Developing the Social-Emotional Skill of Self-Efficacy
- A teenage hockey goalie defending a shutout in the final period of a state championship game.
- A small child learning to decode big words.
- A freshly graduated Criminal Justice major headed into her first job interview.
What do these three individuals have in common?
They must have self-efficacy to be successful. Let me explain…
The quote, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right,” gets right to the heart of self-efficacy, better known as confidence. Self-efficacy is a social emotional skill tied to self-awareness, as laid out by Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), and we have known for a while that children need it!
Psychologist Albert Bandura published a seminal paper on this topic in 1977 called, “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change.” This paper has been widely read by psychologists and educators because of a common understanding that more confidence can drive success. This is true of everything, from psychological states to behavior to motivation…and it includes learning! As a teacher, you can grow self-efficacy in your learners, and it will pay back in dividends in the long run.
So, how do you help your students become more confident? Check out these three easy strategies!
- Provide many opportunities for success! Success breeds success, so create chances for your learners to do well every day, if not every hour. The key to this is giving them work, tasks, or learning opportunities that make sense for their ability level, with the opportunity to push just beyond that. Keep your expectations high, but be realistic as well. This allows for meaningful struggle.
- Give your learners specific verbal praise. Tell them exactly what you saw them do well, and tie it to a character trait. For example, instead of saying “good job,” say, “Tommy, I like that you came to school today with your homework completed. It shows me that you are responsible.” Doing this allows the student to realize their effort was valued, and they were successful! The Nurtured Heart Approach uses this idea.
- Teach positive self-talk. This is an excellent life skill to help students understand they can calm themselves and convince themselves that they can do it when they are facing a challenge. It’s basically like teaching them to be confident! Zach Hangs in There and Allie Meets the Nevers are great storybooks to illustrate this point.
Using these three strategies to build self-efficacy will increase student achievement and social-emotional skills in your students. Help your learners build confidence, and the hockey goalie will stop the shot, the small child will read the word and the new graduate will ace the interview!
For more ways to improve Social Emotional Learning in your classroom, explore some of these great 3-credit, graduate-level courses: