ERIC Identifier: ED429187
Publication Date: 1999-00-00
Author: Brown, Bettina Lankard
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Self-Efficacy Beliefs and Career Development. ERIC Digest No.
Strategic interventions are required to keep young people who are
disadvantaged because of poverty, cultural obstacles, or linguistic barriers
from dropping out of school. Recent studies showing a relationship between a
student's belief structure and behavior suggest that self-efficacy beliefs may
be an important focus for intervention.
This ERIC Digest discusses ways in which self-efficacy beliefs are influenced
by various internal, external, and interactive factors and reflected in
career-related outcome expectations and performance. It examines ways of
channeling self-efficacy beliefs toward positive outcomes that lead to the
development and expansion of career goals and expectations. It presents
strategies for enhancing the self-efficacy and career development of students
that draw upon contextual, problem-based, and community-based learning practices
and promotes self-monitoring and self-assessment.
BELIEFS AND PERCEPTIONS
According to Bandura (1977),
self-efficacy is mediated by a person's beliefs or expectations about his/her
capacity to accomplish certain tasks successfully or demonstrate certain
behaviors (Hackett and Betz 1981). Bandura postulates that these expectations
determine whether or not a certain behavior or performance will be attempted,
the amount of effort the individual will contribute to the behavior, and how
long the behavior will be sustained when obstacles are encountered (ibid.).
Self-efficacy expectations, when viewed in relation to careers, refer to a
person's beliefs regarding "career-related behaviors, educational and
occupational choice, and performance and persistence in the implementation of
those choices" (Betz and Hackett 1997, p. 383). They are reflected in an
individual's perception about his/her ability to perform a given task or
behavior (efficacy expectation) and his/her belief about the consequences of
behavior or performance (outcome expectation)(Hackett and Betz 1981).
The Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) developed by Lent, Hackett, and
Brown (1996) draws upon Bandura's self-efficacy theory. It offers a framework
for career development, explaining the interplay between educational and
vocational interests, career-related choices, and performance. SCCT highlights
the relationship among social cognitive variables (e.g., self-efficacy) and
their relationship with other variables in the individual's socio-contextual
environment, such as gender, race/culture, family, community, and political
components (ibid.). Chen (1997) contends that this integration of self and
social context offers an opportunity for individuals to gain a sense of control
over their career development and increase their career-related self-efficacy
SELF-EFFICACY AND LEARNING
When individuals have low
self-efficacy expectations regarding their behavior, they limit the extent to
which they participate in an endeavor and are more apt to give up at the first
sign of difficulty. Their efficacy beliefs serve as barriers to their career
development. Low self-efficacy beliefs of women are thought to reflect the
limited and disadvantaged position women have in the workplace and the limited
range of career options presented to them (Hackett and Betz 1981).
Bandura (1997) identifies four ways in which self-efficacy is learned and
self-efficacy expectations are acquired: performance accomplishments, vicarious
learning, verbal persuasion, and physical/affective status.
Performance Accomplishments. The manner in which accomplishments are received
has an influence on an individual's self-efficacy expectations and actions. In
the classroom, for example, poor grades and other negative assessments of
ability can lower self-efficacy beliefs. In the social environment, job
discrimination, racism, prejudice, and sexism can do likewise. Whether such
experiences reinforce or promote low levels of self-efficacy depends upon the
individual's perceptions and whether or not the barriers are overcome (Swanson
and Woitke 1997). Stitt-Gohdes (1997) notes, for example, that the way African
American girls and women perceive barriers influences in part their ability to
predict how the environment will respond to their behavior or performance in a
Vicarious Learning. Beliefs are often acquired through observation and
interpretation. In observing the modeling behavior of others, the learner is
able to reflect on past experiences with such behavior and make meaning of its
relevance in a new situation. When the modeling reflects economic, gender,
cultural, or social class limitations--e.g., lack of nontraditional occupational
choices--students' career interests (and perceived options) are limited.
Verbal Persuasion. Beliefs about self are influenced by the messages conveyed
by others. Encouragement supports career-related self-efficacy, criticism
hampers it. Families, friends, and teachers who have their own agendas, may
inadvertently (or even overtly) limit the educational and vocational progression
by discouraging certain occupational interests, choices, and engagement.
Physical/Affective Status. Stress and anxiety have a negative effect on
self-efficacy as well as learning. "The brain learns optimally when
appropriately challenged, but downshifts under perceived threat" (Caine and
Caine 1990, p. 68). It functions best in a supportive environment. Therefore,
conditions that cause conflict may portend low levels of self-efficacy and
result in low participation and outcome expectations.
An examination of these four variables and
their influence on self-efficacy expectations suggests that efficacy-based
interventions must increase the range of students' experiences and promote the
personal and contextual factors that lead to high levels of self-efficacy.
Following are some strategies for helping students develop positive
self-efficacy expectations and outcomes that are connected to occupational
interests, linked to career-related goals, translated into action, reflected in
skill development, and realized through proper coaching and mentoring.
CAREER DEVELOPMENT PRACTICES
Contextual Learning. Weinbaum
and Rogers (1995) describe contextual learning as a process by which "knowledge
is socially shared, thinking is shaped by engagement with tools, learning is
engaged with objects and events, and learning is situation specific" (p. 5). The
emphasis is on application of knowledge and skills in the context of real-life
experiences, problems, and events (Brown 1998). Learning occurs as students
attempt to make sense of the situations with which they are presented and
develop strategies for confronting barriers typically encountered in the
workplace to arrive at a course of action that they can test for viability.
Teamwork, negotiation, leadership, and conflict resolution are encouraged.
Problem-based Learning. Connecting learning to its application in the
workplace is the goal of problem-based learning (PBL) activities. PBL engages
the student in investigating a problem situation for which there is no right or
wrong answer. The situation raises concepts and principles relevant to the
subject matter that reflect real-life issues of the students' world. PBL
requires observation, investigation, solution building, and resolution by
students who "own the problem" and who must formulate their own solutions. The
ill-structured problems offers students opportunities to test their skills and
confront the internal and external barriers they may perceive as limiting their
successful achievement of a goal or objective.
The instructor's role in problem-based learning is that of coach and
facilitator. As such, the instructor may model a behavior, demonstrate a
procedure, or role play a situation to help students understand a concept, but
gradually reduces assistance and transfers the learning responsibility to the
student. Observation responses, performance reviews, and other feedback should
be given in a way that offers encouragement to the student. Deficiencies should
be presented as avenues for improvement and as a natural part of the learning
process. Brophy (1998) suggests the following strategies for helping students
improve self-efficacy beliefs (p. 2):
more as resource persons than as judges.
more on learning processes than on outcomes.
to errors as natural and useful parts of the learning process rather than as
evidence of failure.
effort over ability and personal standards over normative standards when giving
to stimulate achievement efforts through primarily intrinsic rather than
extrinsic motivational strategies.
Community-based Learning. Community-based learning experiences are also forms
of contextual learning. Examples include project-based workplace learning,
apprenticeships, and school-directed worksite learning. Community-based learning
experiences connect school work to career goals by involving students in solving
the real-world problems of the business community. Kallick and Leibowitz (1998)
present six criteria that characterize worksite learning:
Learning goals are established through the agreement of students, teachers, and
Projects focus on real-world problems that are of relevance to students and
community, and require effort and persistence over time.
Students receive coaching and advice from teachers, employers, and community
partners; they use the tools and follow practices of experts in the field.
Students develop an awareness of the educational requirements of an occupation
and of career opportunities in the occupational area.
Learning involves the interdisciplinary process of inquiry, investigation,
hypothesizing, articulation, collaboration, negotiation, practice, and
Achievement is demonstrated through multiple types of assessment.
SELF-MONITORING AND SELF-ASSESSMENT
problem-based, and community-based learning practices provide opportunities for
students to apply knowledge and skills in the same way they are used in the real
world; however, their contribution to self-efficacy is embedded in reflection.
Self-assessment, peer reviews, performance checklists, journal writing, and
portfolio assessments offer students opportunities to make meaning of what they
have learned and enhance their career development. The goal of assessment is
empowerment. Portfolios that contain students' selected works, for example,
allow students to reflect on their performances, compare current with prior
work, and recognize their potential for continued growth. Feedback that is
directed to a student's progress rather than to a comparison with other
classmates' work offers guidance for future learning rather than discouragement
by emphasizing inadequacies.
The discussion and strategies presented in this
Digest can be applied to all students. However, students who must overcome the
internal and external barriers to self-efficacy because of poverty, cultural
obstacles, or linguistic barriers are especially in need of positive learning
experiences that guide them in overcoming real or perceived barriers to career
development. These learning experiences must integrate school-based learning
with the real-life conditions of their existence, because these are the
conditions that predispose students' career success. Additional information on
new teaching and learning practices that contribute to this end are provided by
Bandura, A. "Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying
Theory of Behavioral Change." PSYCHOLOGICAL REVIEW 84 (1977): 191-215.
Bandura, A. SELF-EFFICACY: THE EXERCISE OF CONTROL. New York: Freeman, 1997.
Betz, N. E., and Hackett, G. "Applications of Self-Efficacy Theory to the
Career Assessment of Women." JOURNAL OF CAREER ASSESSMENT 5, no. 4 (Fall 1997):
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Brown, B. L. APPLYING CONSTRUCTIVISM IN VOCATIONAL AND CAREER EDUCATION.
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Caine, R.N., and Caine, G. "Understanding a Brain-Based Approach to Learning
and Teaching." EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 48, no. 2 (October 1990): 66-70.
Chen, C. P. "Career Projection: Narrative in Context." JOURNAL OF VOCATIONAL
EDUCATION AND TRAINING 49, no. 2 (1997): 311-326.
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of Women." JOURNAL OF VOCATIONAL BEHAVIOR 18, no. 3 (June 1981): 326-39.
Kallick, B., and Leibowitz, M. PROJECT-BASED LEARNING: DESIGNING FOR
AUTHENTIC CLASSROOMS. Workshop materials, August 5-7, 1998.
Lent, R. W.; Hackett, G.; and Brown, S. D. "A Social Cognitive Framework for
Studying Career Choice and Transition to Work." JOURNAL OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION
RESEARCH 21, no. 4 (1996): 3-31.
Stitt-Gohdes, W. L. CAREER DEVELOPMENT: ISSUES OF GENDER, RACE, AND CLASS.
INFORMATION SERIES NO. 371. Columbus: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and
Vocational Education, Center on Education and Training for Employment, the Ohio
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Swanson, J. L., and Woitke, M. B. "Theory into Practice in Career Assessment
for Women: Assessment and Interventions Regarding Perceived Career Barriers."
JOURNAL OF CAREER ASSESSMENT 5, no. 4 (Fall 1997): 443-462.
Weinbaum, A., and Rogers, A. M. CONTEXTUAL LEARNING: A CRITICAL ASPECT OF
SCHOOL-TO-WORK TRANSITION PROGRAMS. Washington, DC: National Institute for Work
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