Albert Bandura's (1986, 1993, 1997) theory of self-efficacy has important implications with regard to motivation (See also Schunk, 1991, 1996). Bandura's basic principle is that people are likely to engage in activities to the extent that they perceive themselves to be competent at those activities. With regard to education, this means that learners will be more likely to attempt, to persevere, and to be successful at tasks at which they have a sense of efficacy. When learners fail, this may occur because they lack the skills to succeed or because they have the skills but lack the sense of efficacy to use these skills well.

Bandura (1989) has identified factors that are likely to reduce students' feelings of positive self-efficacy:

  1. lock-step sequences of instruction that may cause some children to get lost along the way,

  2. ability groupings that further diminish the self-efficacy of those in lower ranks, and

  3. competitive practices in which many students are doomed to failure from the start.


Schunk (1989) has conducted experiments that successfully applied self-efficacy principles to instruction in language and mathematics skills. The lessons included strategies to foster perceptions of self-efficacy by

  • helping learners set specific, attainable goals;

  • modeling cognitive strategies that include statements of self-efficacy;

  • helping the students focus feedback on the successful application of effort to achieve useful subskills;

  • supplying positive incentives; and

  • encouraging students to verbalize effective task strategies.


Bandura suggests that one of the most important aspects of self-efficacy is the person's perception of self-regulatory efficacy. In other words, students will learn better if they believe that they are good at managing their thinking strategies in a productive manner. (Self-regulation and the management of other thinking strategies are discussed in chapter 7.)

While it is important to enhance the self-efficacy of the learners themselves, self-efficacy theory also has important implications for other agents in the instructional process (Ashton, 1984; Ashton & Webb, 1986). For example, Gibson and Dembo (1984) have found that teachers who have a high sense of instructional efficacy devote more instructional time to academic learning, give students more and better help when they need it, and are more likely to praise students for their successful accomplishments. Likewise, Woolfolk and Hoy (1990) have found that teachers with a low sense of self-efficacy are likely to employ a set of "custodial" strategies that focus on extrinsic inducements and negative sanctions (which are likely to be ineffective), whereas teachers with higher self-efficacy are more likely to employ strategies that support their students' intrinsic motivation and encourage the students to direct their own learning. Finally, Bandura (1997) points out that different schools and departments are likely to have varied perceptions of their collective self-efficacy. School staff members who collectively judge themselves as having high self-efficacy are likely to provide an environment that will promote similar feelings and high levels of productivity among their students.




Online Links:



Click on a topic from the following list, or use your web browser to go where you want to go:

Intrinsic Motivation
Interpersonal Motivation
Summary of Intrinsic Motivation
Motivating Through Curriculum
Reinforcement and Punishment
Affective Aspects of Motivation
Physiological Aspects of Motivation
Cognitive Aspects of Motivation
Needs and Motivation
Self-Efficacy <<You are here>>
Attribution Theory
Development and Motivation
Motivation as a Personality Characteristic
Teacher Expectancy
Social Aspects of Motivation: Classroom Structure
What Teachers Can Do About Motivation
What Parents Can Do About Motivation
What Students Can Do About Motivation
Chapter Summary
Annotated Bibliography
Answers to Quizzes