Self Efficacy

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Note: this page is currently under construction. Please do not cite.

Self-efficacy is a person's perception of their own capability to attain certain goals or complete a certain task (Schunk, Pintrich, & Meece, 2008; p. 8). Self-efficacy is an important construct in multiple theories of motivation (Bandura's social-cognitive theory of motivation, Eccles and Wigfield's expectancy-value theories, Weiner's attribution theory (Weiner). [REF Dweck?] It also features prominently in theories of self-regulated learning [REFs].

Although there is some debate about how specific self-efficacy beliefs tend to be [REFS], they are often taken to relate to relatively specific abilities. Not so much the general belief that I am competent in algebra, but that I am competent in a specific (type of) algebraic task (e.g., solving linear equations or even linear equations of a certain type).

Self-efficacy is related to but different from constructs such as feeling of knowing (FOK), self-concept, self-competence, and self-esteem. Although self-efficacy is an inherently subjective notion, in many academic learning situations people's "subjective" self-efficacy beliefs may be heavily influenced by "objective" measurements of their competence, such as for example their results on tests and quizzes.

Measurement: self-efficacy is typically assessed by means of questionnaires (MSLQ?) and is often related to a specific task [NEED EXAMPLE QUESTIONNAIRE ITEMS). Teacher assessment is sometimes used.

Sources of self-efficacy beliefs A number of studies have demonstrated that certain interventions enhance self-efficacy and learning (Schunk & Ertmer, 2000). [Check papers referenced in Zimmerman, 2008 Am Ed Res J.]

Effects of self-efficacy beliefs Many studies find that self-efficacy is highly correlated with academic achievement [REFs].

Accuracy of self-efficacy beliefs. (Need to cite some research about how accurate people's self-efficacy beliefs tend to be.) It is generally believed among motivation researchers that underestimating one's capabilities tends to be worse - from a viewpoint of future academic achievement (??? check!) - than overestimating one's capabilities.

Recently, researchers have started to look at ways of automatically measuring self-efficacy within computer-based learning environments. For example, Lester, McQuiggan (sp?), Boyer at NC State [REFS] have started to create machine-learned detectors that (unobtrusively and automatically, in real time) detect behaviors that reflect high/low self-efficacy within a serious game. These types of detectors open up novel opportunities for learning sciences research. It is still an open question to what degree such detectors can be used to enhance the effectiveness of the learning environment (for example, by helping the learner develop greater self-efficacy, or by adapting in other ways to learners' self-efficacy). Further validation efforts may be needed to ensure that these types of automated detectors honor the original notion of self-efficacy.


Schunk D., & Ertmer P. (2000) Self-regulation and academic learning: Self-efficacy enhancing interventions., In M. Boekaerts, P. Pintrich, & M. Zeidner (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation (pp. 631-649). San Diego: Academic Press.

Schunk, D. H., Pintrich P. R., & Meece, J. L. (2008). Motivation in education: Theory, research, and applications (3rd Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.