December 14, 2015

Ritchie's Self-Efficacy: Chapter 1

As I explained in an earlier post, one of my projects for winter break is writing up a review of Laura Ritchie's new self-efficacy book: Fostering Self-Efficacy in Higher Education Students.

As it turned out, there was so much good synergy between this book and my growth mindset project that I need to take copious notes! Here's why:

* There's no Kindle version, alas, so I cannot rely on highlight and search.
* There is so much good stuff here, I can't pick out the best without seeing it all laid out.
* I want to make cats! So I will need the quotes later for cats.

So, this week I'll be posting my highlighted notes chapter by chapter, and then I'll be able to write up a proper review next week. I'd like to put one up at Amazon, GoodReads, etc. The book is expensive (eeek!), so I'd like to provide information in a review that would encourage faculty to get their libraries to order a copy.

To start: the Preface and Chapter 1! My comments are in italics.


Just like with growth mindset, self-efficacy is something of importance for both teachers and students: "Self-efficacy beliefs are at the core of every action that we all, whether teacher or student, undertake."

I'm going to be esp. interested in Chapter 7: "Chapter 7 challenges all of us to continue to develop our self-efficacy through learning, teaching, and professional life."

Also this: "There is no one, single answer that provides a definitive guide for how to foster these beliefs in all situations. Teachers are challenged to be active, demonstrating learning by being learners themselves, and working to allow themselves to be seen by their students as positive examples, not only as teachers but also as learners."

Chapter 1 The teaching environment in higher education

I am really impressed by this performance metaphor: "Academic work, including teaching and assessment, is like a performance that requires preparation and rehearsal."

Critical distinctions: The push and pull of learning

I very much appreciate this warning about tests: I don't want to teach people to pass a writing test... I want to teach them to be writers! "The pattern of instructional teaching, imparting information and testing students on it, can create a culture where people learn to the test, and they also learn for the test. After the test, the students will feel accomplished, and wait for the next test. It can be like a dog that does tricks; it behaves well, but it needs to be led by the trainer. What happens when the trainer is gone? When the student leaves the institution? That halo effect from the leader will dissipate, and what is the student left with?"

Along with the idea of performance, LR emphasizes the idea of mastery: "When students achieve mastery, it must be something that they have done in their own right, with a sense of ownership and belief."

The goal is deep learning: "Deeper learning calls for something to come from the student: an impulse, or creativity of thought."

Deeper learning calls for an impulse from the student.

Image is from cheezburger.

Deeper learning calls for creativity of thought.

Image is from cheezburger.

Environments for learning

I also really like this idea of space, a metaphorical space: "For students to be in a position to engage with these key concepts in their learning, there needs to be space; space for them to respond to an impetus, to question, and to explore.

Students need space to question and to explore.

Image is from cheezburger.

Environments for "performing" assessments

LR compares a pianist's performance to an exam: "Considering academic work as a performance can encourage a shift in perspective. Once something is taken on board as a performance, it makes sense to prepare, and having a structure for building that confidence towards the achievement is likely to produce better results."

Principles of excellence

I really like the idea of open-endedness as a feature of excellence: "Excellence fosters the individual and allows for each to grow and develop their potential, as opposed to becoming a product of a predetermined process.

Excellent teaching

Again the idea of giving students space, room: "In the most stimulating settings, that encourage active, individual engagement, there is room for students to think, contribute to building content, and to have sense of personal agency in their learning."

Teaching excellence to students

Open-endedness, yes, but preparation is crucial too: "The expectation that goes with excellence, that students will create something surprising or of exceptional quality cannot be done without developing the required skills and demonstrating self-assuredness."

Our students

The perils of tests and quizzes: "When aiming for the right answers, some of the freedom, independence, and autonomy that comes with play is not taken, but is schooled out of them."

Passivity: one of the worst aspects of schooling IMO. "This can create a culture where students believe that they can and should be passive while their teachers deliver education to them."

An ideal situation

Oh, it does sound ideal: "In an ideal situation, students would have access to the raw materials that guide them to develop independence and become confident, autonomous thinkers."


Technology emerges in the discussion about facilities; I like looking at facilities in terms of student AGENCY: "By taking responsibility, having purpose, and believing in their actions, students ultimately will be in a position to shape the technologies they use, instead of allowing technology to shape them. Without this outlook, the empowerment of having information at students' fingertips is false, as they are not being empowered to creatively use their own agency."

I shape the technology; it does not shape me.

Image is at cheezburger.

Tailored programmes

Ideas about what I would call growth mindset are starting to emerge here — especially risk-aversion. "Students can be reluctant to engage with what is new if it is perceived to be overly difficult or if it threatens their sense of security."

LR describes Jonathon Worth's interest-driven photography course (I am such a fan of JW!): "The student who wanted to pursue wedding photography would have a different task to someone interested in becoming an archivist, and the photojournalist would have yet another task."

At the same time, a common goal: "With this level of diversity, there needed to be a common goal to unify the students. The photography class as a whole shared a vision that each person's pursuit was an "exit strategy;" their goal went beyond the physical assessment material and related to their lives."

The librarian metaphor suits me so perfectly! "The technologically connected classroom is information-rich, but information and meaning seldom come bundled together. The teacher's role becomes to curate and contextualize this information. Teachers are librarians."

And back to agency again: "When the student experience is at the center of the teaching, they can each personally develop a sense of agency and their capabilities in ways that empower them and reinforces their self-beliefs."

Mutual engagement

Not hierarchical, but mutual: "Fostering students' self-beliefs in their confidence and capabilities is built on an investment and connection with students' journeys as they explore and develop their learning and performing processes through skills, goals, and experiences."

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