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Self-efficacy

Beyond changing attitudes toward the technology, technology interventions and trainings can also help change attitudes toward the self. A popular concept in the field of psychology and an important component in social cognitive theory is that of self-efficacy. Bandura (1982), the conceptual developer, explained:

Knowledge, transformational operations, and component skills are necessary but insufficient for accomplished performances. Indeed, people often do not behave optimally, even though they know full well what to do. This is because self-referent thought also mediates the relationship between knowledge and action. The issues addressed in this line of inquiry are concerned with how people judge their capabilities and how, through their selfpercepts of efficacy, they affect their motivation and behavior (p. 122).

Put another way, self-efficacy can be defined as an individual's selfevaluation in the ability to achieve certain goals or how much an individual "believes in" himself or herself. Although similar to both self-esteem and confidence, self-efficacy is distinct from these constructs. Self-esteem tends to be tied to self-worth, and thus perceived ability to achieve a goal may not contribute to self-esteem if the goal is not an important one. An example is an older adult who is learning to use a new appliance, such as a new stove. If the older adult is having trouble learning to set the timer or clock, he or she may have low self-efficacy (due to a perceived inability to master the technique) but not low self-esteem (if the task of setting the clock or timer is unimportant to him or her because he or she does not really need the clock or timer). Confidence, in contrast, typically refers to the strength an individual has in believing in himself or herself but may not specifically refer to belief in accomplishing a goal (i.e., an older adult trying to use a new stove may be confident in success or failure). Therefore, self-efficacy incorporates aspects of both self-esteem and confidence.

A study examining how self-efficacy, computer knowledge, and computer anxiety could contribute to overall feelings of life satisfaction in older adults living in private residences in the Southern part of Florida was conducted by Karavidas, Lim, and Katsikas (2005). The results of the study indicate that technology use can positively impact self-efficacy; thus, it can be assumed that a successful technology intervention that increases technology skill would also increase self-efficacy. Indeed, studies have shown this and found a relationship between time spent online and computer self-efficacy among older adults in assisted and independent living communities who had participated in a training course to learn about computers and how to surf the Web.

Self-efficacy was not directly measured in our study survey instrument; however, the survey data suggested that the technology intervention did have a positive impact on self-efficacy. To illustrate, there was a general increase among study participants in feelings that they were able to "make the computer do what they wanted to." This can be interpreted that, with regard to computer use, participants were more confident in their ability to successfully operate a computer as a result of the training. Moreover, there was a significant change between the initial preintervention and the postintervention surveys in response to survey questions and statements regarding limitations associated with technology use. As an example, fewer participants in our study indicated that computers and the Internet were "too hard to use" after completion of the technology classes, showing that the respondents perceived fewer obstacles and could overcome barriers to use (see Figure 5.4).

In addition to the quantitative findings from our survey data, there were informative findings in our qualitative data taken from field notes, focus groups, and so on. We found numerous instances where participants verbally indicated that their belief in themselves improved over the course of the study. Whether they were new to learning how to use a computer and were starting from scratch or were experienced users who were taking the class as a way to brush up on their skills

Changes in perceived limitations to using computers and the Internet. (From Berkowsky, R.W. et al. Educational Gerontology, 39, 797-811, 2013.)

Figure 5.4 Changes in perceived limitations to using computers and the Internet. (From Berkowsky, R.W. et al. Educational Gerontology, 39, 797-811, 2013.)

or learn about a new procedure or application, the participants mostly came away from the interventions with a sense of accomplishment in what they had done and what they could do in the future. Comments included the following:

You brought me into the twenty-first century. I became more knowledgeable on the computer after 11 years of having it sit there. I have shocked some people by sending [email] (Ms. T., focus group participant).

 
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