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Competence in Self-Efficacy would be demonstrated by the ability to motivate yourself, persevere, and see yourself as capable. Important to know that Albert Bandura, psychologist and coiner of the term self-efficacy, outlined this strength a little more like confidence and the ability to believe that you can achieve a goal or affect an outcome. I encourage you to read more here about Bandura's work/works. 

Let's consider the word perseverance. It is one of those "buzzy" we throw out to kids like "grit" "resilience" "character" (for more about all those words see this). Of course, when we use these words what we want is to somehow activate these strengths so kids can succeed and in order to become the people they desire to be. But in actuality perseverance may require a combination of several other skills before it can be realized for a student. For example, perseverance, (interchangeable with persistence) is the strength of volunteering to continue some action toward a goal in spite of obstacles, difficulties, or discouragement. Generally perseverance is fostered by the belief that the goal will be achieved. First, kids don't volunteer to go to school, states make them. Not to suggest that kids don't like school. Most of the kids I've known like varying aspects of school, very few dislike all of it. (And for them there are deeper SEL supports.) So aside from the fact that the very essence of persistence "volunteering to commit" is not inherently fundamental for a student, there can also be a struggle that the long term planning/goal oriented parts of the brain aren't even fully developed during the time that adults are telling kids about the rewards that come during or after college. (And, BTW, though there are tremendous rewards that occur during and after college, there is certainly enough countervailing adult modeling of the fact that possibly 50% of the time, work sucks, so our messaging/modeling is a bit cloudy.) Good thing there's self-efficacy. Unpacking what feelings and thoughts are present or involved in tasks and what feelings and thoughts are involved in desired rewards (which also can be the absence of negative consequences, and schools are good at point those out!) is necessary for supporting students in understanding and utilizing self-efficacy.

Lastly, remember, self-efficacy is not self-advocacy, though being able to advocate for ones' self is a great skill and is a definite benefit to achieving a goal, self-efficacy is more about belief and endurance and effort than being able to speak up for ones' self. Below are some practices that may support you in helping your student(s) gain competence with self-efficacy.

I can visualize a healthy outcome for myself.

Practice seeing yourself as successful. You like writing? See yourself as a writer. See yourself writing. See your name and picture on the dust cover of a book. Like math? See yourself building a new space shuttle. Like making jokes? Imagine yourself driving 4 hours for a 15 minute opening slot at an empty club in Des Moines. Just kidding. See yourself making folks laugh, see yourself hosting Last Week Tonight, when Oliver moves on to prime-time. Give some time for this. Imagine yourself completing the task, turning in the paper, making the team, finishing this website, making new friends. This is an easy thing that teachers, no matter what age they teach, can give time for at least once a week. Guide the students through a visualization of seeing themselves being successful at a variety of big and small tasks.

What does a  CBA show me?

Money metaphors abound in a wide variety of thinking; "spending time", "social currency", "dough","bread", "chedda". In economics a cost benefit analysis is a tool for weighing project costs against project benefits to measure whether or not the project is worth the effort. The same is true for our behavior choices. In our SEL/money metaphor "cost" is an action or a cause and could mean anything from energy expenditure, time, effort, making shifts in thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. Similarly "benefits" can mean consequences or effects, both good and bad. Grades going up, making new friends, learning new interests, improving on an instrument, making the team, social isolation, getting grounded, losing friends, hurting others, detention, can all be represented by the term,"benefit". Providing students with opportunities to consider choices in these terms can help build the circuitry for how quickly and efficiently and fully students can do these mental calculations as they age and the personal and social stakes get higher. Going through the possible outcomes for a variety of choices is a form of visualization that can help activate self-efficacy. Also, outlining the benefits of doing something can help students recognize and achieve short-term goals. Setting and achieving short-term goals can help promote motivation, and motivation can be drawn on to help students persevere toward a long term goal.

What do I need to do to help me see me through?

For perseverance/persistence and motivation, using the CBA process may also help identify the things that are supportive from the students' perspective. Teachers frequently identify factors that could be motivation for completing an activity. Sometimes they do this by highlighting the learning goal, or, showing a connection between the activity and a practical use of the skill in an area of interest, or,  by pointing out the consequence of not doing the work. Providing students the opportunity to reflect and share supports that help them achieve activities of personal value supports individuals and groups. For individuals it provides students the opportunity to share interests that are of personal importance, which opens the space for student voice, and can help students feel seen and validated in their learning communities. It can also support the group by creating an anchor chart of strategies that work for others. This can also promote the unique culture of a class or peer group that deepens the connection and value of the social group. 


Here are a couple of common supports kids use. If thinking about LeBron helps you practice even though you're tired put a picture of him on your phone and look at it before practice. If there is a song that gets you pumped, play it or write the lyrics in your journal. If talking to a friend or trusted adult helps, make time for that and tell them that's what you need.

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