Journey to Excellence

Self-efficacy - Dylan Wiliam

Play Controls


Hear Dylan Wiliam describe the impact and the dangers of implementing strategies aimed at raising the self-esteem of young people without increasing their self-efficacy.


In the 1960s and 70s in America, psychologists identified low student self-esteem as a real problem, and there’s no doubt they were right about that; self-esteem was a problem. They tried to address it by building up self-esteem by not criticising students. So they would say to students 'this is great' when the work they had done was, actually, pretty bad. The problem with that approach is that it is possible to build up self-esteem on a short-term basis, but the bubble gets very easily pricked… and if all you’ve done is build self-esteem, when students get disconfirming evidence; when students find out that they're not as great as they thought they were, there is nothing to fall back on. And what you get is a much more profound collapse, so they are actually in a much worse state than if you had never done it.

A much more important concept is that of self-efficacy. Now, the difference is that self-esteem is feeling good about yourself; self-efficacy is feeling good about yourself because of what you can do. And what the work of Albert Bandura, and others, has shown is that when you focus on self-efficacy, when you get students to feel good about themselves because they know they can learn; because they know they can improve; because of what they have accomplished… then that is much more stable, it's robust, and it feeds forward into students’ future activities.

So, building self-esteem for self-esteem’s sake is short-sighted and, ultimately, counter-productive. But if we can focus on self-efficacy by feeding into children that everything they do can feed into where they can be, then the effects, over the whole life course, are very positive.


Related Videos

  1. Learn how this small primary school uses assessment for learning strategies and the impact of these on learning and teaching. Explore the use of assessment for learning strategies and describes the impact on learning and teaching in a small primary school.

  2. Watch young people at Turnbull High school use assessment strategies during their learning. Hear how these help teacher’s focus their support at the start of the next lesson to meet the needs of individuals.

  3. Listen to Dylan Wiliam review the benefits of self assessment and peer assessment as a key component of effective learning, and hear about some of the associated strategies.

  4. See how a primary school enables all children and staff to achieve excellence. Hear how it develops children's self-confidence and a determination to succeed. How a primary school enables all children and staff to aim high and achieve excellence. It describes the ways that the school develops self-confidence in young people and a determination to succeed.

  5. Watch the effective use of moderation within a department to increase staff confidence, embed Curriculum for Excellence design principles and impact on the achievements of young people at Grange Academy. Listen to the staff describe assessment as an integral part of learning.

  6. Hear staff describe the creation of a sensory garden to support the learning of young people at the school. Listen to the impact of the garden on the motivation of learners.

  7. Discover how a primary school makes use of assessment for learning strategies to support learning. Teaching staff describe approaches to self and peer assessment.. Discover how a primary school makes use of assessment for learning strategies to support pupil learning. Approaches to self and peer assessment are reviewed by teaching staff.

  8. Hear Carol McGuinness discuss how parents and carers can foster a climate that helps young people to develop their ability to think.

  9. Hear from staff and children about strategies to promote effective cooperative learning.

  10. Listen to Brian Boyd assess the importance of teaching young people metacognitive strategies in order to help them reflect on their learning and be fully engaged in their learning.

In association with Education Scotland