Self Efficacy Theory

Bandura has also proposed a social cognitive model of motivated behavior that emphasizes the role of perceptions of efficacy and human agency in determining individuals' achievement strivings. Ban-dura (1977) defined self-efficacy as individuals' confidence in their ability to organize and execute a given course of action to solve a problem or accomplish a task. In his more recent writings (Bandura, 1994), Bandura characterizes self-efficacy as a multidimensional construct that can vary in strength, generality, and level (or difficulty). That is, some people have a strong sense of self-efficacy and others do not; some individuals' efficacy beliefs encompass many situations whereas others have narrow efficacy beliefs; and some individuals believe they are efficacious even on the most difficult tasks, whereas others do not.

As in expectancy-value theory, Bandura's self-efficacy theory focuses on expectancies for success. Although Bandura distinguished between two kinds of expectancy beliefs (outcome expectations [i.e., beliefs regarding which behaviors would lead to specific outcomes] vs. efficacy expectations [beliefs about whether one can effectively perform the behaviors necessary to produce the outcome]), Bandura proposed that efficacy expectations were the major determinant of goal setting, activity choice, willingness to expend effort, and persistence (see Bandura, 1994). By and large, the evidence supports these predictions. For example, high personal academic expectations predict subsequent performance, course enrollment, and occupational choice for all ethnic groups studied (see Eccles, Vida, & Barber, 2004; Eccles & Vida, 2003; Pintrich & Schunk, 2002; Schunk, 1991; Zimmerman, et al., 1992). Similarly, high personal sport expectations predict subsequent engagement in competitive sport activities (Barber, Eccles & Stone, 2001; Eccles & Barber, 1999).

Bandura (1994) proposed that individuals' perceived self-efficacy is determined by four main things: Previous performance (people who succeed will develop a stronger sense of personal efficacy than those who do not), vicarious learning (watching a model succeed on a task will improve one's own self-efficacy regarding the task), verbal encouragement by others, and the level of one's physiological reaction to a task or situation. Bandura (1994) also proposed hypotheses regarding the development of self-efficacy. First, he proposed that experiences controlling proximal stimuli provide the earliest sense of personal agency. Through these experiences, infants learn that they can influence and control their environments. If adults do not provide infants with these experiences, they are not likely to develop a strong sense of personal agency. Second, because self-efficacy requires the understanding that the self produced an action and an outcome, Bandura (1994) hypothesized that a more mature sense of self-efficacy should not emerge until children have at least a rudimentary self-concept and can recognize that they are distinct individuals. This recognition happens sometime during the second year of life (see Harter, 1998).

Through the preschool period, children are exposed to extensive performance information that should be crucial to their emerging sense of self-efficacy. However, just how useful such information proves to be is likely to depend on children's ability to integrate it across time, contexts, and domains. Because these cognitive capacities emerge gradually over the preschool and early elementary school years, young children's efficacy judgments should depend more on immediate and apparent outcomes than on a systematic analysis of their performance history in similar situations (see also Parsons & Ruble, 1972, 1977; Stipek & MacIver, 1989). Thus, similar to Erikson, Bandura's theoretical analysis points to the importance of the middle childhood years for the consolidation of children's sense of personal efficacy.

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