Why It's Critical to Measure Student Self-Efficacy

Why It's Critical to Measure Student Self-Efficacy
Why It's Critical to Measure Student Self-Efficacy

Academic Leadership

Every school must create a mission statement—what it hopes to achieve as an institution and how it plans to shape future generations. Mission statements vary from preparing students for college and the workforce to creating well-rounded and curious citizens and learners. There are indicators of success that typically involve test scores, graduation rates, Admission rates, GPAs, and similar metrics.

But are you looking at the right data to determine if you’re fulfilling what you promised in your mission statements? Does a student’s high GPA really indicate you’ve developed a lifelong learner? Research says no—pointing to a critical missing piece, self-efficacy. Let’s dive into why your school must measure this key trait to understand student progress and redefine success.

Rethink the Purpose and Metrics of School Success

The pandemic has forced us to ask, “Why are we even here (virtually or in-person)?” and to examine the true significance behind the concept of school. This shift in thinking may lead you to focus on building lifelong learners, responsible and educated citizens, and emotionally intelligent leaders.

However, many schools have long prioritized other indicators of achievement that may not correlate with long-term success. Let’s explore three of them.

Standardized Testing

There aren’t significant flaws in standardized testing systems. Research simply doesn’t show any correlation between test scores and college performance.

In addition, when researchers controlled for variables such as socioeconomic status, public schools surpassed private schools. Testing isn’t showing preparation for the “real world,” but a snapshot on a single day in time, when a student could have been tired, rushing, or unmotivated to take a test.

Grades

Have you overheard your faculty members discussing who “grades harder”? Not only are grades inconsistent among teachers, but also across subject areas, schools, and class levels. If you are using grades as an indicator of success, consider an anecdote in “Most likely to succeed: Preparing our kids for the innovation era” by Wagner and Dintersmith. They examined a class with a B+ average on end-of-term exams—then, the same students took the same test after the summer break and averaged an F on the second test. Grades don’t show evidence of conceptual and lifelong learning, but short-term retention.

Strength of Schedule

Counting college prep, honors, and Advanced Placement (AP) courses to examine academic “difficulty” leaves out the key factor of why kids enrolled in those classes. You may need to examine how student schedules affect grades.

  • Did they miss the prerequisite class grade cut off by a few percentage points?
  • Did scheduling conflicts prevent them from taking a prerequisite course?
  • Does “honors” at one school mean the same as it does at other schools?

The Real Predictor of Success—Self-Efficacy

Not to be confused with self-esteem, self-efficacy refers to a student’s ability to navigate challenging situations to achieve desired performance levels—specifically in academic settings. Self-efficacy is twice as predictive as SAT scores in indicating success.

Students with high self-efficacy:

  • work harder;
  • persevere when faced with adversity;
  • have greater optimism;
  • experience lower anxiety levels; and
  • achieve more.

Here are four ways self-efficacy helps to improve student success.

#1—Encourages Problem-Solving Skills

One of the best ways for students to gain self-efficacy is to experience a “struggle” and then work through it to find success. Teachers can create problematic situations—whether academic or social—and then guide their students to develop ways to succeed, empowering them through analyzing their experiences.

#2—Focuses on Social Modeling

Social modeling is a form of positive peer pressure—watching others experience success in an academic area helps students believe they can, too. Let them see student-run assemblies, use buddy programs, encourage participating in the performing arts—and model adaptive thoughts and behaviors.


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#3—Builds Relationships

Teachers who are trusted and respected by their students have the power to build self-efficacy through genuine encouragement. Hire teachers who build these types of relationships.

You may even go a step further and create relationship-building opportunities, such as longer advisory times.

#4—Teaches Self-Reflection

Build in a few minutes of reflection about the day as an “final class of the day” exercise. During the final class period of your day, encourage your teachers to take time to guide their students through self-reflection about what worked (and what didn’t)—troubleshooting ways to handle negative situations.

This practice of optimistically reflecting and reframing promotes self-efficacy.

Focusing on measuring self-efficacy helps school leaders examine where time is being spent and transition to a schedule that nurtures and measures student success more effectively. Through these practices, you can get back to the meaning of your mission statement.

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