Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Self-Efficacy in Second/Foreign Language Learning Contexts

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Self-Efficacy in Second/Foreign Language Learning Contexts

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study reviews the empirical literature of self-efficacy, a central component of social cognitive theory, in the area of second language learning by focusing on two research questions: first, to what extent, has self-efficacy, as a predicting variable, has been explored in the field of second language learning? Second, what factors affect learners' self-efficacy beliefs in learning a foreign/second language? On addressing the research questions, 32 articles published between 2003 and 2012 were selected. The articles were classified into two main categories - effects of self-efficacy and factors affecting self-efficacy. Then each category was divided into certain subcategories for discussion. The findings of the review revealed that several factors enhance the level of students' self-efficacy, and self-efficacy is a strong predictor of performance in different language skills and tasks. Limitations of the empirical studies discussed and directions for further investigation are also presented.

Keywords: self-efficacy, a foreign language learner, language learning context

1. Introduction

There is a considerable body of research on individual differences in the area of foreign language learning. Individual differences encompass a wide scope of domains including, personality traits, learning styles, learners' beliefs, strategies, aptitude, age, motivation. Research indicates that individual differences predict success in language learning. Individuals learning a foreign language have a lot of differences in their rate of learning and the ways they follow to develop their skills (Dörnyei, 2005; Dörnyei & Skehan, 2003; Sawyer & Ranta, 2001).

In order to understand why some learners learn language more successfully than others, with almost the same aptitude and capabilities, researchershave focused their attention on the learners' perceptions of the task (Williams & Burden, 1997), learners' beliefs in their abilities to perform a task (Bandura, 1997) and other individualdifferences such aslearning strategies (Cohen, 1998; O'Malley & Chamot, 1990; Oxford, 1990) and motivation (Dörnyei, 2001, 2005; Gardner, 2000). Although learning process is multifaceted and complicated as it involves different variables such as relevant knowledge, skills, intelligence and cognitive abilities, researchers are increasingly directing their research efforts towards the important role of learners' thoughts and beliefs in learning and education (Schunk, 2003). Self-efficacy as individuals' beliefs in their abilities to perform a task (Bandura, 1986) proves to be a principal variable in predicting learners' performance. SE appears to play a vital role in predicting learners' performance in educational contexts and it can predict performance even better than actual abilities (Bandura, 1997), oraptitude (Schunk, 1991). Apart from influencing students' learning, self-efficacy also affects motivation as it has been substantiated by a solid body of research (Pajares, 1996; Schunk, 2003).

SE is a significant component of social cognitive theory. SCT suggests reciprocal interactions among these influences: environment, behaviour, and personal factors including physiological, cognitive and affective aspects (Bandura, 1986). In this theory, human beings have the ability to affect and shape their environment rather than passively react to it. With reference to the interaction among the three forces (personal, environmental and behavioural), individuals' beliefs in their capabilities to perform a task (e.g. self-efficacy) determine the efforts and engagement they exert for the task (Bandura, 1999, Schunk 2003).

Given significant role of self-efficacy, it is seems relevant to do a comprehensive review on the role of self-efficacy in learning a second/foreign language to gain a clear understanding ofthe development of self-efficacy in learning a second/foreign language, the ways in which self-efficacy affects language learning; and how language teachers can help the learners to create positive beliefs about their abilities to learn a foreign language. …

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