Self-Efficacy Mechanism in Human Agency


“Perceived self-efficacy is concerned with how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prosepective situations”


“Because acting on misjudgements of personal efficacy can produce adverse consequences, accurate appraisal of one’s own capabilities has considerable functional value”


“people avoid activities that they believe exceed their coping abilities, but they undertake and perform assuredly those that they judge themselves capable of managing”

People’s perception of what they can cope with, has a determining influenbce on how hard they try.  – “how much effort people will expend and how lonmg they will persist in the face of obstacles” (check reference)

“whwere as those who have a stronger sense of efficacy exert greater effort to master the challenges” (check reference)

“when beset with difficulties people ho entertain sewrous doubts about the capabilities slacken their efforts or give up altogether” (check reference)

He f=goes oin to talk about the challenge leb=vel context, and it;s relatiuonship with self efficacy. Learneres with high self efficacy deploy more effort to master material in media seen asdifficult, but less to master things in media seen a s easy, and also deploy less preparatory effort when they see themselves as supremely self efficacious in that area.

Bandura suggest that “some uncertainty has preparatory benefits. An aid to good performance is a strong sense of self-efficacy to withstand failures, coupoled with some uncertainty” (where that unbdcertainty has to do with the chalklenge of the task, and not fundamental doubts about one’s ability.

“Those who judge themsleves inefficacious in coping with environmental demands dwell on their personal deficiencies and imagine potential difficulties as more formidable than they really are (Beck, 1976; Lazarus & Launier, 1978; Meichenbaum, 1977; Sarason, 1975.) Such self-referent misgivings create stress and impair performance by diverting attention from how best to proceed….persons who have  a strong sense of efficacy deploy their attenmtion…and are spourred to greater effort by obstacles”

The paper uses micro analytic techniques, with efficacy self assessments tailored to the specific domains being tested, and not generalised.


“Because people are influenced more by how they read their performance successes than by the successes per se, perceived self-efficacy was a better predictor of subsequent behavior than wasperformance attainment…” “The finding that self percepts of efficacy often surpass final performance as predictors of future performance receives suppport from other studies (check referneces).

“In poreliminary explorations of the cognitive processing of enactive experiencesm people register noteable increases in self-efficacy when their experiences disconform misbeliefs about what they fear and when they gain new skills to manage threatening activitiesC” Presumably, this is beacuase their sense of utility, and their sense of general efficacy increases – they have power to shape and controlmtheir environment and lives.


Bandura also argues that initially, while hilding these newly az=cquired skills and knowledges,, they hold  “weak self-percepts of efficacy in a provisional status, testing their newly acquired knowledge and skills before raising judgements of what they are able to do. If…they discover something that appears intimidating about the undertaking or suggests limitatiomns to their mode of coping, they register a decline in self-efficaciousness despite their succesful performance” This seems a key idea in terms of connectivist MOOCs, and novice users/users with limtied digital literacy, and weak senses of efiicacy in terms of technology. Not only do you need to provide skills, they also need positive confirmatory experiences to manage their perception. Success isn;t enough. Security and a confoirmned sense of success is key.


“People successfulyy execute tasks that fall wiuthin their enhanced range of perceived self-efficacy, but shun or fail those that exceed their perceived coping abilities.”

“In the social learning view, judgements of self-efficacy, whether accurate or faulty, are based on four principal sources of information. These include performance attainments; vicarious experiences of observing the performance of others; verbal persuasion and allied types of social influences that one posesses certain capabilities; and physiological states from which people partly judge their capability, strength, and vulnerability”

One, two and three here seem particularly of importance in Connectivist ventures. People will be comparing themselves to a large and disparate population, many of whom have multiple expertises, the community can do a large amount via encouragem,ent to facilitate increased perceptions of efficacy, and the structure of the educational experience and the community can provide participants with access to mastery experiences, if well tailored to their needs.

“Enactive attainments provide the most inflkuential source of efficacy information becasue it can be based on authentic mastery experiences.,Successes heighten perceived self-efficvacy; repeated failures lower it, especuially if failures occur early…and do n ot reflect lack of effort or adverse external circumstances”

p126/127 on observing people you judge to be of similar ability – seeing them succeed at a task raises” efficacy expectations in observers who then judge that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities…observing others who are perceived to be of similar competence fail despite high effort lowers observer’s judgements of their own capabilities”(Brown & Inouye, 1978)

This is hugely important in terms of community and networked learning, especially so for novices, who may tend to self associate with each other. Observing other’s you judge to be at your level fail, decreases your chance of success. Observing them succeed enhances it. But what of observing other’s engage effortlessly, who you judge to be more capable?


On verbal poersuasuion – which is a standard and stalwat tool of instructir driven and faciliatted pedagogy, “it can contribute to successful performance if the heightened appraisal is within realistiuc bounbd” – what exactly do we mean by realistic bounds? “Persuasive efficacy influences, therefore, have their greatest impact on people who have some reason to believe that they can produce effects through their actions” (check reference)

Bandura also argues that physical arousal – and here he seems to mean stress, fatigue, pain – is a barrier to succeeding, as it has a bearing on their judgement inb their capability., Peoiple read such physiological signs as indicators of physical inefficacy, people are more likely to sicceed if not beset by such strains.

He also argues that the information itself is notthe dterminer, but rather, our cognitive appraisal of it is – “the types of cues people have learned to use as indicators of personal efficacy and the inference rules they employ for integrating efficacy information from different sources” Bandura, 1981. – I need more on this.


Studies have shown (check references) that the correlation between increaed efficacy – no matter which method was used to increase it – and persistense and success was clear and positive, and that the most powerful method was enactive mastery experiences. My idea here that educators are engineers of experiences is finding an amplifier, and an expansion. At times we must be producers of enactive mastery experiences. Obvious, but at times forgotten by cMOOCers.

“Self percepts of efficacy formed through partial mastery experiences at different points in treatment predict, at a high level of accuracy, subsequent performance of threatening tasks that subjects had never done before”

It doesn;lt seem to matter where the increased efficacy comes from “enactive mastery, vicarious experience, gognitive coping, or elimination of anxiety arousal” the effect seems the same. Eliminating anxiety – that’s, partially, a cognitive load issue, isn;t it? More links to digital literacy, and, in terms of viacrious observation, mnore links ton the network of novioces across the community.

Bandura also argues that our self percept of efficacy can determine the tasks we choose to underatkae, and the rate at which we acquire new skills, as well as the effort exeerted, and thus can have a positive effect in terms of self-reinforcing. the more efficvacy we have, the more we succedd, the more we develop fficacy.


“People who are sceptical of their ability to exercise adequate control over their actions tend to undermine their effortts in situations that tax capabilities” – this would apply to high cogbnitive load situations I assume?


“There are several ways in which incentives for task mastery can contribute to the growth of interest and self-efficacy.” here Bandura is talking about rewards that increase self efficacy “Positive incenbtives foster pewrformance accomplishments. Gaining knowledge and skills that enable one to fulfill personal standars of merit tend ti heighten interest and a fimr sense of personal efficacy, Success in attaining desired outcomes through challenging performances can further verify existeng competencies.”

“By mobilising high effort, incentives can help to subtantiate talents, even though no mnew skills are acquired” Here he is arguing people usually do mot perform maximally.

He also argues that rewards that reward competence (and hence efficacy) are key to heightening interest. Adults and children maintain interest when rewarded for attainments, rther than rewarded irrespective of how they perform – interest here declines.

Self motivation, and proximal goals. Cloise goals provide more motivatioon than far away ones.

“Self motivation is best summoned andsustained by adipting attainable subgoals that lead to large future ones” As Kop notes, connectivist learners are required to be self motivating, but may be lacking the advanced learning, and motivating skills to fulfill this requirement. Teacher presence can help here by designing a learning envit=ronment that sustains this ide, of sub goals rweaching towards a large goal.

In addition “Proximal gpoals can also serve as an important vehicle in the development of self percepts of efficacy” This brings back in the accomplishment, iuncreased efficacy, increased resultant effort and success, increased efficacy cycle mentioned previously. Kop also makes the point that scafoolding connectiviost moocs with seminars helps – feedback, but also, presumably, sub goal setting could be at play here.

“Wihtout standarsd against which ti measure their performance, people have little basis for judging hpow they are doing, or for guaging their capabilities. Subgoal attainments provide clear markers along the way to verify a growing sense of self efficacy.” So, how designed in was this in #etmooc? I’d love to know, but my guess is, carefully. The environemnt felt as if it wanted to be supportive here…

This is curious, and needs more unpoacking for me.

“Under proximal subgoals, children progressed rapidly in self learning” (wonder what clark, sweller, kirschner and Mayer think here…”distal goals had no demonstrable effects” in addition “goal proximity fosters veridical self-knowledge of capabiltiies, as reflected in high congruence between judgements of mathematical self-eeficacy and subsequent mathematical performance” So, proximal goals gave accurate knowledge of ability, increased efficacy, and gave accurate indicators of later performasnce. this definitley needs ore unpacking here. In additoion these children showed higher interest.



He also adds “It may require at least moderately high self-efficacy to generate and sustain interest in an activity” while acknowledgeing that high self-efficacy may spark loss of interest.


It ,may be somewhat dated, but it does mirror the stanford study. and it’s idea of fear of sterotype (di=g out that paper from from the MOOC Stanford paper in earlier post)

“(Betz 1981)…males perceive themselves to be equally efficacious fo the typoe of occupation traditionally held by women. In contrast, females judge themselves highly efficacious for the type of occupations traditionally held by women, but ineficacious in mastering the educational requirements and job functions of vocations dominated by menm”



“From the social learning perspective, it is mainly perceived inefficacy in coping with potentially aversive events that makes them fearsome.” If you can increase capacity to cope, you decrease fear, and increase engagemnet with the previously feared. This sounds highly similar to the anxiety response some etmoocers had in terms of engaging with the technology. So, how do you do it?

Either using Behavioral control, or congitively.


“In Behavioalr control individuals take actions that forestakllk or modify aversive events. In cognitive control people believe they can manage environmental threats should they arise”



“pweople who judge themselves inefficacious dwell on their coping deficiencies and view trying situations as fraught with peril. They not only magnify the severu=ity of possible threats but worry about perils that rarely, if ever, happen” And, as anxiety is a barrier to performance, they perhaps re-inforce their perceived inefficacy? Self perfceepts of efficacy reduce this anxiety. It must be added, Bandura does argue that a reasonable amount of anticioatiry thought is useful, but excessive anxiety is counterproductive.




Perceived Self Inefficacy, Futility and Despondency

“Inability to influence events and social conditions that significantlky effect one’s life can give rise to feelings of futility and despondency as well as to anxiety”


Bandura talks about two types of futility – where people give up because of their sense of their own capability, or where they give up due to a sense that the environment is punitive, unresponsive, or biased, despite their own feelings of capability. So, cconfidence ion ones own ability, and confidence in the enironment are key to avoiding feelings of futility and possible abandonmnet of effort. Shortfalls are dealt with differently.


Environemntal shortfalls involve changing the social environment so that participants can gain advantage of competencies they already have (and peresumably, develkop new ones). Efficacy shortfalls involve saddressing the persons sense of self efficacy.



Bandura begins to talk about fdifferent combinations of environmental and self efficacy levels, and their effects.

High self efficacy, and “a respionsive environment that rewrds attainment” yield “assured, active responsiveness”


High efficacy types in low responsiveness environment may continue.

Low efficacy typoes in non responsive environments will give up readily.

“Self-efficacious individuals will intensify their efforts and, if necessary, try to change the environement”

Talking about heigh efficacy in unresponsive envorinments, and the idea of conbtro over the social aspect he says ” Gurri (in press) and Lacey (1979)….conditions combining high self-efficacy with environmental unresponsivesness tend to generate resentment, protest, and collective efforts to change existing practices (Bandura, 73; Short and Wolgang, 1972).” he also says that, if change is difficult to achieve, people will desert given suitable alternatives.


For those with low self efficacy, “and no amount of effort by themselves or comparative others produces reults, they become apatheticC”


If they see others, who they compare to themselves succedd, however, this can cauise “self-disparagement and depression”.


Lots of this hooks up clearly with Mayer and Clark’s work, so, the next stop, after a bit more Bandura, is Ying and Yang Motivation, and What works in online motivation by them.




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