Self-Efficacy, Self-Esteem and Their Impact on Academic Performance

Article excerpt

This study investigated relationships between self-efficacy, self-esteem, previous performance accomplishments, and academic performance among a sample of 205 postgraduate students. Participants completed measures of past performance accomplishments, self-esteem, and self-efficacy at the start of a 15-week course. Each student's average grade from modules studied was used as the performance measure. Correlation results indicated significant relationships between self-efficacy and self-esteem. Multiple regression results indicated that self-efficacy mediated the relationship between performance accomplishments and academic performance. Findings lend support to the predictive effectiveness of self-efficacy measures in academic settings.

Self-efficacy can be defined as the levels of confidence individuals have in their ability to execute certain courses of action, or achieve specific outcomes (Bandura, 1977, 1982, 1997). Efficacy expectations are said to influence initiating behaviors, and the degree of persistence applied in overcoming difficulties encountered in the pursuit of accomplishing a task or tasks (Bandura, 1997). The positive links between self-efficacy and performance are widely reported and much research has been carried out in a range of different settings (Manstead & Van-Eekelen, 1998; Newby-Fraser & Schlebusch, 1998; Pajares, 1996; Sadri & Robertson, 1993; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998; Vrugt, Langereis, & Hoogstraten, 1997; Wolters & Pintrich, 1998) although a number of conditions appear to influence the effect size.

According to Bandura (1997), the conditions that tend to maximize the size effect include: the knowledge of the task to be performed, a short time lag between self-efficacy ratings and task performance and self-efficacy measures and performance that lie in the same behavioral domain (see Pajares, 1996). Specific tasks rather than general tasks also produce greater size of effect. Task complexity and complex tasks involving heavy demands on knowledge, cognitive ability and persistence present particular challenges for accurate self-efficacy estimates (Bandura, 1997), and therefore tend to lead to a weaker effect size (see Lane & Lane, 2001).

The ideal conditions that maximize the self-efficacy and performance relationship are unlikely to exist in real-world settings where many decisions are made about complex issues, with relatively unclear knowledge of the tasks to be performed (Lent & Hackett, 1987). In academic settings where students are asked to provide self-efficacy judgments about their performance in subjects that are new to them (i.e., at the start of a module or a new course), efficacy expectations would seem to be based on the ability to learn, or on other competences generalized from past educational performance (Schunk, Hanson, & Cox, 1987; Zimmerman, Bandura, & Martinez-Pons, 1992), rather than on knowledge of the task. In their meta-analysis of 36 studies, Multon, Brown, and Lent (1991) found significant relationships in studies where self-efficacy measures were domain specific rather than task specific.

Recent research further supports such relationships. For example, in a study involving 76 postgraduate students, Lane and Lane (2001) found that self-efficacy to cope with the "intellectual demands of the program" predicted 11.5% of the variance in performance in what was a complex task some 13 weeks after self-efficacy measures were taken. In a similar study, Lane, Lane and Cockerton (2003) found that self-efficacy to "pass exams/assignments first time" significantly correlated (r = .24) with mean performance over 12 modules with a 24-week time period between when self-efficacy measures were assessed and performance.

Given the predictive effectiveness of self-efficacy in real-world settings, knowledge of the sources of self-efficacy could facilitate the design of interventions to raise performance through increasing self-efficacy. …