Not surprisingly, past successes at a task increase students' beliefs that they will succeed again in the future. The implication of this basic fact means that teachers need to help students build a history of successes. Whether they are math problems, reading assignments, or athletic activities, tasks have to end with success more often than with failure. Note, though, that the successes have to represent mastery that is genuine or competence that is truly authentic. Success at tasks that are trivial or irrelevant do not improve self-efficacy beliefs, nor does praise for successes that a student has not really had (Erikson, 1968/1994).
As a practical matter, creating a genuine history of success is most convincing if teachers also work to broaden a student's vision of “the past.” Younger students (elementary-age) in particular have relatively short or limited ideas of what counts as “past experience;” they may go back only a few occasions when forming impressions of whether they can succeed again in the future (Eccles, et al., 1998). Older students (secondary school) gradually develop longer views of their personal “pasts,” both because of improvements in memory and because of accumulating a personal history that is truly longer. The challenge for working with any age, however, is to ensure that students base self-efficacy beliefs on all relevant experiences from their pasts, not just on selected or recent experiences.