The power of self-efficacy

12 August 2020

? The power of self-efficacy

Katy Mellow, a Mathematics teacher at St. Stithians Boys’ College in South Africa, won the 2020 IBSC (International Boys School Coalition) Action Research Award for completing a highly innovative action research project. The title of her project is Taking Charge: Developing Self-Efficacy in Grade 8 Boys Through a Self-Determined and Project-Based Learning Program.

As explained on the IBSC website this action research project investigated how participation in a self-determined learning program could develop self-efficacy in grade 8 boys.

? Self-efficacy means having the belief that one can alter one’s life toward a desired outcome. Such belief serves as a powerful determinant in the decisions people make and the environments they choose.

As part of the St. Stithians Boys’ College’s project-based learning program, 27 boys in Katy Mellow’s class undertook the project “Take Charge”.

In a short video on YouTube Katy Mellow explains that “agency is having the ability to take an active role in making purposeful choices and determining one’s future.” She continues by saying that developing self-efficacy is key. Self-efficacy is a set of beliefs one holds concerning one’s ability to alter one’s circumstances and future.

In her research Katy Mellow unearthed the following belief held by psychologist Albert Bandura: Unless people believe they can produce desired effects by their actions they have little incentive to act or to persevere in the face of difficulties.

This belief inspired her to create the Take Charge project, a self-determined learning programme focusing on giving her learners (Grade 8 boys at St. Stithians Boys’ College) an opportunity to deliberately and consciously own the process of teaching themselves a new skill. To own their learning the learners were given a lot of choice. Within parameters they were allowed to choose a skill they wanted to learn independently, carefully set their own achievement milestone to determine their mastery, find their own learning resources and strategies and controlled how they used the majority of their lesson time.

As part of their project the learners had to produce proof of themselves mastering their new skill, make a YouTube-style tutorial to teach their skill, teach a classmate their skill (one learner taught a classmate how to knit) and lastly participate in a public exhibition event where they engage with other learners.
One example of this was a learner who achieved his speed typing goal of 47 words per minute with an accuracy level of 97%. Another learner demonstrated how to pick a lock with paper clips and yet another one mastered and taught the intricacies of a Rubik’s Cube.

You could integrate opportunities for mastering experiences into your daily teaching too!

Listen to Katy Mellow as she explains her project and the process followed.

Read more on the project including the full report here and here.

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