Robert J. Marzano
Art & Science of Teaching
Teaching Self-Efficacy with Personal Projects
learn the skills
To help students articulate their aspirations,
a teacher might ask, “What would you do if
you knew you wouldn’t fail?” One female high
school student might respond, “I want to go to
the U.S. Air Force Academy and eventually fly
military jets.” A powerful addition to student
projects is for the teacher to identify an aspiration and follow the same phases as the students.
in the context of
Many frameworks that outline the skills necessary for success in the 21st century emphasize the importance of
self-efficacy. 1 Self-efficacy is the belief that one
has control over one’s own life; it’s accompanied
by a set of skills that include the ability to
n Identify long- and short-term aspira-
tions that are personally meaningful and that
contribute to one’s sense of well-being.
n Set concrete long- and
short-term goals relative to
n Monitor progress
toward long- and short-term
goals and revise actions or
goals as needed.
n Identify, monitor, and
change personal beliefs and
habits that are impediments
to successfully completing
Intuitively, these seem
like powerful skills to
teach, and many classroom teachers try to foster them at every turn.
However, they’re difficult to teach in the artificial, academic context that’s so often embedded
in traditional subject areas.
Rather, students can more easily learn these
skills in the context of strong personal aspirations. I’ve found that teachers can use a certain
type of classroom project—what I refer to as a
personal project—to enhance self-efficacy skills. 2
Phase 2: Who else has
accomplished the same goal,
and who will support me?
During the second phase,
students look for role
models and mentors. The
student who wants to fly jets
might find her role model in
Nicole Malachowski, who
not only graduated from the
U.S. Air Force Academy and
flew F-15s in combat over
Kosovo, but also was the
first female to be selected
to the Air Force’s elite flying
team, the Thunderbirds. The student might
approach her own parents to be her mentors,
just as Nicole Malachowski’s parents were
mentors for their daughter.
Robert J. Marzano
is cofounder and
CEO of Marzano
in Denver, Colorado.
He is the author of
The Art and Science
of Teaching (ASCD,
2007) and coauthor,
with Tony Frontier and
David Livingston, of
Supporting the Art and
Science of Teaching
Self-Efficacy—In Seven Phases
Personal projects entail seven phases, each
of which begins with a question that fosters
Phase 1: What do I want to accomplish?
In phase one, students identify personal aspirations of interest. Typically, they don’t share these
with other students; rather, they record them
in a journal that’s accessible to the teacher only.
Phase 3: What skills and resources
will I need to accomplish my goal?
Whereas phase one encourages students to
“dream big” without any limitations, phase
three asks them to confront the realities of their
aspirations. During this phase, the young female
student might find that she has to maintain a
high grade-point average, procure a letter of
recommendation from a U.S. senator or representative, and be in superb physical condition
to be accepted into the Air Force academy.
Phase 4: What will I have to change about
myself to achieve my goal?
This phase directly addresses the fourth