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Using Self-Efficacy Theory to Design Instruction



Self-Efficacy Theory, Students, Teaching

Presented by:

Donald Johnson, University of Arkansas

Michael Pate, Utah State University

Key Statement:

Positive mastery, vicarious, and social persuasion experiences increase student self-efficacy and interest. This poster summarizes techniques and results of using self-efficacy theory to design instruction.


Self-efficacy theory posits that positive mastery, vicarious, and social persuasion experiences increase student self-efficacy and interest, especially when studying new or difficult topics. We used self-efficacy theory to design a lesson for novice microcontroller users. The lesson included five small “practice tasks” which allowed students to achieve personal success (mastery experiences), see classmates succeed (vicarious experiences), and receive positive teacher encouragement (social persuasion experiences). Comparison of pretest and posttest scores indicated statistically significant (p < .001) and large increases in student self-efficacy and interest in learning about microcontrollers. Self-efficacy theory provides a framework for designing instruction about any difficult topic.

Learning Outcomes:

Summarize the key components of self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1986).
Analyze strategies from the session that can be used to design a lesson about a topic that students find difficult and/or uninteresting.
Analyze the results of a lesson based on self-efficacy theory in terms of student outcomes.

Hear it from the author:

Using Self-Efficacy Theory to Design InstructionDonald Johnson, University of Arkansas
00:00 / 01:30



I am Don Johnson at the University of Arkansas and, on behalf of myself and co-presenter Michael Pate at Utah State University, thank you for visiting our poster on Using Self-Efficacy Theory to Design Instruction.

Michael and I both teach introductory math- and science-intensive technology courses to undergraduates who often lack any experience or previous coursework in technology. As documented both in the literature and by our own experiences, novice students studying technical subjects often fail at introductory tasks, which results in decreased interest, low self-efficacy, and future avoidance of the subject. We applied Bandura’s (1986) self-efficacy theory to the design of an introductory microcontroller programming lesson and laboratory activity in a first-year course. According to Bandura, task self-efficacy is enhanced when students have positive mastery, social persuasion, and vicarious experiences.

Our instructional treatment built purposeful opportunities for these positive experiences into the lesson
and the lab activity. Our pre- and posttest results indicated a statistically significant and large increase in both student interest in learning about microcontroller programming and in programming self-efficacy. These increases were 1.2 and 1.9 SDs, respectively. We strongly encourage other instructors to consider self-efficacy theory when designing instruction for novice students.

Thank you for listening and we look forward to visiting with you in Traverse City!


Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Prentice Hall.  

Johnson, D. M., Pate, M. L., Estepp, C. W., & Wardlow, G. W. (2022). Designing Arduino instruction for novice agriculture students: Effects on interest, self-efficacy, and knowledge. Applied Engineering in Agriculture, 38(5), 753–761.  

Lane, A., Jones, L., & Stevens, M.J. (2002). Coping with failure: The effects of self-esteem and coping on changes in self-efficacy. Journal of Sport Behavior, 63(3), 216–223.  

McKim, A. J., & Velez, J. J. (2016). An evaluation of self-efficacy theory in agricultural education. Journal of Agricultural Education, 57(1), 73–90.

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