Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her own capacity to succeed in a task. This trait is fundamental to every learning process, from a baby’s first steps to earning a PhD. Before a child says his first word, he must have a sense that he will succeed in communicating or he will never try to form the sounds.
Psychology great Albert Bandura is active in researching the theories of self-efficacy and education. His theories of education have four process domains that motivate a student to success.
There is a direct correlation between the cognitive beliefs of a 13-year-old and the academic successes of a 16-year-old. When a middle-school student sees accomplishments in school, he is creating positive cognitive processes that will contribute to his success in high school and further into the future.
This is a place where the personality orientation of the parent will significantly affect the child. If a parent defines an accomplishment as successful, the child will develop a healthy cognitive self-efficacy.
Do not focus on the grades. Instead help your child to create a positive feeling about his academic successes.
The development of motivational processes is the foundation of self-regulatory learning. Both inside and outside of a formal learning structure, self-regulated learning is the students desire to continue his education.
This process is especially important in our technology age where information and learning is at our fingertips. A student can simply log into MIT’s open course software and learn calculus or he can just as easily log on to Driving-tests.org to learn road rules to prepare for his driver’s test. It is all dependent on his motivational process.
As a parent, this is a skill modeled, not taught. Bandura believes that children learn more in social situations than by being directly lectured. If you want to motivate your child to create his own personal learning environment, start by taking a class with him.
At war with academic self-efficacy is anxiety. The ability to balance stressers without disregarding the academic importance and lose motivation is a significant part of the affective process.
Stress is an important motivator in education. Too little stress and the task is not challenging enough. Too much and the student loses hope, eroding his self-efficacy.
A parent’s job for this process is to show a child how to manage stress. Part cheerleader, part coach, a parent needs to monitor the stress level and help the child identify irrational anxieties versus real stress. You are the sounding board to your child’s fears. Like when he was a toddler, you will look under the bed to prove there are not monsters but stop them from talking to strangers.
Teach your child real stress versus imaginary.
All of the other processes have a strong internal component but the selection process includes an external, environmental factor. Career goals, online courses and social media groups are all part of the selection process.
For a parent, this can be a difficult stage. By definition, the process means that your child will be making decisions that will affect his immediate future. You will create an environment from which he can make these decisions but, in the end, the decision is his.
Your job is to model and support.