-efficacy than on their reading self-concept.
Such hypothesized relationships beg the question of which self belief has the stronger influence on achievement. Relichcited in Marshassessed math self-concept, math achievement, performance on a mathematics task, and self-efficacy for the task.
Achievement correlated equally strongly with domain-specific self-efficacy and self-concept. Specific performance on the math task was more strongly correlated with specifically assessed self-efficacy than with domain-specific self-concept.
Pajares and Miller used path analysis and found that item-specific math self-efficacy beliefs were more predictive of a mathematics problem-solving than were domain-specific self-concept beliefs. Mone, Baker, and Jeffries also reported that self-efficacy had greater predictive validity for academic performance than did self-esteem.
The empirical focus of this argument again centers on the questions of which self-belief provides the greater explanation and prediction of behavior; the conceptual focus centers on which beliefs individuals attend to as they go about the business of day to day living. As is the case with other expectancy constructs, it is likely that different situations call forth different self-beliefs.
When individuals are familiar with task demands, they may call on the task-specific self-efficacy beliefs that closely correspond to the required performance. When task demands are unfamiliar, people must generalize from prior attainments that are perceived as similar to the required task and gauge their perceived competence with self-beliefs they judge more closely correspond to the novel requirements.
To account for this, self-efficacy researchers have drawn a distinction between self-efficacy for performance and self-efficacy for learning Zimmerman et al. When students are familiar with the skills required to accomplish an academic task, they can interpret their prior attainments and identify the skills on which to formulate their self-efficacy for performance.
At this level, specificity of self-belief and correspondence with task works with familiarity to maximize prediction of performance. When students are unfamiliar with the specific tasks that confront them, judgments of competence cannot be based on perceived skills related to the tasks, for students are not clear on which skills will be required. If the task is novel, the student may have no task skills to assess.
At this level, task-specific self-efficacy beliefs are either lacking or must be inferred from past attainments in situations perceived as similar to the new one. In these cases, self-efficacy for performance is predictive to the degree that self-regulatory skills and strategies have generalized to the novel task.
Students' domain-specific judgments of their capability that they can learn the material required in the domain in question, on the other hand, have been directly informed by factors such as confidence in one's self-regulatory strategies and relates positively to performance and to subsequent skill and self-efficacy assessments Schunk, b It should be emphasized, however, that individuals create and develop their self-efficacy beliefs from varied sources.
Self-perceptions of previous attainments, and the resulting skills that are acquired, are but one source. Moreover, self-efficacy beliefs generalize across the self-system and can inform the execution of novel tasks. In fact, most experimental tests of self-efficacy's causality employ novel tasks. Bouffard-Bouchardfor example, experimentally induced high or low self-efficacy in college students by providing positive or negative feedback and found that students whose self-efficacy had been raised used more efficient problem-solving strategies on a novel task and outperformed students whose self-efficacy had been lowered.
At the domain-specific or self-efficacy for learning levels of generality, self-concept and self-efficacy beliefs may be empirically similar. Skaalvik and Rankin subjected self-concept items and domain-specific self-efficacy items to confirmatory factor analysis and discovered that they loaded on the same factor, leading them to conjecture that the two may be different measures of the same construct.
These findings led them to suggest that "the traditional distinction between self-concept and self-efficacy may have been overstated in the literature" p. Social cognitive theorists propose that self-concept and self-efficacy act as common mechanisms of personal agency in the sense that both types of self-beliefs help mediate the influence of other determinants on subsequent behavior and that both "contribute in their own way to the quality of human life" Bandura,p.
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In general, the sensitivity to context and specificity afforded by self-efficacy assessments have resulted in findings that point toward the superiority of self-efficacy beliefs over more domain-specific perceptions of competence or self-concept beliefs as predictors of related academic outcomes see Mone, As Graham and Weiner observed, what cannot be disputed is Bandura's argument that self-efficacy has been a much more consistent predictor of behavior and behavior change than ha[ve].
Efficacy beliefs have been related to the acquisition of new skills and to the performance of previously learned skills at a level of specificity not found in any of the other motivation conceptions that include an expectancy construct.
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For example, Collins identified children of low, middle, and high mathematics ability who had, within each ability level, either high or low mathematics self-efficacy.
After instruction, the children were given new problems to solve and an opportunity to rework those they missed. Collins reported that ability was related to performance but that, regardless of ability level, children with high self-efficacy completed more problems correctly and reworked more of the ones they missed.
Self-efficacy also enhances students' memory performance by enhancing persistence Berry, This line of inquiry has successfully demonstrated that self-regulatory efficacy contributes to academic efficacy. For example, Zimmerman, Bandura, and Martinez-Pons used path analysis to demonstrate that academic self-efficacy mediated the influence of self-efficacy for self-regulated learning on academic achievement.
Other researchers have found that self-efficacy is related to self-regulated learning variables e. Pintrich and De Groot reported a correlation between academic self-efficacy and both cognitive strategy use and self-regulation through use of metacognitive strategies. Academic self-efficacy also correlated with semester and final year grades, in-class seatwork and homework, exams and quizzes, and essays and reports. Pintrich and De Groot concluded that self-efficacy played a "facilitative" role in the process of cognitive engagement, that raising self-efficacy beliefs might lead to increased use of cognitive strategies and, thereby, higher performance, and that "students need to have both the 'will' and the 'skill' to be successful in classrooms" p.
Some researchers have assessed judgments of self-efficacy in terms of particularized self-perceptions of competence highly consistent with the criterial task being assessed. He later showed that effort attributional feedback of prior performance e.
In subsequent experiments, he found that ability feedback e. Relich, Debus, and Walker also reported that self-efficacy mediated the role of skill training and attributional feedback and had a direct effect on the performance of division problems of learned helpless sixth graders. Attributional feedback showed a moderate direct effect on performance and a stronger indirect effect mediated by self-efficacy.
Results of these investigations demonstrate that acquisition of cognitive skills, modeling effects, attributional feedback, and goal setting influence the development of self-efficacy beliefs and that these beliefs, in turn, influence academic performances.
Students with similar previous performance attainments and cognitive skills may differ in subsequent performance as a result of differing self-efficacy perceptions because these perceptions mediate between prior attainments and academic performances.
As a consequence, such performances are generally better predicted by self-efficacy than by the prior attainments. Schunk suggested that variables such as perceived control, outcome expectations, perceived value of outcomes, attributions, goals, and self-concept may provide a "type of cue" used by individuals to assess their efficacy beliefs. Other researchers have attempted to discover whether prediction is increased when particularized efficacy and performance assessments directly correspond.
Self-efficacy mediated the effects of sex and prior experience on self-concept, perceived usefulness, and problem-solving performance. Pajares and Johnson investigated the influence of writing self-efficacy, writing self-concept, and writing apprehension on high school students' essay-writing, using a path model that controlled for the effects of sex and previously assessed writing aptitude.
Pajares and Valiantein press reported similar direct effects and similar relationships with third, four, and fifth grade students. Pajares and Kranzlera, b constructed path models that included math self-efficacy, general mental ability, math self-concept, math anxiety, self-efficacy for self-regulation, previous grades in mathematics, and sex.
The most substantive effort to extend previous findings involved the inclusion in the model of a measure of general mental ability, or psychometric g, rather than a math-related aptitude assessment. As a consequence, if the prior influence of the self-beliefs is not partialed out, their effect is artificially lessened. Moreover, g accounts for the single largest component underlying individual differences in mental ability see Carroll, and is acknowledged a strong predictor of academic performances Jensen, ; Thorndike, Pajares b examined the interplay between self-efficacy judgments and the mathematical problem-solving of middle school students mainstreamed in algebra classes.
Pajares also reported that girls expressed lower confidence when performance scores did not warrant it and similar confidence when performance scores warranted greater confidence. Although most students were biased toward overconfidence, girls were less biased in that direction, and gifted girls were biased toward underconfidence. Consistent with the findings of Hackett, Meece, and their colleagues, these results suggest that factors are still at work in negatively affecting some mathematics self-beliefs of girls.
What this line of inquiry has demonstrated is that, when self-efficacy beliefs closely correspond to the criterial task with which they are compared, prediction is enhanced. However, effect sizes depended on specific characteristics of the studies, notably on the types of efficacy and performance measures used.
The strongest effects were obtained by researchers who compared specific efficacy judgments with basic cognitive skills measures of performance.
Results tend to be higher in studies of mathematics than of other academic areas such as reading or writing, but even in these areas relationships are considerably higher than previously obtained if the criteria by which students rate their self-efficacy judgments is used as the criteria for scoring essays or assessing reading comprehension.
As noted by Multon et al. Randhawa, Beamer, and Lundberg adapted the MSES for use with high school students and used LISREL procedures to find that the composite self-efficacy score mediated the effect of a generalized math attitude score on math problem-solving.
The criterial task used by the researchers--the solving of mathematics problems--was conceptually related only to the problems subscale of the MSES. Many of the problems on the self-efficacy assessment also differed markedly from those on the performance test. The mathematics judgments assessed by the different subscales of the MSES are substantively different and tap differing math-related beliefs.
Although all are math-related, their predictive value should depend on the nature of the criterial tasks with which they are compared. Consequently, students' judgments to solve math problems should be more strongly predictive of their capability to solve those problems than should their confidence to perform other math-related tasks or succeed in math-related courses. Similarly, their judgments to succeed in math-related courses should be more strongly predictive of their choice to enroll in such courses than should their confidence to solve specific problems or perform math-related tasks.
Pajares and Miller compared these judgments of capability with two outcome measures: Results confirmed that Bandura's cautions regarding specificity of self-efficacy and performance assessment are well founded. Students' confidence to solve mathematics problems was a more powerful predictor of their ability to solve those problems than was their confidence to perform math-related tasks or their confidence to earn A's or B's in math-related courses.
Similarly, their confidence to succeed in such courses was more predictive of their choice of majors that required them to take many of the math-related courses on which they expressed that confidence. Recall that significant relationships are obtained even with generalized domain-specific self-perceptions, provided that they assess skills and performances in related domains Multon et al.
Pajares and Miller found this phenomenon as well. Each subscale, as well as the full-scale, correlated significantly with each performance task. Such relationships attest to the generalizability of self-efficacy perceptions within a domain, but prediction is enhanced as self-efficacy and performance more closely match. One might also question the practical utility of administering a item instrument when greater prediction may be had from a shorter instrument more closely matching the performance task.
Studies that report a lack of relationship between self-efficacy and performance often suffer from problems either in domain specificity or correspondence. Benson found that the path from mathematics self-efficacy to performance was not significant.
Self-efficacy was assessed with three global items that reflected a performance prediction in statistics class rather than a judgment of capability e. Wilhite found that college students' self-assessment of memory ability was the strongest predictor of their GPA, followed by locus of control. Self-efficacy showed a weak relationship. Efficacy judgments were assessed using a global self-concept measure.
Smith, Arnkoff, and Wright tested the predictive power of three theoretical models on the academic performance of college undergraduates. The researchers concluded that, although variables within each model predicted performance to some degree, self-efficacy was a weak predictor. Self-efficacy was assessed as perceived study skills or test-taking capability and was measured with items such as "Rate how certain you are that you can study at a time and place where you won't get distracted.
Cooper and Robinson compared scores from the courses subscale of the MSES with scores on a performance measure that consisted of solving problems from the Missouri Mathematics Placement Test and reported a low but significant correlation between math self-efficacy and performance.
A regression model with math anxiety, the quantitative score on the American College Test ACT-Qand prior math experience revealed that self-efficacy did not account for a significant portion of the variance in math performance.
Findings on self-efficacy coincide on two points: In general, there is ample reason to believe that self-efficacy is a powerful motivation construct that works well to predict academic self-beliefs and performances at varying levels but works best when theoretical guidelines and procedures regarding specificity and correspondence are adhered to.
Having traced the road that self-efficacy research has traveled during these past 20 years and the problems it has encountered along the way, it may now be useful to draw on past results and theoretical insights in order to offer some suggestions that may guide subsequent research and practice.
Hopefully, these suggestions will help self-efficacy theorists chart new directions and adopt research strategies that will provide practical, relevant, and theoretical insights. Formulating Questions with an Eye to Specificity and Correspondence A test of self-efficacy theory requires the type of assessment specified by the theory. When such tests are appropriately conducted, results from self-efficacy investigations have shown that, as Banduratheorized, particularized judgments of capability are better predictors of related performances than are more generalized judgments.
Consequently, if the aim of a study is to increase prediction of academic performances or to help distinguish among self-efficacy and other expectancy or self-beliefs, research questions should be formulated with an eye to measuring self-efficacy as specifically as is relevant and useful and also to enhancing the correspondence between self-efficacy and criterial variables.
The cautions of Lent and Hackett as regards the practical utility of overly specific assessments bear repeating, however. In an effort to achieve high specificity, it is possible to define a construct so narrowly that it loses any sense of relevance.
Moreover, many criterial tasks of interest in the motivation and academic arenas cannot be assessed with the specificity afforded by a performance as particularized as the solution of, say, specific mathematics problems. Researchers are again cautioned that domain specificity should not be misconstrued as an extreme situational specificity that reduces efficacy assessment to an atomistic level. Also, Marsh, Roche, Pajares, and Miller have cautioned that using identical self-efficacy and performance indexes in an effort to closely match belief and criterion may lead to positively biased estimates of effects from self-efficacy to performance outcomes.
Consequently, researchers are encouraged to use similar rather than identical items or tasks to assess self-efficacy belief and performance criteria or to use structural equation modeling analyses to sift out the bias that might result from correlated specifics. As earlier discussed, the research question of interest should dictate the appropriate level of self-efficacy assessment.
It should be added that self-efficacy beliefs measured at various levels of specificity can prove useful outside the research arena as diagnostic and assessment tools -- they can provide teachers and counselors with information regarding students' dispositions, and results may be useful in helping to understand affective influences on performances that do not easily lend themselves to microanalytic analysis.
Discovering the Generality of Self-efficacy Beliefs Bandura has identified several conditions under which judgments of competence can generalize across activities - i. For example, when differing tasks require similar subskills, judgments of capability to demonstrate the requisite subskills should predict the differing outcomes. Generality can also take place when the skills required to accomplish dissimilar activities are acquired together.
In school, students' mathematics and verbal self-efficacy may generalize if the skills for each subject have been adequately taught and developed by a competent teacher. Subskills required to organize a course of action are themselves governed by broader self-regulatory skills such as knowing how to diagnose task demands or constructing and evaluating alternative strategies. Possessing these self-regulatory skills can permit students to improve their performances across varied academic activities see Zimmerman, Generalizable coping skills work in similar fashion by reducing stress and promoting effective functioning across varied domains.
Self-efficacy should also generalize when commonalities are cognitively structured across activities. For instance, if students can be helped to realize that increased effort and persistence result in academic progress and greater understanding in mathematics, it is likely that similar connections may be made to other subject areas.
Finally, there are "transforming experiences" that come about as the result of powerful performance attainments and serve to strengthen beliefs in diverse areas of one's life, areas often greatly unrelated. Many doctoral students will attest to the fact that successful completion of a dissertation can dramatically alter their confidence to deal with activities and events unrelated to their scholarly pursuits. The hypothesized conditions under which judgments of competence should generalize across varied activities and domains provide rich opportunity for empirical investigation that would help trace the genesis of self-beliefs as well as their possible interconnections see Rokeach, These insights might also shed light on findings from cognitive psychology which demonstrate that students often have great difficulty transferring strategies and various types of knowledge across academic domains e.
There is some evidence, however, that efficacy beliefs generalize along the lines that Bandura has suggested see Schunk, ; Smith, It is possible, of course, that, although the use of strategies or knowledge functions may not so easily transfer, the beliefs that accompany these cognitive processes may more easily travel. That is to say, cognitive, knowledge-based components required to carry out an activity or task may make the voyage from one activity to another with greater difficulty than the belief components that provide the effort and persistence necessary to attack the related or novel activity.
It will be interesting to discover to what degree the process of transferring beliefs resembles or differs from the process of transferring other cognitive processes. Results from such studies would inform theoretical contentions about the influence of self-efficacy on academic performances and about the relationship between self-efficacy and other motivation constructs.
However, Bandura cautioned that empirical results verifying that efficacy beliefs generalize across domains should not result in the "pursuit of a psychological Grail of generality" p. Similar cognitive subskills or strong self regulatory efficacy should aid performance in varied domains, but specific pursuits will usually differ in the specialized competencies they require. Moreover, with these cautions in mind, understanding the conditions and contexts under which self-beliefs will generalize to differing academic activities offers valuable possibilities for intervention and instructional strategies that may help students build both competence and the necessary accompanying self-perceptions of competence.
Understanding the Implications Related to Strength and Accuracy of Self-efficacy Beliefs Bandura argued that successful functioning is best served by reasonably accurate efficacy appraisals, although the most functional efficacy judgments are those that slightly exceed what one can actually accomplish, for this overestimation serves to increase effort and persistence.
But how much confidence is too much confidence, when can overconfidence be characterized as excessive and maladaptive in an academic enterprise, what factors help create inaccurate self-perceptions, and what are the likely effects of such inaccuracy? Bandura argued that the stronger the self-efficacy, the more likely are persons to select challenging tasks, persist at them, and perform them successfully.
Researchers will have to determine to what degree high self-efficacy demonstrated in the face of incongruent performance attainments ultimately results in these benefits. Efforts to lower students' efficacy percepts or interventions designed to raise already overconfident beliefs should be discouraged, but improving students' calibration -- the accuracy of their self-perceptions -- will require helping them to better understand what they know and do not know so that they may more effectively deploy appropriate cognitive strategies as they perform a task.
These issues of "accuracy," however, cannot easily be divorced from issues of well-being, optimism, and will. Research supports the notion that, as people evaluate their lives, they are more likely to regret the challenge not confronted, the contest not entered, the risk unrisked, and the road not taken as a result of underconfidence and self-doubt rather than the action taken as a result of overconfidence and optimism Bandura, The challenge to educators on this account will be to make students more familiar with their own internal mental structures without lowering confidence, optimism, and drive.
Conversely, students who lack confidence in skills they possess are less likely to engage in tasks in which those skills are required, and they may more quickly give up in the face of difficulty. In one study, gifted girls were biased toward underconfidence, although most students are generally biased toward overconfidence Pajares, b.
However, political pollsters long ago discovered that poll results can be manipulated by the manner in which questions are asked. In psychology, different insights are provided by different questions, and so here too the manner in which a question is asked may be differently revealing.
Pajares and Valiante detected no sex differences in the confidence ratings that students made relative to their confidence to accomplish varied tasks related to the process of writing an essay. Boys and girls gave themselves an average rating of 82 on a scale of 0 to on which they were asked to express their confidence.
Noddings has argued that boys and girls may well use a different "metric" when providing confidence judgments and that girls may perceive that their judgment represents more of a "promise" Purkey,