Building Educational Efficacy
You are ALWAYS teaching confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy. If you choose to ignore this, then you are choosing to ignore our own success, too.
According to Albert Bandura, a significant researcher in self-efficacy, there are four major ways that we can increase our learners’ self-efficacy:
This is the most powerful efficacy influencer of all. When we experience ‘mastery’, we are learning from our own direct experiences. By creating training that allows our students to frequently taste success from their efforts, we will be increasing their motivation and efficacy in the topic.
When we watch someone else succeed, we are experiencing vicarious success. If we can see that other people are successful, it makes us feel confident that success is possible, and as such are more likely to expect to succeed in a similar situation, too.
Just as a negative comment can decrease self-efficacy, positive comments, when said with conviction, genuineness and credibility, can boost a learner’s efficacy.
The way you present your content can affect your learners’ self-efficacy. Excitement, enthusiasm and happiness are all contagious emotions. Pay attention to the learning environment that your own mood and delivery style are creating.
Here are 12 ways that you can increase your learner’s educational efficacy in your training:
- Responses, Communication and Connection are Critical. This requires a careful balancing act. Our students come to us for our expertise. This often makes course creators feel like we have to go above and beyond in interactions with our learners. To look smart, we give long, complicated answers. But we must ensure that the way we provide our responses does not make them feel like they are less than us, or we will damage their educational experience. Paying attention to the way that we respond to our learners so that we provide them with information that is not self-glorifying, over-complicated or patronising is critical to maintaining learner efficacy – nobody likes to feel like they are stupid.
- Create a Collaborative Learning Environment. A study by Fencl and Scheel showed that a “collaborative learning showed a positive correlation with increased self-efficacy”. The same study also showed that question and answer, conceptual problems and inquiry lab activities as teaching methods also increased learner self-efficacy. This is because having the sense of ‘back up’ that comes with ‘strength in numbers’ is affirming and assuring.
- Never Compare Students to Each Other. Everyone learns at their own pace, so what might be a huge step forward for one student could be a miniscule progression for another. A sure way to make the majority of the class lose their educational efficacy is to compare them to the highest achievers. Instead, it is much better to use an ipsative approach to assessment. This means assessing students from their own starting point. Create ‘Likert Scale’ assessments which consist of statements formed from the learning objectives of the course. The students read each statement and rate themselves on a scale of 1-5 as to how much they agree with, or are like that statement at the beginning of the course. They then complete the same assessment at the end, showing a quantifiable measure of their own progress as a result of the training.
- Balance Challenges and Wins. Your training should be hard enough for your learners to feel a true sense of victory when they complete it, but not so hard that it makes them frequently feel incompetent. You also want to make sure that little wins come often, but not so easily that it is condescending to their intelligence. This involves knowing who is in your target audience, their previous experience level in your topic, and how advanced they want and need your training to go. If it was all hard, they would give up. If it was all easy, they’d feel like the program was a waste of time. Adding interspersed moments of easy wins with challenges is a great way to get learners engaged, with constant opportunity to feel their abilities shifting as they progress through the program.
- Include Co-operative Learning. A study by Albert Bandura showed that in learning experiences where learners work together and communicate as a team on educational activities, their educational efficacy increased. This is because when students work in a non-competitive manner, they see how they are similar (even better) than their partner. Whereas, in competitive situations they are forced to see where they lack in comparison to those they are working against. In the online course realm, there are many ways that you can encourage cooperative learning. With forums, video conferencing, Skype, facetime, livestreams freely available, it is easy to get learners working collaboratively in your training programs.
- Set Clearly Defined, Short Term Goals. A fundamental human need is to feel we have a sense of control over our circumstances so that we can predict and prepare – ultimately protecting ourselves from danger. Setting short term goals is one way to provide your students with a predictable expectation and subsequently a sense of comfort and power about what is coming. This observation is backed by Schunck and Pajares who suggest that setting short-term goals, that are challenging yet attainable, will help increase the efficacy of our learners.
- Facilitate Verbal Self-Reporting. Sometimes when we are busy in the throes of daily life, we can feel like we are not progressing when in fact we have made significant progress. When we stop to intentionally analyse the space between ‘then and now’, and then verbalise that progress with others, it reinforces our success and subsequently increases our efficacy and sense of ability to achieve that task. In your online courses, have regular check-stops where you get learners to share their progress with the rest of the group.
- Avoid Rigid Teaching Techniques. When a learner is being taken through an online program that has a very rigid, inflexible delivery, it can be easy for them to get lost and drop out of the learning. By providing multiple ways that learners can consume the learning, you are opening up the training to meet the needs of multiple learning preferences, and subsequently increasing engagement along with the chances of success.
- Limit Total Flexibility. Despite the need for flexibility, we also do not want completely loose and undefined methodologies. Just like how having too many shopping choices in a supermarket can cause ‘buyers paralysis’, when learners have a limitless option of pathways, tools, strategies and choices, their brains can quite literally freeze. A simple lack of decision-making, caused by too many choices, can be detrimental to efficacy.
- Play on Student’s Passions. People are always better and more successful at things that they are passionate about. If we design our training to allow our learners to bring their passions, hobbies and interests into their learning, efficacy can be significantly increased. If the learner loves something, it means that they are already familiar with it, feel empowered by it and enjoy it. If we can combine the most challenging parts of our training with the learners’ passions, we will see less resistance, higher efficacy and greater completion rates in our courses.
- Give Students Power. This aligns somewhat to the self-directed principle of adult learning, as well as to the concept that ‘we are happier when we feel in control.’ If you can allow your learners to have some degree of influence over their learning program, their feeling of control will give them efficacy. This is because they will choose the pathways where they feel comfortable, and out of mastery experience their efficacy will increase due to seeing positive results from their own actions. For example, this could include allowing them to choose from three different ways of being assessed, such as a multiple-choice test, a written essay or a project submission. They could choose whether they work on a project alone or in a group. There is no limit to how you could apply this concept in your training courses. As long as you find a way to give your learners a taste of control over their learning, they will increase their educational efficacy in your course.
- Assign Failure Appropriately. Failure is not a word I like to use in education. ‘Failure’ is a result of the measures of competence that are being used, not necessarily a lack of development in the student. However, if a learner is underperforming or fails in your training program, their self-efficacy will immediately drop because they feel as though they are incompetent. You can reduce this risk by communicating with the learner that the failure is due to a lack of action or implementation, not the existence of incompetence or “stupidity.”
People don’t internalise failure when they can attribute it to simply not doing something. However, if they feel like they are flawed in terms of intelligence or skill, their efficacy and motivation will suffer.
As educators and course creators, we must remember that the way we teach is as important as what we teach, and that the measure of success and effectiveness of a training program usually comes down to less tangible, but far greater impacting results that rarely make their way onto the assessment criteria.
“You are ALWAYS teaching confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy. If you choose to ignore this, then you are choosing to ignore our own success, too”.