• Alison Monsoon


Updated: Feb 16

Research clearly demonstrates that simply having confidence and trust in our own capabilities is a strong predictor that we will also do well at a particular task.

This magical quality is also known as perceived self-efficacy, and it’s the stuff our children need in order to do well at school.

Self-efficacy plays an essential role in our motivation to achieve, how well we learn, how much effort we put in, how long we persist and, also, our emotional resilience to challenges along the way. In fact, research has shown that possessing a good dose of self efficacy is a greater predictor of being successful at a task than natural ability alone. So how do we get some?

There are 4 recognised sources of self-efficacy.

1. Mastery of Experiences.

Self-efficacy can be acquired when we experience mastery of a task. Mastery equals success, and feeling successful boosts our confidence and results in us feeling more likely to do a task again. However, when we fail or are made to feel like we failed, we are naturally less inclined to pursue doing anything that creates that same feeling. In these moments self-doubt and shame can be paralysing, especially if self-efficacy is already low. Fortunately we can build a student’s sense of mastery by giving them tasks that are challenging yet within the scope of their abilities. This is called the stretch zone, it is the place just beyond our comfort zone though well before the panic zone! The stretch zone is where we can reinforce a student’s trust in themselves and create a positive environment for a willingness to persist. This can sometimes require slowing down the speed of learning tasks or back tracking to the place where the student can feel safe yet challenged. From there, we can gently scaffold increases in difficulty to ensure mastery (and those feelings of success!) at each stage.

2. Self-Efficacy can be Acquired Vicariously.

Knowing that others have had success, particularly if they are someone we can relate to, can be inspiration enough that we can do the same. Sharing stories with students about people who have had challenges, and also achievements, is a powerful way for them to learn new ways of thinking about their own capabilities.

3. Self-Efficacy can be Modelled by our Peers, Role Models and our Family.

Wanting to replicate those we admire can be helpful when those people are modelling motivational behaviours, persistence, effort and emotional resilience when attempting new and challenging tasks. But beware, unfortunately the same is also true in reverse when the modelling of unhealthy behaviours occur.

4. Self-Efficacy is Affected by our Emotional and Physical Experiences.

When we are stressed, depressed or physically unwell, not surprisingly, our self-efficacy can take a knock. When we have healthy physical and emotional well-being and live in a supportive, encouraging environment our self-efficacy is improved.

Imagine the super-powerful combination of having access to all four of these sources!

Self-efficacy is something I am passionate about developing in my students.

The beauty of private tutoring is the attention I can offer a student to ensure they are working at the perfect level for them to experience mastery of a new skill. I can encourage and show genuine appreciation for even the smallest successes as they are working; improving their self-confidence and reducing stress.

But, I also know we cannot protect our children from failure all the time. It must be accepted, and even embraced, as a normal part of learning.

Some of us can brush a failure off. After some initial feelings of disappointment we can eventually rationalise that we did our best and accept the “failure” positively. We can then reflect on how to improve for next time. This requires resilience and a strong sense of self belief efficacy. This is something we can model as parents and teachers to our children, and it is also something I can teach my students. Whilst it is natural to feel downhearted after a failure, being able to recover from this is an important factor in good self-efficacy. Using techniques from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) it is possible to gently guide a student to become aware of any negative self-talk, for them to consider why they do this and also for them to re-evaluate this way of thinking so they have strategies to use when setbacks occur.

Whilst research supports this, it is also my direct experience that improving a student’s self-efficacy results in long-term improvement in academic self-management strategies. These are skills that a student can take with them into all subjects.

Though, perhaps most importantly, good self-efficacy offers them an effective formula for managing life!


Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational psychologist, 28(2), 117-148.

Krueger Jr, N., & Dickson, P. R. (1994). How believing in ourselves increases risk taking: Perceived self‐efficacy and opportunity recognition. Decision sciences, 25(3), 385-400.

Pajares, F. (1996). Self-efficacy beliefs in academic settings. Review of educational research, 66(4), 543-578.

Salami, S. O. (2010). Emotional intelligence, self-efficacy, psychological well-being and students attitudes: Implications for quality education. European Journal of Educational

Studies, 2(3), 247-257.

Schunk, D. H., & Pajares, F. (2002). The development of academic self-efficacy. In Development of achievement motivation (pp. 15-31). Academic Press.



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