on Self-Efficacy in Struggling Readers

 Journal Articles:

Cambria, J., & John, T. G. (2010). Motivating and engaging students in reading. New England  Reading Association Journal, 46(1), 16-29, 109-110. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/ 755497974?accountid=10245

“Motivating and Engaging Students in Reading” is at times a pedantic and redundant piece touting motivation and its three sub-categories as the most important factors in creating proficient readers in children of all ages. Written by Jenna Cambria and John T. Guthrie and first published in the New England Reading Association Journal, the article takes a detailed look at the three categories of motivation that drive students to read and offers tips on how to induce this motivation in even the most recalcitrant pupil.

The journal article begins by explaining how motivation is made up of the three different factors of interest, confidence (i.e. self-efficacy) and dedication. Interest is the delight and enthusiasm children get from reading books of their own choosing. People who read for interest are not looking for any rewards other than reading the book for pleasure (Cambria, et al. 16-17). Self-confidence is the next component, and according to the authors, “belief in yourself is more closely linked to achievement than any other motivation…A student who reads fluently and understands well is…sure of himself as a reader” (17). Belief in one’s abilities is also called self-efficacy, a term coined by famed psychologist Bandura. The article continues by saying that students who struggle in reading “begin to doubt their abilities” (17). Because struggling readers often believe their abilities are worse than they really are, they give up trying to learn. And when students quit trying to read, they are in fact fulfilling their own fears of failure.

The authors take nearly four pages to dissect dedication, the final motivational component, and to offer examples of it in real-life classrooms. Considering the authors maintain that self-efficacy is the most important motivation for success in school, it seems odd that they spend so much time expounding on dedication—the will to persevere in reading, even when the content is boring or complicated (18). Cambria and Guthrie do point out the synergistic quality of all three types of motivation, positing that children with self-efficacy (confidence) are willing (dedicated) to tackle challenges (20), but this is only after a lengthy treatise on the different kinds of dedication found in students.

The last portion of the article focuses on implementing motivational practices in both elementary and secondary classrooms. The authors believe that in order for students to develop motivation in reading, they need to use texts that are at their independent or instructional level, read stories that have relevance to their own lives, be able to choose their own books as often as possible, and collaborate with peers for discussion and analysis. The strange thing about Cambria and Guthrie’s conclusion is that it is repetitive and redundant. First they list the motivational practices for elementary classrooms from pages 21-23, and then they list the exact same practices for secondary schools but in slightly different wording on pages 24-27. By the time I completed the article, I was convinced that I had printed some of the same pages twice, because the content was so similar. This article could have easily been ten pages shorter if the authors hadn’t spent so much time extolling the virtues of dedication and repeating the same practices for elementary and secondary schools. While certain elements were interesting, the overall article was preachy and tedious.


Corkett, J., Hatt, B., & Benevides, T. (2011). Student and teacher self-efficacy and the  connection to reading and writing. Canadian Journal of Education, 34(1), 65-98.  Retrieved from http://search. proquest.com/docview/871222504? accountid=10245

This article, published in the Canadian Journal of Education, reports on the research project that authors Corkett, Hatt, and Benevides undertook to determine if there was a correlation between how teachers view their student’s self-efficacy and how student’s view their own efficacy. The authors believe that self-efficacy “is formed through four main constructs: personal accomplishments, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological arousal” (3). The authors were particularly interested in how struggling readers might be adversely affected by teacher’s verbal criticism of their skills or lack of any form of feedback.

The authors looked at 122 sixth grade students of predominately middle-class origins and Caucasian descent (6). First they determined where the children fell in the reading levels. Then they asked the teachers to rate their own self-efficacy as an educator and the self-efficacy of their pupils. The researchers also asked the students to rate themselves. What the researchers found was that “the teachers’ perceptions of the students’ self-efficacy for reading and writing correlated with the students’ reading and writing abilities” (12). However, the sixth grade students own self-efficacy was not negatively affected by their talents, meaning those who were struggling readers did not lack any confidence despite their abilities. The interesting conclusion the researchers made was that while teacher’s perceptions of student’s efficacy in reading and writing did not correlate with the student’s own self-efficacy, those teachers with high self-confidence in their own teaching style promoted better self-efficacy in their students (14). Corkett, Hatt, and Benevides added that more testing was needed to be conclusive.

While the information in the article was fascinating, the overall delivery was dry and clinical. I ended up skimming a great portion of the document as the authors delved into scientific and mathematical equations that were beyond my ken. This is not entirely their fault, as I am sure their targeted audience would understand the scientific jargon of the piece. I just wish the whole article had been more “layperson friendly.”


Parke, Jacqueline, A., & Meyer, Cynthia, L. (2010). Motivating young readers: theory into practice. New England Reading Association Journal, 45(2), 35-42, 103. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/206035620? accountid=10245

“Motivating Young Readers: Theory into Practice” by Parke and Meyer, describes the motivational practices two different tutors used to develop their students’ reading and writing abilities and to promote their self-efficacy.  Through tutoring two unique students, Jared and Henry, the teachers determined that motivation is crucial to student’s success. Ultimately, the two students were successful during the sessions “because of the increase in their positive self-efficacy as a result of the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards they experienced” (41).

Jared was a first-grader who was struggling with letter recognition, remembering sight words, and decoding. He was already beginning to experience low self-esteem because of his struggles. His tutor saw that the best way to teach him the concepts of reading was to offer him multi-sensory instruction (differentiation) and extrinsic motivation, such as stickers for any success, no matter how small to place on a progress chart (37). The tutor also made sure to heap appropriate praise that explained exactly what Jared had done correctly as opposed to generic praise with no connection to the curriculum. As Jared began to progress as a reader, his confidence in his abilities soared and he grew to love reading (38).

Henry was a sixth grader who did not read at grade level. As a result of his struggles, his self-efficacy was virtually nonexistent. First the tutor worked on fostering self-confidence and then they worked on developing his reading skills. Part of Henry’s problem was his lack of interest in reading. The tutor worked on motivating Henry by focusing on his interest of sports and by allowing him to make choices on his reading. Once Henry realized that reading was not just for school and instruction but for pleasure, he became a motivated reader. The more motivated he was, the more he read, and the more he improved.

Both case studies illustrated the importance of developing self-confidence in struggling readers. I enjoyed reading the progress of the two students, and comparing and contrasting the different techniques the tutors chose to implement for the each child.


Janisch, C., Akrofi, A., & Liu, X. (2012). Coming to know: one teacher widens and deepens her knowledge about struggling students. Journal of Thought, 47(1), 6-20, 96-97. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1020913910?accountid=10245

This interesting and in-depth article, published in the Journal of Thought, postulates that many students are developing low self-image due to their poor results on standardized tests (Janisch, C., Akrofi, A., et al., 6). To support their theory, the authors focus on one graduate student’s particular tutoring experience with a struggling reader over several weeks of summer school. Once the teacher discovered that her student lacked any sort of self-efficacy when it came to reading, her goal quickly became one of restoring the child’s self-confidence as well as helping him improve his reading.

She began her tutoring with developing a trusting relationship with her pupil. Since he had such low self-efficacy, she knew she needed to show him that she believed in him in order for his own self-confidence to blossom. By befriending him and slowly gaining his trust, she was able to show him that his value was not determined by how well he did on tests. He had potential as a reader and writer, but because of his bad experiences on tests, he lacked the self-efficacy to read on his own (14).

The teacher believed in “thoughtful literacy, whereby students read and discuss with a focus on comprehension that results in higher student achievement” (7-8). “Thoughtful literacy” involves authentic literature—stories that students are actually interested in reading and can relate to (12). Authentic literature is often selected by the students themselves, as it has been proven that giving children choices in books increases their desire to read them (13). As the authors contend, “In reading tasks and writing tasks these elements appeal to students and increase their motivation and engagement” (16). Once her pupil engaged in authentic reading assignments, his confidence in his reading and writing grew.

The article is concise in its explanations and very informative. The authors know how to include data that supports their thesis, as opposed to some of the other articles I read where the work was meandering and the thesis unidentifiable.


Web Blog Post:

Peterson, Sharlene. (2010, May 25). 10 ways to bolster your struggling readers’ self-esteem [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.imaginelearning.com/blog/index.php/2010/05/10-ways-to-bolster-your-struggling-readers-self-esteem/

Posted by Sharlene Peterson, educator and employee of the innovative language and literacy program Imagine This!, “10 Ways to Bolster Your Struggling Readers’ Self-Esteem” is, as the name suggests, a list of steps that teachers can use to develop their struggling readers’ self-efficacy (or self-esteem, as the post labels it). The blog includes such helpful tips as the following: show patience, give frequent goal-based praise, help students focus on the positive, tailor instruction to students’ individual learning styles, and chart progress. Each step features a brief explanation or comment on the effectiveness of the particular measure.

The post is very short, which is in the nature of web blogs, but that means that the information is condensed. I would definitely follow up this post with other articles or web pages on self-efficacy to fill in the gaps of missing information. Most of the steps are so generic that they could be applied to any area of learning, not just to reading as the title suggests. When I consider the other sources that I found during this project, I realize this post is only useful as a summarization on developing self-esteem and is not an effective primary source.


One thought on “Annotated Bibliography

  1. Self-efficacy is critical for any kind of success, and a timely topic for your well-written bibliography. I’m continually amazed at the power of believing in one’s abilities and contributions, but we need to make sure with students that our empowering them with confidence is matched by recursive assessment that demonstrates real growth. So often in our everyone-gets-a-trophy culture we replace authentic praise and encouragement with meaningless rhetoric. The best educators individually balance caring support and high expectation for each child.

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