When most ‘course creators’ assess the effectiveness of training programs, they only look at skills or knowledge obtained. But, there is a much more powerful, life-impacting criteria that most education providers - self-employed to entire institutions, are completely missing out.
Truly successful training programs produce more than competent students; they build efficacious people. That is, people who have strong faith in their capability to repeatedly produce desired results in that subject area. This means more than making a student good at something, it means giving them unwavering confidence in autonomously executing the competencies the training has provided.
According to Albert Bandura, a significant researcher in self-efficacy, there are four major ways that we can increase our learners’ self-efficacy:
1. Mastery Experiences
This is the most powerful efficacy influencer of all. When we experience ‘mastery’, we are learning from our own direct experiences. By creating training that allows our students to frequently taste success from their efforts, we will be increasing their motivation and efficacy in the topic.
2. Vicarious Experiences
When we watch someone else succeed, we are experiencing vicarious success. If we can see that other people are successful, it makes us feel confident that success is possible, and as such are more likely to expect to succeed in a similar situation, too.
3. Verbal Encouragement
Just as a negative comment can decrease self-efficacy, positive comments, when said with conviction, genuineness and credibility, can boost a learner’s efficacy.
4. Influencing Mood
The way you present your content can affect your learners’ self-efficacy. Excitement, enthusiasm and happiness are all contagious emotions. Pay attention to the learning environment that your own mood and delivery style are creating.
Twelve ways to increase learner’s educational efficacy in training.
1. Responses, Communication and Connection are Critical
This requires a careful balancing act. Our students come to us for our expertise. This often makes course creators feel like we have to go above and beyond in interactions with our learners. To look smart, we give long, complicated answers. But we must ensure that the way we provide our responses does not make them feel like they are less than us, or we will damage their educational experience. Paying attention to the way that we respond to our learners so that we provide them with information that is not self-glorifying, over-complicated or patronising is critical to maintaining learner efficacy - nobody likes to feel like they are stupid.
2. Create a Collaborative Learning Environment
A study by Fencl and Scheel showed that a “collaborative learning showed a positive correlation with increased self-efficacy”. The same study also showed that question and answer, conceptual problems and inquiry lab activities as teaching methods also increased learner self-efficacy. This is because having the sense of ‘back up’ that comes with ‘strength in numbers’ is affirming and assuring.
3. Never Compare Students to Each Other
Everyone learns at their own pace, so what might be a huge step forward for one student could be a miniscule progression for another. A sure way to make the majority of the class lose their educational efficacy is to compare them to the highest achievers. Instead, it is much better to use an ipsative approach to assessment. This means assessing students from their own starting point.
Create ‘Likert Scale’ assessments which consist of statements formed from the learning objectives of the course. The students read each statement and rate themselves on a scale of 1-5 as to how much they agree with, or are like that statement at the beginning of the course. They then complete the same assessment at the end, showing a quantifiable measure of their own progress as a result of the training.
4. Balance Challenges and Wins
Your training should be hard enough for your learners to feel a true sense of victory when they complete it, but not so hard that it makes them frequently feel incompetent. You also want to make sure that little wins come often, but not so easily that it is condescending to their intelligence.
This involves knowing who is in your target audience, their previous experience level in your topic, and how advanced they want and need your training to go. If it was all hard, they would give up. If it was all easy, they’d feel like the program was a waste of time. Adding interspersed moments of easy wins with challenges is a great way to get learners engaged, with constant opportunity to feel their abilities shifting as they progress through the program.
5. Include Co-operative Learning
A study by Albert Bandura showed that in learning experiences where learners work together and communicate as a team on educational activities, their educational efficacy increased. This is because when students work in a non-competitive manner, they see how they are similar (even better) than their partner. Whereas, in competitive situations they are forced to see where they lack in comparison to those they are working against.
In the online course realm, there are many ways that you can encourage cooperative learning. With forums, video conferencing, Skype, facetime, livestreams freely available, it is easy to get learners working collaboratively in your training programs.
6. Set Clearly Defined, Short Term Goals
A fundamental human need is to feel we have a sense of control over our circumstances so that we can predict and prepare - ultimately protecting ourselves from danger. Setting short term goals is one way to provide your students with a predictable expectation and subsequently a sense of comfort and power about what is coming. This observation is backed by Schunck and Pajares who suggest that setting short-term goals, that are challenging yet attainable, will help increase the efficacy of our learners.
7. Facilitate Verbal Self-Reporting
Sometimes when we are busy in the throes of daily life, we can feel like we are not progressing when in fact we have made significant progress. When we stop to intentionally analyse the space between ‘then and now’, and then verbalise that progress with others, it reinforces our ...