22 SES 04 B, Academic Careers
As noted by Fives and Looney (2008, p. 182), “very few studies have investigated the influence of teacher-efficacy in the population of college-level instructors”. The research that has been conducted has tended to focus on the relationship between and among teaching, research, and service self-efficacy and these relationships have been examined using quantitative methods (Hemmings et al. 2012; Sharp et al. 2013). The study reported below makes a contribution to knowledge by using a qualitative approach and looking at teaching self-efficacy (defined as a belief in capability to execute teaching-related tasks) from the viewpoint of early career academics (ECAs). In particular, the study considers how those new to the academy strengthen their self-efficacy for teaching. The study also has a practical orientation in that it focuses on the lessons learnt from the research, and how these lessons could be incorporated into professional learning programs designed especially for those transitioning to academe.
The study is underpinned by social cognition theory. According to Bandura (2001), this theory focuses on the interactions among personal factors, behaviours, and the environment and stresses that individuals are “self-organizing, proactive, self-regulating, and self-reflecting” (Skaalvik & Skaalvik 2007, p. 611). A key feature of the theory is self-efficacy; a latent trait that cannot be measured directly but which has had a profound influence on the study of human action (Bailey 1999).
Sources of self-efficacy come from enactive mastery, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion from others, and emotional arousal (Bandura 1982). The mastery of a specific task builds self-efficacy and failure to complete a task brings about a weakening in self-efficacy. Mastery learning is seen as the most potent source of self-efficacy (Zimmerman 2000). Vicarious experience or modelled performance is another factor known to influence self-efficacy (Gist 1987). For example, observing a person being rewarded for accomplishing a task could influence the self-efficacy of the observer. Positive verbal persuasion can also encourage an individual to attempt a task and therefore affect self-efficacy. This occurs if the person offering the advice is viewed as an expert on that task (Bandura 1982). The fourth and final source of self-efficacy is emotional (or physiological) arousal. How an individual interprets his or her physiological signs influences self-efficacy (Bandura 1997). To exemplify, an individual could interpret a stomach ache as a stress reaction and therefore avoid finishing a task. Such an interpretation could undermine self-efficacy.
Experience appears to be the common source of self-efficacy in relation to teaching, especially early experiences accrued while performing teaching tasks (Major & Dolly 2003). As concluded by Woolfolk Hoy (2004), if feedback gained from these experiences, mostly drawn from student evaluations, is positive then neophyte teachers (including lecturers) are better able to manage and cope with setbacks during the early career stage. Teaching in a higher education context, compared with the elementary and high school level, can lead to different experiences because of greater lecturer autonomy and more isolating conditions (Fives & Looney 2008) thus affecting self-efficacy levels. However, lecturers in this setting typically repeat teaching tasks such as the delivery of a tutorial or providing advice during a student consultation session. Such repetition can arguably result in the mastery of tasks and therefore a strengthening of self-efficacy.
Bailey, J. G. (1999). Academics’ motivation and self-efficacy for teaching and research. Higher Education Research & Development, doi: 10.1080/0729436990180305. Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American Psychologist, doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.37.2.122 Bandura, A. (1997). The exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman. Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentive perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 1-26. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, doi: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa Fives, H., & Looney, L. (2008). College instructors’ sense of teaching and collective efficacy. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(2), 182-191. Gist, M. E. (1987). Self-efficacy: Implications for organizational behavior and human resource management. The Academy of Management Review, doi:10.5465/AMR.1987.4306562 Hemmings, B., Kay, R., Sharp, J., & Taylor, C. (2012) A trans-national comparison of lecturer self-efficacy. Journal of Further and Higher Education, doi: 10.1080/0309877X.2011.614932 Major, C. H., & Dolly, J. P. (2003). The importance of graduate program experiences to faculty self-efficacy for academic tasks. The Journal of Faculty Development, 19(2), 89-100. Sharp, J. G., Hemmings, B., Kay, R., & Callinan, C. (2013). An application of the revised ‘Lecturer Self-efficacy Questionnaire’: An evidence-based route for transformational change. Journal of Further and Higher Education, doi: 10.1080/0309877X.2011.645596 Skaalvik, E. M. & Skaalvik, S. (2007). Dimensions of teacher self-efficacy and relations with strain factors, perceived collective teacher efficacy, and teacher burnout. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(3), 611-625. Soodak, L., & Podell, D. (1997). Efficacy and experience: Perceptions of efficacy among preservice and practicing teachers. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 30, 214-221. Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2004). Self-efficacy in college teaching. Essays on Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the Academy, 15(7), 1-2. Zimmerman, B. J. (2000). Self-efficacy: An essential motive to learn. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 82-91.
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