Handbook of Writing Research

By Charles A. MacArthur; Steve Graham et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
Self-Efficacy Beliefs and Motivation
in Writing Development

Frank Pajares and Gio Valiante

Researchers who have investigated the field of composition have historically focused on the skills and abilities that writers bring to this critical craft, as well as the instructional practices that teachers use to increase the skills and foster the abilities of their students. These efforts have primarily been aimed at understanding the thought processes underlying the compositions of students. As Hull and Rose (1989) observed, however, the more that was learned about the relationship between students' cognitive abilities and the manner in which they engaged text, the more complex the relationship seemed to be. One effort to address this complexity has focused on the self-beliefs that underlie student motivation in writing. Findings from this avenue of inquiry have led researchers to suggest that students' beliefs about their own writing processes and competence are instrumental to their ultimate success as writers.

Author Erica Jong is credited with the insightful aphorism, "How can I know what I think unless I see what I write." Writing is not only a process of making meaning but also an activity through which individuals engage in self-understanding. Consequently, it is not surprising that researchers in the field of composition should find themselves exploring students' self-processes. After all, it is through introspection and self-reflection that meaning is constructed. The assumption that self-knowledge is inextricably connected to human competencies is now so taken for granted that it is a central tenet of most modern theories and views of human cognition, motivation, and behavior. Similarly, the idea that students' self-beliefs play a critical role in their academic success is so widely accepted that self-constructs are a regular staple in studies of academic competence in all areas. This focus on students' self-beliefs as a principal component of academic motivation is grounded on the taken-for-granted assumption that the beliefs that students create, develop, and hold to be true about themselves are vital forces in their success or failure in school.

In this chapter, we examine the contribution made by research on motivation and self-beliefs about writing to the study of writing in academic settings. We focus on students' self-perceptions of their own writing competence, or writing self-efficacy beliefs. First we provide a brief overview of the self-efficacy component of social cognitive theory, followed by a description of the manner in which these beliefs are typically operationalized and assessed. This is followed by a synthesis of research findings that address the relationship between writing selfefficacy, other motivation constructs related to writing, and writing outcomes in academic settings. These findings demonstrate

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