Part 1: Teaching Students What Self-Efficacy Is and Why It Is Important
- Teach Students: 1a. Defining Self-Efficacy
- Teach Students: 1b. Self-Efficacy Components
- Teach Students: 1c. The Four Sources for Building Self-Efficacy
- Teach Students: 1d. Areas Where I Have High and Low Self-Efficacy
- Teach Students: 1e. Recognizing and Reducing Physiological Feedback Will Help Build My Self-Efficacy
Part 1: Teaching Students What Self-Efficacy Is and Why It Is Important
Learning Target: Students can define self-efficacy and provide personal examples of why self-efficacy is important.
Students need to understand what self-efficacy is and why it is important in their lives. Each activity in Part 1 is designed to help students meet this learning target.
To begin, students need to understand that building self-efficacy is a process that can be learned; it’s not an innate skill. The first component is to focus on your effort, progress, and learning. As we explore this component more, you will learn specific ways to support students in focusing on their effort, progress, and learning.
In the activity “Teach Students: Defining Self-Efficacy,” you will facilitate students’ understanding of self-efficacy by providing them with the definition as well as a video of a student explaining self-efficacy in their own words. Students are then asked to reflect on several quotes and identify how they relate to self-efficacy.
Teach Students: 1a. Defining Self-Efficacy
Show students the Self-Efficacy poster and define self-efficacy as “an individual’s perceptions about their capabilities to perform at an expected level, achieve goals, and complete moderately challenging tasks” (Noonan & Gaumer Erickson, 2018, p. 23). Next, divide students into small groups and ask them to discuss key vocabulary within the definition. Use the prompts below to help generate discussion between the students:
- What does “perceptions” mean? What are some examples of perceptions you may have?
- What does “perform at an expected level” mean? What is an example of performing at an expected level?
- What does “a moderately challenging task” mean? What are some examples of these in your daily life?
Show students the video of McKenzie explaining self-efficacy in her own words.
After showing the video, ask students to think about the following questions:
- How did McKenzie explain self-efficacy?
- How would you explain self-efficacy to a friend or parent?
- How did learning self-efficacy help McKenzie?
- How could learning self-efficacy help you?
Ask students to write their thoughts on the handout “Teach Students: 1a. Defining Self-Efficacy” (Handout 1a. linked to on page 11 of the Educator Workbook).
Once they have created a definition of self-efficacy in their own words, ask students to reflect on the following quotes by choosing three quotes and writing their thoughts about what each quote means and how it relates to self-efficacy on Handout 1a. Once students have completed the activity, review the answers as a group, providing guidance and feedback where necessary.
- Whether you think you can or think you can’t…you’re right.—Henry Ford
- If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I may not have it at the beginning.—Mahatma Gandhi
- Believe you can and you’re halfway there.—Theodore Roosevelt
- Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.
- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.—Vincent Van Gogh
- Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.—Nelson Mandela
- It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.—Albert Einstein
- No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow your progress, you’re still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.—Tony Robbins
- I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life…and that is why I succeed.—Michael Jordan
- If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.—Martin Luther King Jr.
1a. Reflect and Apply: Watch this video to see what this activity might look like in the classroom.
As you watch the video, think about how you might facilitate this activity.
- How will you use this activity with your students (e.g., Will you use the quotes we have provided? Will you choose different quotes that are more relatable for your students?)?
- What other modifications can you think of for this activity (e.g., students find quotes on their own or relating the quotes to your content area)?
Record your thoughts about how you will teach this activity on page 3 of the Educator Workbook.
In order for students to develop self-efficacy and be able to generalize it in authentic situations, they need to have ongoing practice and receive feedback on how they are progressing with each of the components. For the first component, students focus on their effort, progress, and learning by reflecting on how much effort they are putting forth and how the amount of effort given impacts their progress and learning. We will help students shift their focus to the effects of their effort rather than simply focusing on the overall objective or comparing themselves to their peers. Students will learn specific ways to focus on their effort, progress, and learning, such as understanding how the brain changes when we learn and practice new things, and to view our mistakes as opportunities to learn.
Once students become aware of how effort, progress, and learning are connected, they can begin to take steps to increase their confidence in their abilities, applying self-efficacy strategies to persist in any challenge. There are several ways that we can consciously work on building our self-efficacy. Some strategies include reflecting on our past accomplishments before starting a new task, using mindfulness or other techniques to manage emotional and physical reactions, and learning from our peers’ success. In addition, students can adopt a growth mindset about learning something difficult or remember their past successes to help build their confidence in overcoming the current challenge.
Teach Students: 1b. Self-Efficacy Components
Show students the Self-Efficacy Poster and explain the two components. For the first component, explain that if we put in our best effort when learning or doing something new, we can make progress on it no matter how difficult it seems initially, even if we don’t reach our goal. For the second component, explain that there are several ways that we can consciously work on building our self-efficacy and provide a few examples.
Ask students to reflect on the following questions and record their answers on the “Teach Students: 1b. Self-Efficacy Components” handout (Handout 1b. linked to on page 11 of the Educator Workbook).
- Why is focusing on your effort, progress, and learning important?
- What would taking steps to increase your confidence in your abilities looks like?
After class, review students’ answers to determine their initial grasp of self-efficacy.
There are four sources—or strategies—that help each of us build self-efficacy (Bandura, 2012), or confidence in our abilities to achieve something challenging. These can occur subconsciously, but once we learn about them and are able to draw on them intentionally when we are facing a difficult task, they can have an even greater impact on strengthening our self-efficacy and ultimately helping us overcome the challenge.
Mastery Experience is considering how you have succeeded in the past and using those successes to give you confidence for future challenges. An important piece of mastery experience is knowing that making mistakes or struggling with something isn’t a bad thing; in fact, practice strengthens neuropathways and makes our brain stronger and more efficient (i.e., neuroplasticity). Vicarious Experiences are using other people’s success to support your belief that you can succeed. Verbal Persuasion is focusing on positive praise, constructive feedback, and growth mindset statements. Physiological Feedback is recognizing and reducing anxiety by practicing relaxation techniques, writing down worries, physical activity, and positive self-talk.
Watch this video as Dr. Elise Heger explains the four sources and provides a personal example of how she used the four sources to build self-efficacy.
1b. Reflect and Apply: Sharing personal examples of how we overcame challenges will help students understand the importance of learning self-efficacy. Think of a time in your life when you overcame a challenge.
- How did you address the first component? How were you able to focus on your effort and progress?
- How did you address the second component? What steps did you take to increase confidence in your abilities using the four sources for self-efficacy?
Record your thoughts on page 4 of your Educator Workbook.
Watch this video for an example of a teacher introducing the four sources and facilitating an activity on mastery experiences.
Teach Students: 1c. The Four Sources for Building Self-Efficacy
Show students the Four Sources for Building and Unlocking Self-Efficacy chart. Explain each of the four sources and provide an example of how each source could be used to build self-efficacy.
Then share a personal example of how you used each of the four sources to build your self-efficacy in overcoming a challenge with your students.
After sharing your example, give students a copy of the chart below, found on the “Teach Students: 1c. The Four Sources for Building Self-Efficacy” handout (Handout 1c. linked to on page 11 of your Educator Workbook). Ask students to work with a partner to review your personal example of overcoming a challenge and identify an example of how you increased your confidence by using each of the four sources.
Reflect on your teacher’s example of building self-efficacy for a challenging task; note specific details/actions from your teacher’s experience that address each of the four sources of self-efficacy.
1c. Reflect and Apply: Now it’s your turn to practice identifying how each of the four sources can be used to increase confidence in our abilities. Watch this video of a young girl facing the challenging task of going down a more difficult ski jump. As you watch the video, listen for the ways she uses the four sources to build her confidence. As you identify how she uses each of the four sources, jot down your thoughts on page 4 of the Educator Workbook.
Now let’s recap what you observed and heard in the video. Listen as Dr. Elise Heger debriefs the video and explains how the girl used each of the four sources to build her confidence in successfully navigating a new and challenging ski jump. Consider using this video as an activity to help your students deepen their understanding of the four sources.
Self-efficacy is important for everyone. People who are successful and have high confidence in certain areas may still struggle with self-efficacy in other areas. For instance, a student who gets good grades and has strong self-efficacy in math might still struggle with self-efficacy in vocal music ability. We each have to understand (and often remind ourselves and others) that if we put in the effort, we can improve our abilities in anything.
The activity “Teach Students: Areas Where I Have High and Low Self-Efficacy” will help students identify their areas of higher self-efficacy and areas where their self-efficacy is lower. This activity helps students understand how self-efficacy can help them address various aspects of their lives.
Teach Students: 1d. Areas Where I Have High and Low Self-Efficacy
Provide students with a few examples of areas in which you have high and low self-efficacy, and emphasize that through effort and practice, you can grow the areas that you identified as having low self-efficacy.
Ask students to complete the “Teach Students: 1d. Areas Where I have High and Low Self-Efficacy” handout (Handout 1d. linked to on page 11 of your Educator Workbook) by making a list of three areas where they think their self-efficacy is already high and three areas where they’d like it to be higher. Examples include specific course subjects, types of assignments or in-class activities, sports, extracurricular activities, and specific tasks in their personal lives such as driving, working, recreational activities, etc.
Watch this video of students discussing their areas of high and low self-efficacy.
1d. Reflect and Apply:
Identify an area where you would like your self-efficacy to be higher.
- How would having high self-efficacy in this area impact your life?
- What strategies could you use to increase your self-efficacy in this area?
Jot your answers down in the Educator Workbook on page 5.
Your students have learned a lot about how self-efficacy can help them in academics and extracurricular activities, but self-efficacy can also help your students learn to manage their physiological reactions to stress and anxiety. When students experience emotional reactions to a stressful situation, such as taking a test or giving a speech, it can cause them to become overwhelmed and inhibit their ability to persist through the challenging task, ultimately reducing their self-efficacy. If students know they can use strategies to minimize their physiological or emotional reactions to stress, it will build their self-efficacy.
In “Teach Students: Recognizing and Reducing Physiological Feedback Will Help Build My Self-Efficacy,” students take a closer look at how using strategies to reduce physiological feedback in a stressful situation can improve their self-efficacy.
Teach Students: 1e. Recognizing and Reducing Physiological Feedback Will Help Build My Self-Efficacy
Review the source Physiological Feedback and the various reactions we sometimes have when we feel stressed, such as an increased heart rate. Tell students that when they experience things such as an increased heart rate, it is our body’s way of telling us that we are about to experience something challenging. Ask students if they have ever given up due to overwhelming physiological feedback. Remind students that self-efficacy can also help keep our emotions in check when we are experiencing physiological feedback about something that is causing us stress, anxiety, or frustration.
Show students this video about how emotions affect the brain.
After the video, ask students to think back on a time when they experienced emotions or physiological feedback and it caused them to give up and not complete a challenging task. Explain that many people experience anxiety when they are about to take a test and that there are strategies they can use to reduce their anxiety.
Divide students into small groups and ask them to read the PDF Test Anxiety. As they read through the PDF, ask them to highlight strategies mentioned for controlling stress and anxiety.
After the students have read through the PDF, ask them to share the strategies they identified from the PDF. Emphasize that although these strategies were connected to test anxiety, they can be used in any situation where they may be experiencing physiological feedback.
Ask students to think about how learning to reduce their physiological feedback could help them in different areas of their life. For example, are there situations where learning to reduce their physiological feedback related to academics could improve their life? Do they have things that they want to learn to do or accomplish but in reaction to which their physiological reactions become too overwhelming? Would increasing their self-efficacy increase the likelihood that they could accomplish something? Students should be able to identify at least three reasons that they want to improve their self-efficacy and write their answers on the “Teach Students: 1e. Recognizing and Reducing Physiological Feedback Will Help Build My Self-Efficacy” handout (Handout 1e. linked to on page 11 of your Educator Workbook).
Improving my self-efficacy is important because:
Example responses might include:
- I want to get better at [challenging task].
- When I can’t immediately succeed at something, I get frustrated and sometimes give up.
- I constantly compare my grades to my best friend’s, and it makes me feel bad about myself. I want to focus on improving my own ability without worrying about what anyone else is doing.
- I want to be able to attempt new things without worrying that I won’t be successful or feeling dumb when I don’t succeed right away.
1e. Reflect and Apply: Think about a time when one of your students has experienced physiological feedback due to stress, anxiety, or frustration.
- How did you coach the student before learning about how to manage physiological feedback?
- How will you support your students the next time you notice them experiencing physiological feedback?
- It is also important to help students learn to predict when they might experience physiological feedback and to plan for how they will manage their emotions. How will you support students in planning how to notice and manage their physiological feedback.
Write your thoughts on page 5 of the Educator Workbook.