Academic Exchange Quarterly     Winter   2005    ISSN 1096-1453    Volume  9, Issue  4

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What Predicts Student Teacher Self-Efficacy?



Yesim CAPA AYDIN, Middle East Technical University, Turkey

Anita WOOLFOLK HOY, The Ohio State University, OH


Capa Aydin, Ph.D., is Instructor in the Department of Educational Sciences, and Woolfolk Hoy, Ph.D., is Professor of Educational Psychology and Teacher Education.



This descriptive survey study investigated student teachers’ sources of self-efficacy. Using simultaneous regression, we predicted student teachers’ sense of efficacy using their relationship with mentors, amount of field experiences, and teaching support. The regression equation accounted for 27% of the variance in efficacy scores. Highly efficacious student teachers in this sample tended to have less teaching experience, but a more positive relationship with their mentors and more teaching support.



A growing number of educational researchers are interested in relationships between teacher efficacy and other educational variables. For example, teachers’ efficacy judgments have been correlated with decreased burnout (Brouwers & Tomic, 2000), increased job satisfaction (Caprara, Barbaranelli, Borgogni, & Steca, 2003), and commitment to teaching (Coladarci, 1992). Ross (1998) reviewed 88 teacher efficacy studies and suggested that teachers with higher levels of efficacy are more likely to (1) learn and use new approaches and strategies for teaching, (2) use management techniques that enhance student autonomy and diminish student control, (3) provide special assistance to low achieving students, (4) build students’ self-perceptions of their academic skills, (5) set attainable goals, and (6) persist in the face of student failure. Teacher efficacy also has been correlated with student achievement (Ashton & Webb, 1986), student sense of efficacy (Anderson, Greene, & Loewen, 1988) and student motivation (Midgley, Feldlaufer, & Eccles, 1989).


Sources of Efficacy Beliefs


The development of teacher efficacy beliefs among prospective teachers has generated a great deal of research interest because once established, these beliefs appear to be resistant to change. Even with this research activity, however, little is known about the sources of higher efficacy. Woolfolk Hoy and Burke-Spero (2005) suggested that mastery experiences during student teaching and the first years of teaching influence the development of teacher efficacy. Field experiences give student teachers opportunities to evaluate their capabilities. Observations of other teachers might serve as “vicarious experience,” which is another effective tool for promoting a sense of efficacy. In addition, Bandura (1997) pointed out the importance of feedback and support from environment in the cultivation of efficacy.

In their longitudinal case study, Mulholland and Wallace (2001) found that successful mastery experiences and verbal persuasions were the primary sources of information for building teacher’s efficacy. During both the preservice and inservice teaching years, previous experience with an instructional activity, knowing students’ characteristics, preference for manageable activities, and support from supervisors in early years of teaching helped teachers experience mastery.


Teaching Experience and Efficacy


Student teaching is generally considered the most beneficial component of preparation by prospective and practicing teachers and teacher educators (Borko & Mayfield, 1995; Guyton & McIntyre, 1990). In practice, the cooperating teacher plays the most vital role in supervision and is perceived as the most significant person in the student teacher’s experiences (Booth, 1993); often student teachers move closer to the attitudes and behaviors of their cooperating teachers (Zeichner, 1980).


However, researchers have cautioned that student teaching can have negative as well as positive influences. Poorly chosen placements result in feelings of inadequacy, low teacher efficacy, and an unfavorable attitude toward teaching (Fallin & Royse, 2000; Feiman-Nemser, 1983); whereas extensive well-planned field experiences can help prospective teachers develop confidence, self-esteem and an enhanced awareness of the profession (Thomson, Beacham, & Misulis, 1992).


Results are mixed on the relationship between teaching experience and teacher efficacy. For example, in a case study of science teaching, efficacy increased with experience as the teacher grew better able to manage the students’ behaviors and inquiry activities.  But three quantitative studies found very little correlation between experience and teaching efficacy (Cantrell, Yound, & Moore, 2003; Plourde, 2002; Soodak & Podell, 1996), while other quantitative studies have found that teacher efficacy decreased with time teaching (Ghaith & Yaghi, 1997).  In contrast, Woolfolk Hoy and Burke-Spero (2005) found that efficacy increased during teacher preparation and student teaching, but decreased during the first year of teaching. With experience, teachers may grow to believe that student learning is due to factors beyond their control (Ghaith & Yaghi, 1997).


Labone (2004) noted much research on teachers’ sense of efficacy lacks a consideration of context. Consistent with social cognitive theory and the teacher efficacy model proposed by Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy, and Hoy (1998), social and environmental contexts play a major role in the teacher’s analysis of the teaching task. Declines in efficacy with the first year of teaching have been attributed, in part, to the withdrawal of the social support provided by the university when practice teaching ends and real teaching begins (Cantrell et al., 2003; Woolfolk Hoy & Burke-Spero, 2005). With respect to the influence of cooperating teachers on preservice teachers, Li and Zhang (2000) found that preservice teachers who perceived their cooperating teachers’ to be highly efficacious had significantly higher general teaching efficacy than their counterparts. In this study, we use the term “mentor” rather than “cooperating teacher.”


This longitudinal study examines the importance of social context in the formation of efficacy judgments as proposed by the Tschannen-Moran et al. model. Specifically, we investigated the question:

How well do teaching experiences, the relationship with mentors, the student teachers’ perceptions of their mentor, and perceived teaching support predict the efficacy beliefs of student teachers?




This study used a descriptive survey research design. Efficacy beliefs of preservice teachers and sources of those beliefs were examined through a survey instrument administered at the end of student teaching.




Participants were 59 female and 11male student teachers enrolled in the Master of Education (M.Ed.) program in a large mid-western university. Majors were: 36 in foreign and second language education, 17 in special education, 11 in family and consumer science education, and 6 in social studies. All students enter the program with an undergraduate degree and complete the M.Ed. program in five quarters. Students are in the school setting for much of the time and are assigned to a mentor teacher. The program requires at least 10 weeks of full time student teaching.




In addition to the demographic items, the questionnaire included four sections:


Teachers’ Sense of Efficacy Scale (TSES-short form) (Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2001). The TSES includes 12 items on a 7-point scale yielding three subscales: Efficacy for Classroom Management, Efficacy for Instructional Strategies, and Efficacy for Student Engagement. Based on the recommendations of Tschannen-Moran and Woolfolk Hoy for preservice teachers, we used the total score (alpha = .88).  See “” for the items.


Relationship with Mentor. Fifteen student teacher/mentor relationship characteristics derived from mentoring research (Jonson, 2002; Podsen & Denmark, 2000; Rowley, 1999) were put in the form of statements (e. g., “Share her/his own struggles and frustrations and how she/he overcame them” and “Express her/his ideas and policies simply and directly”) and rated using a 5-point scale, with higher scores indicating positive and trusting relationship with mentor. The alpha reliability = .95.


Your Mentor as a Teacher. Based on the mentoring literature again, seven mentor teaching characteristics were put in the form of statements (e. g., Demonstrate effective classroom management practices” and “Have a through command of curriculum being taught”) and rated on a 5-point scale. Higher score reflected that the student teacher consider his/her mentor as an effective teacher. The alpha reliability = .92.

Teaching Support. Participants were asked to rate six items on a 5-point scale describing the quality of support they had received from students, school community, and university supervisor. Four of the items came from the Questionnaire for Beginning Teachers and Mentors (Reiman & Edelfelt, 1991). The alpha reliability was .76.


Data Analysis


Descriptive statistics provided a sample profile and summarized variables. Second, Pearson correlation coefficients were computed between each predictor variable and the preservice teachers’ sense of efficacy at the end of student teaching. Third, simultaneous multiple regression analysis predicted the student teachers’ sense of efficacy using the significant variables identified (significance level set to 0.05 for all analyses).




Descriptive Statistics


Student teachers’ mean reported teaching experience was 503.1 hours (range = 200 to 2420 hours). Mentors’ experience ranged from 2 to 35 years with a median of 15 years. The mean scores and standard deviation of the remaining variables are presented in Table 1 along with the correlation coefficients between the dependent variable (TSES) and independent variables (Relationship with Mentor, Your Mentor as a Teacher, and Teaching Support).

The average student teacher efficacy score was 5.65 on a 7-point scale, indicating a high sense of efficacy. Scores on “Relationship with Mentor” (average of 4.12 on a 5-point scale) indicated that student teachers believed that they had positive and trusting relationships. Perceived support from environment was also high (mean=4.10). An average score of 4.23 demonstrated that student teachers considered their mentors as skilled teachers. 


There were three significant correlations: student teachers who experienced positive relationships with their mentors tended to be high in perceived efficacy belief (r =.35, p < .01); student teachers with perceived higher levels of teaching support reported higher efficacy (r=.37, p<.01); and student teachers with more hours of field experience reported lower efficacy scores (r=-.33, p <. 01). Efficacy was not related to the student teachers’ perceptions of their mentors as teachers. 


Regression Analysis


The simultaneous regression analysis was performed predicting preservice teachers’ sense of efficacy using relationship with mentor, teaching support, and hours of field experiences as predictors. The perception of mentor as a teacher was not included because it was not correlated with the efficacy variable but was significantly correlated with the “relationship with mentor” variable; so inclusion would have caused a multicollinearity problem. Eliminating perception of mentor as a teacher, multicollinearity was not a concern, as indicated by the Variance Inflation Factor (VIF) values. Results are given in Table 2.



The regression equation predicting efficacy was significant (F (3,63) = 7.88, p < .01) accounting for 27% of the variance in efficacy scores. All of the variables were significant predictors (p < .05). Semipartial coefficients, defined as the proportion of variance uniquely explained by the predictor variable, for “relationship with mentor,” “teaching support,” and “hours of field experience” were .25, .29, and -.31 respectively.




Findings from this study contribute to the identification of sources of efficacy information of student teachers. Data analysis indicated that the relationship between student teacher and mentor, the support received from environment, and the number of field experiences were significant predictors of student teachers’ sense of efficacy. Higher efficacy student teachers in this sample tended to believe they had positive relationship with their mentors, received support from the environment beyond their mentor, and had less teaching experience. R2 of .27 implied a moderate effect size, likely due to small sample size.


Findings of this study provide empirical evidence for Bandura’s (1997) sources of efficacy (mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, social persuasion, physiological states) and the Tschannen-Moran et al. model of teacher efficacy (1998). The model suggested that support and feedback from persons in the environment could serve as social persuasion. In this study, both the supports from environment and from mentors were significant predictors of efficacy information of student teachers. Considering the consistent finding in the literature showing that efficacy falls during the first years of teaching, this finding suggests that, to protect their efficacy beliefs, social support should not be withdrawn from novice teachers. In addition, more support and feedback from mentors and university supervisors would be valuable sources of information for student teachers.


Field placements are important because they generally are the student teacher’s first potential source of mastery experience. Yet we found that as student teachers gain more experience, their perceived efficacy weakens. We did not determine whether the field experiences were successful. The student teachers may have had negative experiences, which weakened their efficacy beliefs. Bandura noted that some factors might be curvilinear in contributing to the efficacy judgments, a possibility not tested in this study. A longitudinal study might address this question.


Another source of efficacy judgments identified by Bandura is vicarious experience. Student teachers’ perceptions of the effectiveness of their mentor were gathered in this study to see if student teachers considered mentors as models. Analysis indicated that this variable was not significantly correlated with teachers’ sense of efficacy. Bandura suggested that “the greater the assumed similarity, the more persuasive are the model’s successes and failures” (1997, p. 87). These student teachers might have seen their mentors as unlike them in terms of experience (mentors had 4 to 25 years) or teaching style, and thus not appropriate or powerful sources of vicarious experience.




This study did not take student teachers’ initial beliefs into consideration; those beliefs often are resistant to change. Second, the study relied on self-reported data for both predictor and criterion variables, on the assumption that student teachers reflect their actual perceptions. Other measures are recommended for further studies such as observations of classroom behaviors and relationships with mentors, in-depth interviews, and the perceptions of mentors and university supervisors. Finally, this study was limited by census sampling; data were gathered from every individual in the population. Even a complete census of all known members of a population is subject to random and/or measurement error (Fowler, 2001). Therefore, findings cannot be generalized to the population of student teachers without further research and replication.




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