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Self-efficacy, which is the belief about one's ability to perform a task successfully, has been widely acknowledged as important in learning. Although various research studies have emphasised the role of self-efficacy in learning, its role in relation to reading development has not been widely investigated. In order to shed more light on students’ reading self-efficacy, especially at tertiary level where reading research is lacking, a study was undertaken with first year university students to examine the relationship between reading self-efficacy and reading proficiency. Mastery experience refers to the judgement of competence based on one's own previous attainment in a related task. Emotional arousal, which is the emotion or physical sensation (anxiety, fatigue, and composure) that one experiences whilst performing a particular task, could also contribute to self-efficacy levels (Usher & Pajares 2006).
Quantitative and qualitative studies in several sources of self-efficacy have shown mastery experiences to have the greatest influence on self-efficacy (Bandura 1997; Hutchison-Green et al. In the academic setting, many studies have shown a positive and significant correlation between self-efficacy and academic achievement. In relation to the definition of self-efficacy, reading self-efficacy could be defined as the beliefs students have in their ability to read successfully. In an earlier study, Shell, Murphy, and Bruning (1989) examined undergraduate students in an American university and found that self-efficacy and outcome expectancy beliefs jointly accounted for significant variance in students’ reading achievement, with self-efficacy being the stronger predictor in reading achievement and accounting for significant variance in writing.
In addition, learners’ low self-efficacy can be linked to low reading proficiency, which in turn has a strong relationship with low socio-economic status (SES) by virtue of SES providing or not providing adequate and rich reading experiences. Given the relationship between self-efficacy and academic achievement, and self-efficacy and reading performance documented by various researchers internationally, a study was conducted on the relationship between self-efficacy and reading achievement at a South African university.
The aim of the study was to determine the relationship between reading self-efficacy and students’ reading proficiency. What is the relationship between reading self-efficacy and the reading proficiency of first- year university students? What is the relationship between self-efficacy and the home language of this cohort of first-year students? The third question was included because a number of Indigenous South African Language (ISAL) speakers attend poorly resourced public schools and are from impoverished reading backgrounds, both at home and at school.
The main focus of the study was on students’ self-efficacy in relation to their reading proficiency. A questionnaire consisting of a 5-point-likert scale (positive to negative) and the Test of Academic Literacy Levels (TALL) were used as instruments for data collection.
The questionnaire was administered to all first-year students in the Unit for Academic Literacy registered for either the compulsory academic literacy module or the elective academic reading module. Descriptive statistics and Cronbach's coefficients were obtained for the self-efficacy questions.
In addition, a cumulative logit (regression) analysis was performed using the responses to the full questionnaire on motivation, attitude, interest and self-efficacy on one hand, and students’ performance in the TALL on the other, to determine the extent to which self-efficacy predicts students reading ability amongst other affective factors. Research question 1 relates to the relationship between reading self-efficacy and reading proficiency of this cohort of first-year university students.
The data analyses show that there is a significant relationship between students’ self-efficacy levels and their reading.
Research question 2: Is reading self-efficacy the best predictor of students’ reading proficiency? Research question 3 relates to the relationship between self-efficacy and the home language of this cohort of first-year students. Whereas the English home language group indicated the highest self-efficacy levels, concomitant with their good performance in the TALL and indicative of better reading proficiency, the ISAL home language speakers reported relatively lower self-efficacy levels, which also aligned with their poor performance in the TALL (cf. Students who were deemed to have negligible risk had high self-efficacy, which confirms the positive relationship between self-efficacy and reading proficiency.
Explicit strategy instruction is said to improve self-efficacy (Pajares 2006), and therefore explicit instruction of various reading strategies (both processing and monitoring strategies) should be provided to these students on a continuous basis. A robust relationship exists between self-efficacy and the reading proficiency of this cohort of students.
Self-efficacy seems to occupy a significant role in determining reading proficiency and thus should not be ignored in programmes aimed at improving students’ reading proficiency. Another important factor that emerged from the survey was the relationship between students’ self-efficacy and their home language. Various techniques, such as learning goal orientation, feedback on progress, explicit strategy instruction, building mastery experience, using discipline-specific texts, and providing praise and rewards have been shown to improve self-efficacy.
Using discipline-specific texts also provides opportunities for self-efficacy improvement (Guthrie & Klauda 2013). Finally, praise and rewards may seem ordinary and simple, but according to researchers such as Dörnyei (2001) and Kumaravadivelu (2003), they provide opportunities for students to receive acknowledgement of success, which increase self-efficacy.
The article has reported on the relationship between first-year tertiary students’ self-efficacy levels and their reading proficiency as shown in their reading performance in the TALL.
The results suggest that self-efficacy exerts a potentially important affective influence on students’ reading proficiency.
The author declares that she has had no financial or personal relationship(s) that may have inappropriately influenced her in writing this article.
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Would like to hear from you ASAP re yourTUMERIC, drink, as I suffer greatly from inflammation. Just be sure that you confirm your subscription by clicking the link in the 2nd email and add my email to your safe list. This affective factor, though not explicitly evident, has been said to play an important role in academic performance. Pajares (2000) asserts that a learner's self-efficacy influences his or her academic performance. This could be due to the fact that reading researchers and instructors are more concerned about the explicit, cognitive aspects of reading, such as the use of strategies for comprehension. The article reports on this study and argues for the inclusion of self-efficacy development in reading instruction.
According to him, the level of self-efficacy will determine whether a task will be initiated and completed. As Bandura (1997:192) explains, success raises mastery expectations, whereas repeated failures lower them, particularly if the mishap occurs early in the course of the events.
Bandura (1977) explains that, although this source of self-efficacy is weaker than mastery experience, in certain contexts, it may play a crucial role. Bandura (1997) points out that this source of self-efficacy is not strong enough to make a significant impact on efficacy beliefs because it does not provide an authentic experiential base.


Vogt (2008) conducted a study involving undergraduate engineering students and found that self-efficacy is a strong predictor of academic achievement. The few studies conducted on reading self-efficacy have documented positive correlations between self-efficacy and reading achievement.
Mizumoto (2012) found that students with high self-efficacy were active users of strategies, employed deep strategies and were meta-cognitively superior to those without it.
According to Pretorius (2000, 2007) and Taylor and Yu (2009) the majority of learners from low SES families are likely to attend poorly resourced public schools, receive poor reading instruction, have negative reading experiences and are thus likely to perform poorly in reading assessment. The study set out to determine if such a relationship can be confirmed with tertiary students in an African context. As a result, these students may be experiencing low self-efficacy in reading and in learning.
Whereas students’ reading proficiency was determined by TALL, their self-efficacy levels were determined by the questionnaire. As shown in Table 2, the mean figures and standard deviations for self-efficacy and students’ reading proficiency indicate a relationship between the two. Students who reported low self-efficacy beliefs were also poor readers or had low reading ability, as indicated by the TALL. In addition to the ANOVA test, self-efficacy was also placed in a pool with other affective factors (i.e. In other words, the relationship between students’ self-efficacy levels and their reading proficiency was determined by their home language. Self-efficacy, therefore, has a direct relationship with students’ reading proficiency and an indirect relationship through home language. ISAL home language students who are deemed to be at extremely high risk or at high risk of failure academically, as indicated by the TALL, were consistently negative in the rating of their reading self-efficacy. Self-efficacy, which is the affective variant of metacognition (monitoring strategies), is known to be crucial for success in academic reading at tertiary level (Mills et al.
The relation, determined by ANOVA tests on the responses to the self-efficacy questionnaire, showed that self-efficacy has both a direct relationship and an indirect relationship with reading proficiency. It is suggested that, at both school and tertiary levels, there should be a focus on addressing strategy use and self-efficacy levels in order to improve both cognitive and affective dimensions involved in reading development. The relationship between students’ home language and their self-efficacy levels was statistically significant. According to Guthrie and Klauda (2013) assuring students of success increases their self-efficacy.
Positive does not mean grading students highly when they do not deserve it, but rather that comments and suggestions should be encouraging and specific (Dörnyei 2001). Although generic texts have their place in reading instruction, using discipline-specific texts, especially at tertiary level will provide background knowledge and relevance that will give students confidence of success. In an interview with first- year students after a reading intervention programme in 2011, a number of the students reported on how motivating and confidence-building praises and rewards were to them (Boakye 2012). Using the ANOVA test a robust relationship was found between self-efficacy and reading proficiency directly, and indirectly through the students’ home language. Consideration of this possible influence is necessary for the creation of effective reading instruction.
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Studies by researchers such as Amil (2000), Hutchison-Green, Follman and Bodner (2008), Liem et al.
Although the use of strategies and other cognitive aspects of reading are acknowledged as important, other underlying factors such as self-efficacy may be equally important in reading development. First, the concept of self-efficacy is clearly defined, followed by a discussion of its role in learning and the role it may play in reading development.
A learner with high self-efficacy will be motivated to put in more effort, persist longer and complete a given task. For example, when a learner is placed in an unfamiliar environment, seeing others perform could raise his or her efficacy levels. However, in conjunction with other sources, such as mastery and vicarious experiences, it can have a greater impact.
A learning environment with less anxiety and stress is more likely to promote learning than one with high anxiety and stress. The explanation given by Bandura (1997) is that mastery experience is the most authentic evidence of one's ability to succeed.
Loo and Choy (2013) found that self-efficacy sources correlated with maths achievement, and that mastery experience was found to be the main predictor of academic achievement in maths.
Those who had average self-efficacy used shallow strategies and those with low self-efficacy were passive or non-users of reading strategies.
In addition, the results could be used in designing reading programmes and arguing for the inclusion of self-efficacy development in reading instructional programmes. The TALL, a reliable test (Weideman 2006), which essentially assesses reading proficiency, was used to determine students’ risk group. Responses from the questionnaire aligned with students’ performance in the TALL as shown in Table 3. Thus, as much as these students were poor or struggling readers, they also had low self-efficacy levels. Thus reading instruction for such students should also focus on improving their self-efficacy. In addition, regression analysis showed self-efficacy as the strongest predictor of students’ reading proficiency amongst other affective factors. Worthy of note is the significant interaction between home language, proficiency or literacy levels and self-efficacy.
One way to do this is to provide competence support in the form of providing feedback on progress. According to Mizumoto and Takeuchi (2009), teaching students strategies may increase their self-efficacy. ISAL students reported low self-efficacy levels, whereas English and Afrikaans home language groups reported higher self-efficacy levels. To determine the relationship between self-efficacy and reading proficiency, a study was conducted with first-year students in a South African tertiary institution.
As learning is largely dependent on reading, the relationship between self-efficacy and reading proficiency should be a high point of focus in education.


As a result, self-efficacy and motivation are perceived to have a bidirectional relationship.
According to Bandura (1997) and Loo and Choy (2013), an important source of low self-efficacy is previous negative experiences in learning. Louise and Mistele (2011) concluded from their study that self-efficacy is a good predictor of achievement scores in science and maths. To the best of my knowledge, the relationship between self-efficacy and reading achievement has not been extensively researched within the African context in order to persuade educators to seriously consider self-efficacy in reading instruction. A two-way ANOVA test was performed on the dependent variable (reading proficiency levels) and the independent variables of self-efficacy and students’ home language.
According to Weideman (2006) the TALL has shown a remarkable degree of reliability with an average Cronbach alpha of .93 across three institutions, between 2004 and 2006. The number of students who answered the questionnaire on self-efficacy from the two groups was 1816 in total.
The distribution of students’ home language and their reading proficiency as determined by the TALL is given in Table 1. Thus instruction on metacognition should be undertaken concurrently with the improvement of self-efficacy levels.
ISAL home language students who were deemed to have negligible risk and are therefore proficient readers, indicated high self-efficacy (the highest of all the groups), whereas ISAL students identified as being at extremely high risk indicated the lowest self-efficacy of all the home language groups.
Although pre-school learners are usually given stars for achievement, this practice is not carried on in the senior grades.
Students’ self-efficacy levels were elicited through a questionnaire and their reading proficiency was obtained through the Test of Academic Literacy levels (TALL), which essentially assesses reading proficiency.
Yet this is not the case, as the influence of self-efficacy in reading development has been largely ignored.
In addition, Schunk and Rice (1991) found that using self-efficacy strategies such as providing students with clear goals for reading tasks and giving feedback on students’ progress in reading increased reading self-efficacy.
Besides, this kind of study is required in the African context, where a number of students come from poor social and educational backgrounds, a factor that contributes to low self-efficacy levels.
The TALL is a placement test intended to channel students, if so required, into appropriate academic literacy support courses. Thus students’ performance in the TALL aligned with their reported self-efficacy levels. In other words, the analysis showed that students’ self-efficacy strongly indicated their proficiency levels in reading.
The suggestion is for educators to include this practice, even if it is only acknowledging achievement and praising the student in the presence of other students.
Given the important role that self-efficacy plays in reading and in learning in general, it is recommended that reading instruction programmes should include the development of self-efficacy by focusing on learning goals, providing feedback on progress, developing explicit strategy instruction, giving praise and rewards and using discipline-specific texts where possible.
Further research is therefore needed to investigate how self-efficacy beliefs affect the cognitive processes that are causally related to reading achievement. An analysis of variance showed a robust relationship between reading self-efficacy and reading proficiency for this cohort of students.
The findings of this study will indicate the extent to which educators should incorporate this affective factor in reading instruction. When students’ self-efficacy beliefs are high, their reading proficiency is also high.
What needs to be pointed out here is that it is not the home language per se that influences students’ self-efficacy and reading proficiency, but there seems to be a combination of factors that include SES, educational background, reading experience, and other socio-cultural factors associated with certain home language groups that influence reading proficiency. If tertiary students found the technique beneficial, learners in school would definitely benefit from it. As a start to this investigation, Schunk and Swartz (1993) have reported from their studies that self-efficacy is associated with the use of specific reading strategies. Regression analysis conducted with other affective factors showed self-efficacy as the best predictor of students’ reading proficiency.
Similarly, reading motivation promotes frequent reading, which contributes to the use of appropriate reading strategies and high self-efficacy (Guthrie & Wigfield 2000). Mills, Pajares, and Herron (2007) also found that university students’ self-efficacy in French was positively related to their reading proficiency. The self-efficacy questions were extracted from a longer questionnaire comprising other affective factors such as motivation, attitude and interest.
The interactions relating to students’ responses to their self-efficacy levels are shown in Figure 1.
Given the low self-efficacy and poor reading proficiency of the majority of ISAL students, these students would need instruction that adequately and directly addresses their affective needs, whilst developing their cognitive reading abilities. Earlier researchers have pointed out that self-efficacy, presumably, may exert its influence by affecting motivation (Bandura 1986; Schunk 1991). Results are discussed as they relate to previous research and recommendations are made to include the development of self-efficacy in reading instruction. Appropriate and well-orchestrated strategy use in reading and learning increases self-efficacy and motivation, and also contributes to a high level of comprehension in reading, which may lead to better academic performance. The influence of self-efficacy on general academic achievement as well as in specific subject fields has been well-documented.
The questions for the questionnaire were compiled using questions from Grabe and Stoller (2002), Guthrie, Wigfield and Von Secker (2000), and other questions specific to the context. As Pajares (2006) and Guthrie and Wigfield (2000) point out, self-efficacy enhancement is an important component of reading motivation. Nevertheless praise and rewards may assist in building the confidence and self-efficacy of low achievers. There is a need to investigate how self-efficacy relates to measures of motivation and how the motivational measures affect, and are themselves affected by the strategies used during reading. The questionnaire on self-efficacy elicited responses on students’ beliefs in their reading capabilities. In other words, it measured their awareness of the challenges they face as readers and the confidence they have in themselves to undertake reading tasks successfully. The longer questionnaire was first piloted, and questions that were not valid were removed. At the end of the questionnaire students had to select their home language from the options: English, Afrikaans, Indigenous South African Language (ISAL) or other (other languages outside South Africa).




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