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How Good Really Are You? The Importance of Self-Efficacy Beliefs as Educators.

Updated: May 22, 2019

Self-efficacy is one's belief in one's ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task. Recent research by Scott Schumann and Jim Sibthorp shows that teaching self-efficacy beliefs is critical to student safety and learning in outdoor settings. Over-inflated self-efficacy beliefs among educators can result in delayed skills development or inappropriate acceptance of risk, both of which are undesirable outcomes. In an outdoor education context, neglecting the accuracy of teaching self-efficacy beliefs early in an educator’s development may also impede one’s likelihood of being effective. This in-congruence between self-efficacy and competence was initially reported by Pajares and Kranzler (1995).

A man pulls an ego sign to indicate that high self-efficacy in outdoor education can spell trouble for early career professionals.
An overinflated ego (or too high self-efficacy) can slow down skills development and reduce safety in outdoor education

Can We Calibrate Self-Efficacy?

Metacognitive monitoring interventions are a possible approach to help emerging outdoor educators accurately calibrate their self-efficacy beliefs. As outdoor educators, we must all carefully manage risk in the field. However, if we as educators are consistently overestimating our likelihood of success across various domains of outdoor education, this would demonstrate a need for educator interventions in the outdoor industry. Scott Schumann and Jim Sibthorp tested this theory in their 2016 study and they found that their control group did indeed consistently overestimate the likelihood of success in a range of related outdoor competencies. And their results also indicated that metacognitive monitoring appears to significantly improve the accuracy of emerging outdoor educators’ self-efficacy beliefs. Thus, their research really helps to demonstrate the need for interventions to assist emerging outdoor educators to calibrate their self-efficacy beliefs early on in their roles and careers.

"Over-inflated self-efficacy beliefs among educators can result in delayed skills development or inappropriate acceptance of risk, both of which are highly undesirable outcomes."

What Is Metacognition?

Metacognition sounds complex. To my ears, it sounds like thinking beyond the metaphysical boundaries of the known universe! But thankfully it's actually quite simple. It literally means 'thinking about thinking' or 'knowing what you know.' Paradoxically, the better one becomes at a skill the better he becomes at accurately assessing his own prior performance and predicting future performances (a self-efficacy belief). Generally, until this competence develops, an individual will tend to overestimate his abilities and is less capable of accurate self-assessments (e.g., Hodges, Regehr & Martin, 2001). Amid this paradox, we now know that through exercises which encourage metacognitive processes, it is possible to help individuals calibrate the accuracy of their self-assessments and self-efficacy beliefs. These exercises are known in the research as monitoring interventions (e.g., Tobias & Everson, 2009).

Feedback written on a blackboard
Feedback on the accuracy of the predictions and postdictions following a task or activity can help calibrate self-efficacy beliefs

Time for Self-Efficacy Interventions

Collectively, components of successful monitoring interventions include (a) predictions of performance (a self-efficacy belief), (b) postdictions (or self-assessments) of performance, (c) feedback on the accuracy of the predictions and postdictions, and (d) incentives for accuracy (Hacker, Bol, Horgan, & Rakow, 2000; Nietfeld et al., 2005; Schraw, Potenza, & Nebelsick-Gullet, 1993). In simple terms, these interventions force participants to be more conscious of their self-beliefs and performance throughout a given task or activity, and overall this appears to improve the accuracy of their self-efficacy beliefs in an outdoor teaching context.

"Paradoxically, the better one becomes at a skill the better he becomes at accurately assessing his own prior performance and predicting future performances (a self-efficacy belief)."

As a word of warning, unchecked self-efficacy enhancement in outdoor educators should be approached with caution due to the consequences in outdoor education contexts. In some cases, outdoor education research and practice has placed value on the increase of self-efficacy beliefs. Although a slight overestimation in self-efficacy beliefs can be beneficial and increase persistence; research is emerging to suggest that efforts to simply increase self-efficacy beliefs can result in overinflated beliefs, improper selection of behaviors, and decreases in performance or failure (Vancouver, 2012).


Overall, metacognition interventions can be considered useful tools to help outdoor educators calibrate their skill levels in the field, and this is especially important among emerging outdoor educators, who may still be building the core skills and competencies they require.

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References (alphabetically)

Hacker, D. J., Bol, L., Horgan, D. D., & Rakow, E. A. (2000). Test prediction and performance in a classroom context. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 160-170.

Hodges, B., Regehr, G., & Martin, D. (2001). Difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence: Novice physicians who are unskilled and unaware of it. Academic Medicine, 76, S87-S89.

Nietfeld, J. L., Cao, L., & Osborne, J. W. (2005). Metacognitive monitoring accuracy and student performance in the post-secondary classroom. The Journal of Experimental Education, 74, 7-28.

Pajares, F., & Kranzler, J. (1995, April). Competence and confidence in mathematics: The role of self-efficacy, self-concept, anxiety, and ability. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

Schraw, G., Potenza, M. T., & Nebelsick-Gullet, L. (1993). Constraints on the calibration of performance. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 18, 455-463.

Schumann, S., & Sibthorp J. (2016) Improving the Accuracy of Outdoor Educators’ Teaching Self-Efficacy Beliefs Through Metacognitive Monitoring, Journal of Experiential Education 1–15. DOI: 10.1177/1053825916640540 (found here:

Tobias, S., & Everson, H. (2009). The importance of knowing what you know. In D. Hacker, J. Dunlosky, & A. Graesser (Eds.), Handbook of metacognition in education (pp. 107-127). New York, NY: Routledge.

Vancouver, J. B. (2012). Rhetorical reckoning: A response to Bandura. Journal of Management, 38, 465-472. doi:10.1177/0149206311435951

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