1.1 Background to the Study
Self-efficacy has been defined as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute a course of action required to produce given attainments”. This differs from mere confidence by its emphasis on undertaking a course of action, as compared to simply holding an opinion or belief. In an educational setting, this definition was refined further to include the belief in one’s capabilities to successfully complete assigned academic tasks.
Academic self-efficacy has been extensively studied as a variable in student learning. A meta-analysis investigating the relationship between academic self-efficacy and achievements showed that increased academic self-efficacy made a positive contribution to academic performance. In addition to its influences on learning and performance, academic self-efficacy can affect learning strategies, specifically self-regulated learning. Self-regulated learning, which includes self-monitoring, self-evaluation, goal setting, and planning, contributes positively to academic achievement.
While many variables affect a person’s self-efficacy, four broad categories contribute most to its development. The first of these categories, past experience with a given task, plays an important role in the development of one’s belief that one could succeed at that task in the future. Secondly, present-day experiences, whether vicarious, in which the individual either observes or indirectly participates in the task, or mastery, in which the individual is a direct participant in the task, contribute to self-efficacy. The third category contributing to the development of self-efficacy is verbal persuasion, which emphasizes the role of teachers in cultivating the academic self-efficacy of their students. Lastly, biochemical changes (e.g. emotional responses) occur within the brain when one succeeds at a task, and this physiological arousal has been shown to contribute to the development of self-efficacy.
Perceived self-efficacy is concerned with people’s beliefs in their capabilities to produce desired outcomes (Bandura, 1997). People differ in the areas in which they develop their efficacy and the levels at which they develop it, even within their given pursuits. Thus, the efficacy beliefs system is not a global trait, but a differentiated set of self-beliefs linked to distinct realms of functioning.
In academic and learning settings, Niemivirta and Tapola (2007) opined that self-efficacy has bearing on both the level and type of goals people decide to strive for. It therefore follows that students’ self-efficacy beliefs consist of their belief to perform given academic tasks at designated levels. And the perceived academic self-efficacy as defined by Bandura is a personal judgment of one’s capacity to organize and execute courses of action to attain designated types of educational performance. Hence, students’ belief in their efficacy to regulate their own learning and to master academic activities determines their aspirations, level of motivation and academic accomplishment. Self-efficacy, trusting one’s abilities and powers for learning and performance, is a key trait for the academic success of university students (Hill, 2002). It is on this basis that Martinez-Pons (2002) classified self-efficacy into categories, one of which is academic self-efficacy and states that