The role of self-efficacy in Family Learning

“I can’t! This is too hard! I’m never going to get it.” Most educators have heard these phrases. They’re the words of a learner who has low self-efficacy. Self-efficacy, a person’s perception of whether they are capable of success in a particular task, influences motivation, endurance and ultimately, success.

As practitioners, we value the impact of self-efficacy on the success of the families we serve. All parents want to help their children succeed–in school and in life. Many, however, believe they lack the skills and knowledge to do so. As federal law directs schools to build parent capacity for involvement in education, promoting parents’ self-efficacy in supporting their children’s learning must be a primary focus of any family-centered instructional plan.

A 2012 NCFL study examined seven high-performing Toyota Family Literacy Programs (TFLP) across the United States. In this study, we see the positive impact of TFLPs on parents’ self-efficacy. The study found that TFLP parents demonstrated increased confidence in their abilities to support their children’s learning and heightened involvement in school programming.

The multigenerational nature of learning includes the impact on self-efficacy. It should be no surprise that increased self-efficacy in TFLP parents to support learning led to improved self-efficacy in their children to learn. Children whose parents took part in one of these seven high-performing TFLPs demonstrated increased confidence and academic achievement, alongside their parents, as reported by their teachers.

How can educators target self-efficacy? Some would say it’s one element that can’t be taught. The NCFL study found that TFLP instruction did, in fact, increase self-efficacy in both parents and children. Five instructional strategies to positively impact self-efficacy are:

  • Metacognition. Teach family members to understand their own knowledge and thought processes.
  • High Expectations. Hold parents to high standards and encourage them to do the same for their children.
  • Goal-Setting. Oversee multigenerational learners as they create realistic, actionable, and measurable goals.
  • Scaffolding. Model skills and support families through opportunities for success.
  • Recognizing and Reinforcing Success. Acknowledge achievements and identify the strategies learners used to reach success.

It’s important to note that these strategies are not intended to be used in a vacuum. Rather, they build on and complement each other in successful family-centered instruction. Stay tuned as we explore each of these strategies for promoting self-efficacy in more depth.

What strategies can you add to our list? Drop them in the comments below.