There are four main types of experiences that develop and influence our self-efficacy:

  1. mastery experiences or performance outcomes
  2. vicarious experiences or watching other people perform
  3. verbal persuasion: encouragement and discouragement
  4. physiological feedback: how we respond emotionally to the sensations we’re experiencing

Through the confluence of these sources our self-efficacy grows or diminishes. These sources are not hierarchical and one or more of them can influence a studentā€™s self-efficacy simultaneously.

Mastery experiences

Mastery experiences are the experiences we acquire when we succeed or fail in a particular situation. These types of experiences have the biggest impact on our self-efficacy.

According to Bandura (1997, p. 80), “Mastery experiences are the most influential source of efficacy information because they provide the most authentic evidence of whether one can muster whatever it takes to succeed. Success builds a robust belief in one’s personal efficacy. Failures undermine it, especially if failures occur before a sense of efficacy is firmly established.” Once a healthy sense of efficacy has been built through repeated success, occasional failures will affect a person less.

Easily achieving successes with little effort and perseverance can result in people expecting speedy results, and then when they do not do as well in a given situation, they can be easily disheartened by this ā€˜failureā€™.

A child who does not learn how to cope and move on from a let-down and who does not learn how to persevere through challenges, will have less favourable circumstances to develop his or her self-efficacy.


  1. Have you and/or your students experienced expecting speedy results based on past performance and then feeling discouraged when tasks became more challenging?
  2. If failing at a performance is one of the most potent sources of self-efficacy information, how can we help our students think differently about not succeeding at every task the first time?

Vicarious experiences

Vicarious experiences can positively affect self-efficacy. When we see others successfully perform, it can help usĀ  believe that we can improve and achieve success through persistence and hard work; if others can do it, then we can too. Conversely, witnessing others fail who tried really hard, negatively affects our efficacy-beliefs.

The influence of vicarious experiences on oneā€™s self-efficacy depends on a number of factors:

  • Ā the similarity of the other person
  • the perceived reputation of the other person
  • the similarity in the task and challenges
  • the environment in which the performance takes place,
  • the difficulty of the task
The more alike a child feels to the observed social role model, the more influence the modelā€™s successes or failures will have on the childā€™s self-efficacy beliefs.

How might this idea connect to issues of representation in history, school texts, and popular culture?

Verbal persuasion

Verbal persuasion refers to statements about what others believe we are or are not capable of and whether those around us are encouraging or discouraging us. Children are sensitive to what they from they hear from their teachers, parents, coaches, and friends.


The effectiveness of verbal persuasion is affected by the expertness, trustworthiness, and the attractiveness of the one giving feedback or coaching.
The given feedback must be meaningful and must specifically include the childā€™s strengths.

Can you think of any experiences where you and/or someone else received encouragement but it did not affect your self-efficacy?

Choose at least one of the statementsĀ  above and write or discuss the ways that verbal persuasion can be used effectively in the classroom setting.

Physiological and emotional states or psychological responses

Peopleā€™s moods, emotions, physical and stress reactions influence their self-efficacy beliefs.

Physiological and emotional states affect our sense of self-efficacy and we may start to link unsuccessful performances or perceived failures to unpleasant feelings. Children who view stress and anxiety as signs of their inabilities are likely to have low self-efficacy.

The physical and emotional reactions themselves are not as importantĀ  as how we process and interpret them.
How can we help students process and interpret their bodies’ stress reactions and negative emotions so that they don’t negatively affect their self-efficacy?

And one more: Imaginal experiences

Imaginal experiences or visualization involves people using their imagination to visualize themselves performing successfully or unsuccessfully in a future situation. According to Lopez-Garrido (2020, para. 24), an imaginal experience, ā€œis basically someone attempting to portray their goals as achievable.ā€

What effect do you think visualization might have on our self-efficacy? Where would you rank in the sources of self-efficacy?




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Inclusive Perspectives in Primary Education Copyright © 2021 by room305 and Inclusive Education Class 2020-2021 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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