Stronger self-efficacy promotes student productivity, success

Xing Liu

A new semester has begun. With new academic challenges, it is common to see students struggle in the classroom. Luckily, overcoming struggles is an empowering way to learn. Those who struggle, however, need educators’ constant feedback to be guided and thoughtfully designed courses to ensure they are overcoming problems to produce meaningful work.

Students are sometimes afraid of making the crucial step of asking for help when difficult assignments and tests confront them. Instead, they continue to struggle.

A Washington Post article about Sarah, a high school freshmen with academic struggles, displays the pitfalls of student self-doubt. Critical thinking, collaboration and analytical skills were obstacles to her academic and social growth. After trying and failing on her own, it became clear outside help was needed. In order to assist her, teachers scheduled extra assistance after school, maintained email communication after hours and counseled her through her frustration. These extra efforts allowed her to think positively, celebrate each and every small step forward and finally succeed in her coursework.

Sarah’s story proves students’ self-confidence plays an important role in academic success.

Albert Bandura, a psychologist and professor emeritus of social science in psychology at Stanford University, first introduced the idea that self-efficacy, or one’s confidence in their academic capabilities, is integral to one’s ability to execute courses of action and achieve goals. According to Bandura's study "Self efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavior change", self-efficacious students participate more, work harder, endure tasks longer and have fewer poor emotional reactions when they struggle than those who doubt their capabilities.

On the other hand, teachers, as an integral part of the education system, must also receive help in developing their academic self-confidence when dealing with struggling students. According to social cognitive theory, teachers who do not expect to be successful with certain students are likely put forth less effort in preparation and delivery of instruction.  

The question lies in how the University fosters self-confidence across both students and teachers.

University climate and structure greatly influence academic self-confidence. An encouraging school atmosphere and a strong push for academic achievement among the staff lead stronger self-efficacy beliefs in teachers.

At UT, the Center for Teaching and Learning builds an environment in which students and teachers alike can improve their academic self-confidence. The resources include course design, student engagement, learning assessment and professional development. The platform is the perfect opportunity for teachers to interact and learn from each other’s expertise.

“It acts as a hub for knowledge and evidence-based practices. It’s a campus community commitment to teaching and learning,” said Adrienne Lunch, writer and content strategist at the Executive Vice President & Provost office.

Along with resources the CTL provided, students can deal with mental issues at the University Counseling and Mental Health Center.The center currently offers group and individual counselling, a MindBody Lab that helps students explore interactive tools to help cope with stress and a crisis line for students who suffer sudden breakdowns.

“For a lot of students, college can be a wonderful experience, but it can also be a very stressful transition,” said Katy Redd, the assistant director for prevention and outreach at CMHC. “If the natural coping methods, such as talking to families and friends, are not working well, it’s a good idea to call the counseling center.”

These programs at the University will inspire both student and teacher performance, increasing students’ resilience and their productivity. Currently those programs are mostly known by word of mouth. In the future, the University could make a greater effort to spread the word so that more students and teachers can get involved. In addition to CTL and CMHC, the University can create better funded projects and fellowships that help build a student sense of self-confidence and achievement-recognition.

Xing is a second-year advertising graduate from Beijing.