A Perspective on Self-Efficacy Beliefs for Academic Achievement

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Introduction

The day-to-day endeavors of living are mostly directed by underlying self-systems that strengthen and guide our aspirations and motivation for working towards accomplishing goals and seeking achievements. The self-systems guide our pursuits and determine our performance. In this regard, raising academic performance of students has been a vital challenge. All efforts need to be directed towards this challenge by helping students not only through skill acquisition but also by fostering the self-systems which help them to be more persuasive in their efforts for academic achievement. An understanding of self-systems with particular reference to selfefficacy proves to be a potent factor because “these self-systems house one’s cognitive and affective structures and include the abilities to symbolize, learn from others, plan alternative strategies, regulate one’s own behavior, and engage in self-reflection” (Bandura,1977). Selfefficacy has a relatively brief history that began with Bandura’s (1977) publication of “SelfEfficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change”. Self-efficacy refers “to subjective judgments of one’s capabilities to organize and execute courses of action to attain designated goals” (Bandura, 1977 and 1997). Self-efficacy beliefs can therefore be extensively applied and potentially used in the field of educational research, particularly in the area of academic motivation and achievement (Pintrich and Schunk, 1995).

The Role of Self-efficacy Beliefs

Self-efficacy beliefs center around what a person can do rather than personal judgments about one’s physical or personality attributes. The level of self-efficacy refers to its dependence on difficulty level of a particular task; generality of self-efficacy beliefs refers to the transferability of one’s efficacy judgments across different tasks or activities such as different academic subjects; and strength of efficacy judgments pertains to the certainty with which one can perform a specific task (Zimmerman, 1995). When students begin to doubt their capabilities, it becomes detrimental as they slacken their efforts and give up quickly in the face of difficulties, have low aspirations and are most likely to encounter stress. They view insufficient performance as personal deficiencies and do not concentrate on how to perform successfully.

Self-efficacy beliefs influence not only motivation levels but also offer resilience to adversity and avert vulnerability to stress and depression. The stress and anxiety levels required to accomplish a task are also influenced by efficacy beliefs. Research findings over the past 20 years have generally supported the argument that “efficacy beliefs mediate the effect of skills or other self-beliefs on subsequent performance attainments” (Schunk, 1991; and Bandura, 1997). The findings of Bouffard-Bouchard et al. (1991) show that students with high self-efficacy are engaged more in effective self-regulatory strategies at each level and this ability enables them to cope with anxiety and stress, which can facilitate enhancing memory performance.

This indicates that these beliefs influence motivational and self-regulatory processes in several ways. For accomplishing a particular task, they influence the choices people make and the courses of action they pursue. This typically manifests in student behavior where they engage in tasks in which they feel competent and confident and avoid those in which they do not. Therefore, self-beliefs facilitate control over the events. According to Pajares Frank (1996), beliefs of personal competence “determine how much effort people will expend on an activity, how long they will persevere when confronting obstacles and how resilient they will prove in the face of adverse situations”. This indicates that higher the sense of efficacy, the greater is the effort for persistence, persuasion and resilience. These findings are further substantiated by researchers who have also demonstrated “that self-efficacy beliefs influence effort, persistence, and perseverance” (Bandura and Schunk, 1981).

List of References

Bandura A (1977), ‘Self-efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change’,

Psychological Review. 84, 191-215

——–, (1986), Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory,

Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, NJ

———, (1997), Self-efficacy: The Exercise of Control, Freeman, New York

Bandura A and Schunk D H (1981), ‘Cultivating Competence, Self-efficacy, and Intrinsic

Interest Through Proximal Self-motivation’, Journal of Personality and Social

Psychology, 41, 586-598

Bouffard-Bouchard T, Parent S and Parivee S (1991), ‘Influence of Self-efficacy on Selfregualtion and Performance Among Junior and Senior High-School Age Students’,

International Journal of Behavioral Development, 14, 153-164

Pajares F and Johnson M J (1996), ‘Self-efficacy Beliefs in the Writing of High School Students:

A Path Analysis’, Psychology in the Schools, 33,163-175

Pintrich P R and Schunk D H (1995), Motivation in Education: Theory, Research, and

Applications, Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, New Jersey.

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