Anthony Reibel is a creative, vibrant, and caring school leader who hails from Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Illinois, where he is the current director of assessment, research, and evaluation.

Let’s Make Assessment Personal: Building Students’ Personal Efficacy

Many researchers continue to find that the higher one’s efficacy, the stronger the motivation, confidence, and drive to learn (Maddux, J. E., & Stanley, M. A. 1986). The lower one’s efficacy, the more apathy, and indifference a student will have toward learning (Bandura 1986). Many experts define personal efficacy as, “the confidence or strength of belief that our capabilities can lead to goal attainment and realized achievement” (John Hattie 2015 et al.).

Besides academic achievement and goal attainment, personal efficacy can have a positive impact on our well-being. Efficacy has been shown to correlate to many health and wellness benefits such as good actions and choices, increased effort, perseverance, and ability to handle adversity, healthy thought patterns, lower stress and depression, and increased levels of realized accomplishments (Bandura 1997). Researchers such as Wood, R. E., & Bandura, A. (1989) and Goddard, Hoy, and Hoy (2000) demonstrate that efficacy is more important in explaining overall life satisfaction and realized achievement than IQ, race, and even socioeconomic status. The development of personal efficacy is paramount to one being able to function as a contributing adult citizen (Bandura 1982), and educators can use assessment to not only instill a growth mindset but also help students learn how to be more actively engaged in their learning and life (Schwarzer 1992).

Assessment and Student Efficacy

For educators, assessments are the perfect opportunity for a student to begin to develop this efficacy and personal agency. Teachers can use assessment events to achieve this in the following ways:

  1. Using Assessment to Build Self-Trust
  2. Using Assessment to Cultivate Learning Stamina
  3. Using Assessment to Develop the Skill of Self-Deliberation
  4. Using Assessment to Promote Personal Ownership

Using Assessment to Build Self-Trust

Efficacy and agency are primarily dependent upon building self-trust (Bandura 1994). Teachers can use assessment to help students safely realize their actual abilities in the context of a larger world. Outside of the ACT, SAT, or final exams, teachers should primarily use assessments to allow students to explore the thresholds of their learning with minimal learning consequence. It is through an assessment that students can begin to negotiate the conceptions or beliefs they have about themselves to gain an accurate perspective of their learning (Bandura 1989). When students perform this internal negotiation, they begin to see their thinking as valuable, which ultimately helps them function as competent and self-reliant adults (Bandura 1982). It is through an assessment that students can begin to trust what works and also trust themselves to grow what doesn’t.

Using Assessment to Cultivate Learning Stamina

We all know that life throws us into many unforeseen situations and sometimes these situations end in less-than-desirable results. When this occurs, the people involved tend not to have the cognitive and emotional stamina to engage responsibly or respectfully (Bandura 1997). Assessments can be an opportunity for students to build a learning and emotional resiliency that they will need when they encounter new and unfamiliar situations in their life.

To build this resiliency, teachers should create assessment systems that promote a continual process of self-appraisal and evidence-based reflection. When teachers use assessments in this way, they can help students gain the ability to self-sustain their learning, self-direct their actions, and remediate dissonance. When teachers use assessments to build a student’s academic and emotional stamina the student can create a solid foundation from which to learn how to make a difference in their own life. (Reibel 2018)

Using Assessment to Develop the Skill of Self-Deliberation

Ideally, students should be encouraged to act, explore, fail, and investigate their actions during an assessment. If teachers use assessment as mechanisms for a student’s reflective development they can promote the skill of self-deliberation. Self-deliberation is the act of being introspective about one’s actions and experiences (Bandura 1989). When a student develops healthy introspection habits, they are more likely to show healthy personal growth, show a higher sense of self-satisfaction, possess more self-supportive traits, and apply better self-regulatory skills (Schwarzer R. 1992).

When educators employ assessments that contain moments for self-deliberation, they can help make students highly aware of their strengths and weaknesses which has been shown to lead to more appropriate emotional management and regulation as they age (Bandura 1997). Without self-deliberation ability, a student is more likely to develop impulsivity or despondency as they confront the realities of their performances and competencies (Graham, A. & Fitzgerald, R.M. 2010).

Using Assessment to Promote Personal Ownership

Too often students follow highly organized lessons that lead to an isolated assessment moment. Because of this structure, students are less likely to develop the ability to self-direct. Instead, students tend to wait for someone to tell them what to do, where to go, and how they should be doing during the class period.

Teachers should consider their formative assessments as self-directed learning experiences (Bandura 1994). Teachers can use formative assessments to help students appropriately react to the consequences of their decisions and actions. To this end, teachers should resist the urge to navigate students through lessons and toward assessments, but instead, create experiences and assessments that require personal ownership. When students have higher levels of self-regulation, they are more likely to have efficacy and feel empowered (Maddux 2009).

One easy way to promote personal ownership is to add reflective pauses during formative assessments. By adding in intentional, reflective pauses which ask the student to reflect if they are learning anything new while engaging in the assessment students can adjust their learning for the next section of the assessment. When students self-direct during formative assessments, they can begin to feel more in control of their learning and use this feeling to make new connections and insights.

The more control a student feels they have over their social and academic competencies, the more confident they become in their ability to achieve goals, they will participate more confidently in social settings and can develop more personally rewarding relationships (Bandura 1989). The belief that one can successfully navigate any situation tends to lead to higher levels of confidence, personal satisfaction and realized achievement (Schunk, D. H. 1989).

Ultimately teachers should create assessments that are self-directed learning experiences.  Assessment should be an event where students can experience the natural fluctuations in their learning, learn how to create their competency, and gain the skills and awareness to become self-reliant individuals.



Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American Psychologist, 37, 122-147. [A classic article published in APA’s flagship journal]

Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action.

Bandura, A. (1989). Human agency in social cognitive theory. American Psychologist, 44, 1175-1184. [This is a classic in the history of psychology.]

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In R. J. Corsini (Ed.), Encyclopedia of psychology (2nd ed., Vol. 3, pp. 368-369). New York: Wiley.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY, US: W H Freeman.

Goddard, Hoy, Woolfolk, Hoy (2000): Collective Teacher Efficacy: Its Meaning, Measure, and Impact on Student Achievement. In: American Educational Research Journal Vol 37, Issue 2, pp. 479 – 507.

Graham, A. & Fitzgerald, R.M. (2010). Supporting children’s social and emotional wellbeing: does ‘having a say’ matter? ePublications@SCU, Southern Cross University, School of Education

Hattie, J. (2015): The Applicability of Visible Learning to Higher Education. In: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 1 (1), 79-91.

Maddux, J.E. (2009) Self-Efficacy: The Power of Believing You Can. In: Lopez, S.J. and Snyder, C.R., Eds., Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, Oxford University Press, New York, 335-343.

Maddux, J. E., & Stanley, M. A. (Eds.) (1986). Special issue on self-efficacy theory. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 4 (Whole No.3).

Reibel, A. (2018). Personal Efficacy: An Important Goal in Education. The Assessor. Lincolnshire, IL. Adlai E. Stevenson High School.

Schunk, D. H. (1989). Self-efficacy and cognitive skill learning. In C. Ames & R. Ames (Eds.), Research on motivation in education. Vol. 3: Goals and cognitions (pp. 13-44). San Diego: Academic.

Schwarzer R. (Ed). (1992). Self-Efficacy: Thought control of action. Washington DC: Hemisphere.

Wood, R. E., & Bandura, A. (1989). Social cognitive theory of organizational management. Academy of Management Review, 14, 361-384.


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