What does the research say?

Much of the research into ASE is very specific, for example, investigating the impact of self-efficacy on algebra and geometry or on reading and comprehension. Research has tended, therefore, to look at performance and attainment of specific grades in particular subjects, for example, 'How confident are you that you will achieve an A in this particular task?' Despite these tasks being specific, however, research consistently finds that ASE correlates positively with academic performance. In a meta-analysis, researchers found that ASE beliefs account for up to 9 per cent of the variance in overall grade point average (GPA) of university students (Richardson, Abraham & Bond, 2012). ASE has also been found to be a key motivational variable in self- regulated learning.

As well as differences in academic outcomes, studies have found that students high in self-efficacy are more likely to actively participate in lessons, they work harder, persist longer when confronted with a difficult task and have fewer adverse emotional reactions when they encounter difficulties (a quality also seen in students displaying high levels of academic buoyancy). Students with high self-efficacy beliefs are also willing to undertake more challenging tasks, a key characteristic of a mastery goal orientation. ASE beliefs, therefore, predict both effort and persistence. They have also been found to decrease stress, anxiety and depression (see Richardson et al., 2012).

While anxiety plays an important role in academic success and buoyancy, it's worth pointing out that studies have found that performance in academically threatening situations depends more on ASE beliefs than on levels of anxiety. For example, Ross Siegel and his co-researchers found that ASE beliefs were better predictors of maths performance than maths anxiety (Siegel, Galassi & Ware, 1985).

Sources of self-efficacy

If self-efficacy is such an important component of academic buoyancy, then it's useful for teachers to understand the factors that influence it. Like similar components of learning (such as academic self-concept) ASE beliefs are fed through a number of different routes. The main routes consist of:

Past experience

Past experiences play a lesser role in self-efficacy than self-concept because the former is predominately concerned with future expectations, that is, what we expect to happen based on our self-confidence. Nevertheless, there is a relationship and the ability to achieve learning objectives in the present remains influenced by our experience of achieving them in the past. This, of course, means that failure in the past might impact beliefs in the future.

This is why many children who struggle with a particular subject or task never really become confident in their abilities to succeed. The early years are, therefore, vital to building future success.


By the age of around six, children are already comparing themselves to others, albeit in a very rudimentary way. By the time children are around nine years old, they are able to recognise the more able children in the class and place themselves into a simplistic ability hierarchy. As already stated, these beliefs are more pronounced in schools where children are placed in groups based on their perceived ability. These children are building their academic self-concept from the ground up, and placing themselves in higher or lower categories based on the perceived achievement of others. Teachers will have a role in building both academic self-concept and self-efficacy beliefs, internalised perceptions of how well the child is equipped to deal with specific tasks. However, self-efficacy beliefs are generally more likely to be self-referenced than based on a position within a wider group.


Perhaps the most obvious emotion is anxiety but we can also include other emotional states such as boredom and curiosity. If levels of curiosity are high then ASE will increase; if the child views a particular learning episode as boring, motivation can dip along with ASE (see Smith, 2017).

Mediating factors

While the above components can be seen as sources of ASE, other factors appear to mediate the role of ASE. These include:


Personality is perhaps a more problematic source of ASE than those discussed above. Personality traits have been found to have a mediating influence, most notably conscientiousness and emotional stability (see Chapter 4).

Goal orientation

Previous research has identified a number of goal orientations (see Smith, 2017 Chapter 2 for a comprehensive discussion of mastery and performance orientations). Student who adopt a mastery goal orientation engage in tasks with the desire to become expert in them. Mastery goal learners are more likely to persist for longer and choose activities that challenge. On the other hand, students displaying a performance goal orientation concern themselves with appearing intelligent in front of their peers. They tend to avoid failure by avoiding challenge and, while enthusiastic when tasks are easy, abandon them quickly when they become more challenging. A mastery goal orientation has been found to play a mediating role in ASE, that is, when ASE encourages a mastery goal orientation, levels of achievement rise. However, this relationship might be reciprocal in nature.

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