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Emotions related to success, stress or discomfort

29 December, 2015 - 14:48
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The previous three sources of efficacy beliefs are all rather cognitive or “thinking oriented,” but emotions also influence expectations of success or failure. Feeling nervous or anxious just before speaking to a large group (sometimes even just a class full of students!) can function like a message that says “I'm not going to succeed at doing this,” even if there is in fact good reason to expect success. But positive feelings can also raise beliefs about efficacy. When recalling the excitement of succeeding at a previous, unrelated task, people may overestimate their chances of success at a new task with which they have no previous experience, and are therefore in no position to predict their efficacy.

For teachers, the most important implication is that students' motivation can be affected when they generalize from past experience which they believe, rightly or wrongly, to be relevant. By simply announcing a test, for example, a teacher can make some students anxious even before the students find out anything about the test—whether it is easy or difficult, or even comparable in any way to other experiences called “tests” in their pasts.

Conversely, it can be misleading to encourage students on the basis of their success at past academic tasks if the earlier tasks were not really relevant to requirements of the new tasks at hand. Suppose, for example, that a middle-years student has previously written only brief opinion-based papers, and never written a research-based paper. In that case boosting the student's confidence by telling him that “it is just like the papers you wrote before” may not be helpful or even honest.