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Increasing Student Self-Efficacy with Choice

by Dr. Cheryl Gholar, Dr. Ernestine Riggs

As discussed in chapter 2, students must choose to learn. Choice is also an important factor when designing instruction in the conative domain. Teachers can nurture student self-direction and personal efficacy by providing students with choices prior to, during, and after lessons. This doesn't mean that students will make all the decisions, nor does it mean reverting to personal relevance curricula of the 1960s. When we emphasize student self-direction and efficacy, we use strategies that offer students opportunities to make decisions and solve problems on their own. Students learn to process information with confidence, come to believe that they have the ability to strive to succeed, begin to set their own goals for personal development and instructional improvement, and plan how they might achieve their goals. Perhaps most important, students become more reflective about their thinking and what they are learning. "[W]hen students are working on goals they themselves have set, they are more motivated and efficient, and they achieve more than they do when working on goals that have been set by the teacher" (Hom & Murphy, 1983).

From the business world, we know that people who attain success are those who plan, identify goals, and design strategies to work toward those goals (Peters & Waterman, 1982). Likewise, students must learn a variety of problem-solving strategies in order to reach their goals. In order to solve complex problems, learners should learn to

  • talk through the problem,
  • ask what they know and what they need to find out,
  • pose questions,
  • visualize relationships using existing knowledge, and
  • draw their own conclusions (Perkins, 1992; Pressley et al., 1992).

When we encourage students to develop awareness about their own thinking and learning, we also help them analyze the effectiveness of the strategies they choose to reach their goals. When students realize that their thoughts control their actions (i.e., that their locus of control is internal), they can positively affect their own beliefs and academic performance.