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Self-Efficacy in the ELL Classroom

  • Self-Efficacy in the ELL Classroom

The following blog post was written by Patricia Penner, a faculty member at the Centre for Excellence in Immigrant and Intercultural Advancement. This blog post is part of our Conference Reflection blog series. The blog series is an opportunity for Centre faculty to share a key finding or teaching technique learned at a conference.  

My biggest take-away from the TESL Canada Conference was the idea of something referred to as self-efficacy.

The first presentation I attended was called Teaching EAP (English for Academic Purposes) Students Academic Behaviors. Self-efficacy was one of the suggested behaviors that should be promoted and fostered in the learners. This collocation was mentioned in other presentations, not as the topic but as something that should be evident for success. Indeed, it sounded like a good idea, but I was not sure what it meant. I know what efficacy means, and I teach vocabulary building by the addition of affixes. Therefore, I should be able to infer the meaning of this construction. However, like many other word combinations, the meaning goes a little deeper.

Self-efficacy has been described as ‘believing that one’s attitudes and actions can produce the desired result.’ Suggestions for cultivating this behavior in learners include:

  • providing challenges
  • teaching learning strategies
  • frequent, focused feedback
  • goal-setting
  • strong encouragement

So, what sounds to me like an intellectual label describing an outcome, actually has more to do with the on-going process of achieving success. Giving this process a name has helped me to give more attention to the development of this attribute along with the English proficiency skills that I teach.

I am currently teaching in an EAP environment, but I have had the privilege of substitute teaching in most of the ELL programs at Bow Valley College. It is very gratifying to recognize that in these programs, the concept of self-efficacy is incorporated into the lessons in whatever way would be applicable for the level. We are doing the right things! Supporting our learners' success in language skills and also promoting self-confidence along the way is challenging. However, the reward for success goes not only to the learners, but also to us as the teachers of English and promoters of self-efficacy.