Sources of Self-Efficacy in School: Critical Review of the Literature and Future Directions

Dec. 15, 2008

Source: Review of Educational Research. Vol. 78, Iss. 4; pg. 751-796. Dec 2008.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of the review was threefold. First, the theorized sources of self-efficacy beliefs proposed by A. Bandura (1986) are described and explained, including how they are typically assessed and analyzed.

The Hypothesized Sources of Self-Efficacy

Bandura (1986, 1997) hypothesized that self-efficacy beliefs are created and developed as students interpret information from four sources, the most powerful of which is the interpreted result of their own previous attainments, or mastery experience.
Many factors influence the ways in which students weigh, interpret, and integrate information from these four sources as they make judgments about their academic capabilities. Bandura (1997) hypothesized that the integration rules individuals use when weighting and interpreting efficacy-relevant information may be additive (the more sources available, the more efficacy beliefs are enhanced), relative (one source is stronger than another), multiplicative (two sources present an interactive effect), or configurative (the strength of one source depends on the presence of others), each of which depends largely on personal and contextual factors. As young people grow, they develop cognitive skills that help them process information relevant to their beliefs. Nonetheless, Bandura contended that individuals do not weigh or integrate multidimensional information particularly well, typically overrelying on information from certain sources and ignoring information from others.

Second, findings from investigations of these sources in academic contexts are reviewed and critiqued.

Third, problems and oversights in current research and in conceptualizations of the sources are identified. Although mastery experience is typically the most influential source of self-efficacy, the strength and influence of the sources differ as a function of contextual factors such as gender, ethnicity, academic ability, and academic domain.

Finally, suggestions are offered to help guide researchers investigating the psychological mechanisms at work in the formation of self-efficacy beliefs in academic contexts.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.

Updated: Mar. 04, 2009