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 Please do not cite.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 more objective measurements of their competence, 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 academic task [NEED EXAMPLE QUESTIONNAIRE ITEMS). Teacher assessment is sometimes used. 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. It is still early days for this kind of work. Further validation efforts are needed.

Sources of self-efficacy beliefs Under attribution theory, students' self-efficacy is influenced heavily by the causes to which they attribute their successes and failures in learning task. [REFs] Attributing unsuccessful learning experiences to lack of ability do not necessarily need to lead to diminished self-efficacy, for example when they are attributed to lack of effort rather than lack of ability.

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

Interventions that enhance self-efficacy 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.]

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.


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.