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Persistence at tasks

26 July, 2019 - 10:13
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A second effect of high self-efficacy is to increase persistence at relevant tasks. If you believe that you can solve crossword puzzles, but encounter one that takes longer than usual, then you are more likely to work longer at the puzzle until you (hopefully) really do solve it. This is probably a desirable behavior in many situations, unless the persistence happens to interfere with other, more important tasks (what if you should be doing homework instead of working on crossword puzzles?). If you happen to have low self-efficacy for crosswords, on the other hand, then you are more likely to give up early on a difficult puzzle. Giving up early may often be undesirable because it deprives you of a chance to improve your skill by persisting. Then again, the consequent lack of success because of giving up may provide a useful incentive to improve your crossword skills. And again, misperceptions of capacity make a difference. Overestimating your capacity by a lot (excessively high self-efficacy) might lead you not to prepare for or focus on a task properly, and thereby impair your performance. So as with choosing tasks, the effects of self-efficacy vary from one individual to another and one situation to another. The teacher's task is therefore two-fold: first, to discern the variations, and second, to encourage the positive self-efficacy beliefs. The following table offers some additional advice about how to do this.


Example of what the teacher might say

Table 3.1 Ways of encouraging self-efficacy beliefs
  1. Set goals with students, and get a commitment from them to reach the goals.

“By the end of the week, I want you to be able to define these 5 terms. Can I count on you to do that?”

  1. Encourage students to compare their performance with their own previous performance, not with other students.

“Compare that drawing against the one that you made last semester. I think you'll find improvements!”

  1. Point out links between effort and improvement.

“I saw you studying for this test more this week. No wonder you did better this time!”

  1. In giving feedback about performance, focus on information, not evaluative judgments.

“Part 1 of the lab write-up was very detailed, just as the assignment asked. Part 2 has a lot of good ideas in it, but it needs to be more detailed and stated more explicitly.”

  1. Point out that increases in knowledge or skill happen gradually by sustained effort, not because of inborn ability.

“Every time I read another one of your essays, I see more good ideas than the last time. They are so much more complete than when you started the year.”


Example: Self-Efficacy, Illustrated

This flash animation illustrates the journey of a teacher and student as the student's self-efficacy increases. Sammy has low self-esteem, but his teacher sees a teachable moment in his desire to act and sing. She employs verbal persuasion with positive statements and peer modeling by having Sammy observe another successful classmate who had the same fears. She provides Sammy with specific feedback on his performance, and Sammy has a successful experience in his tryout as a result. By Jim Stewart, Jill Weldon, Celeste Buckhalter-Pittman, and Holly Frilot.

Source: Orey (2010).