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24th February 2019

Strengthen Self-Efficacy: Difficult Victories

Strengthen Self-Efficacy: Difficult Victories

This is strategy #6 from Dr Lee’s book, ‘Internal Drive Theory’. If you haven’t read the first five strategies, start here.

First of all, Dr Lee defines self-efficacy as a belief one has about one’s capability to perform. Not to be confused with self-esteem, which is a sense of self-worth.

Self-efficacy is very specific and we would be talking about self-efficacy in school, specifically towards academic studies like Chemistry. E.g. i have low self-efficacy about my ability to bake a cake. But i have high self-efficacy about my ability to teach ‘A’ level JC H2 Chemistry. I feel confident that i can help students to overcome their challenges in studying Chemistry.

A quote from motivation researcher, Prof Gary P. Latham, “Given the same low level of performance, people with high self-efficacy exert effort and persist until they have mastered the task, whereas those with low self-efficacy view their poor performance as a reason to abandon their goal.”

Learning new things is always tough, so we need to inculcate high self-efficacy in our students/child to press on. There are three ways to develop high self-efficacy:

  1. When others believe you can (Tutors can fill this role)
  2. You observe a role model who could (One of the more diligent classmates could fill this role)
  3. Experience your own Difficult Victories (most effective way, personal breakthough. One example is the fire-walk done during Tony Robbin’s seminars)

Challenges in providing Difficult Victories

  1. Parents/Teachers rush in to help – As a parent and teacher, i know that it’s sometimes better to let the child/student struggle with the problem. To wait for them to answer the question rather than giving them the answer. But we are impatient.
  2. Parents/Teachers fear failure will cause the child/student to give up. So we set our expectation too low, set the test to easy.
  3. Parents/Teacher live vicariously through their child/students. Naturally we want to see them succeed, not fail. We need to allow them to taste failures (where there is no serious consequence). So that they will experience the exhilaration of overcoming a difficult task.

How to provide Difficult Victories 

  1. Set the difficulty to be a stretch for them. More than what they can comfortably achieve. (Difficult as Schools will need to answer if the failure rate is high)
  2. Help just enough, so that they own the success process. (Try not to spoon feed them too much)
  3. Scaffold the process and set them up to succeed. (One of my teaching strategy is to tell them what i will test them later on)
  4. Prevent them from giving up, by using the previous five strategies. (Emotional Connection and Rapport is vital here)

It is particularly difficult if i may add, at A level Chemistry. The student fails every SINGLE tests and exams even after working diligently. This is very different from O level Chemistry where drilling will get you across. Drilling at A level H2 Chemistry will only work for basic questions, not so much for application questions. So tutors will have to make sure that they actually understand the concept rather than memorizing the model answers.

That’s all for Strategy #6 Strengthen Self-Efficacy: Difficult Victories. Hope you learned something from this article 🙂

Go to strategy #7!

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