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  • Summer 2012- Self Efficacy Case Study
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Alex and Troy have been best friends since grade school. They are now high school seniors with two different aspirational goals due to their two completely different lifestyles. The following case study describes their story.

Case Details 

Alex and Troy are both star football players for their high school football team. This has made them both popular in their school and community. Like many adolescent friends, Troy has been teasing Alex since their last game when he dropped the game winning touchdown, which lead to the team's first loss of the season. The loss has led to Alex having low self-efficacy and dread towards their next game, demonstrating that "self-efficacy has been shown to be a powerful influence on individuals' motivation" (Schunk, 2009). On the other hand,Troy’s performance outcomes have been producing feelings of high self-efficacy because he reached his goal of 200 touchdowns in a single season, including him in "those with high self-efficacy," who "participate more readily, work harder, persist longer, show greater interest in learning, and achieve at higher levels" (Schunk 2009).

Troy comes from an upper-middle class family and grew up as an only child. Both his parents completed law school and graduated at the top of their classes. They are also known for opening a well-known law firm. They have always been proud of their son no matter what he does. As they await college acceptance letters, they are sure he will be able to attend the college of his choice and play football, his ultimate passion. Troy wants to follow in his parents footsteps and become a lawyer. Through vicarious experience, Troy observed their competence, drive, and motivation, which influenced his decision to become a lawyer as well.

On the other hand, Alex grew up in a middle-class community with his mother and six siblings. His dad was not a part of his life anymore. He witnessed as he abused his mother and grandmother and stole from them. His mother obtained her GED after becoming pregnant during high school and decided to drop out. To make ends meet and support her children, she works minimum wage jobs. Alex and his older siblings also work after school  to try and help out. Alex's childhood experiences had a negative effect on his motivation to attend college. As "behavior, cognition, and other personal factors, the environmental influences all operate as interacting determinants that influence each other" (Bandura 1989). Because of his environment, Alex is easily influenced by crime and violence and fortunately he had an outlet, football. He loves football and desires to play professionally one day, but he does not want to leave his mother, who he admires for providing for his siblings alone, and he does not have high self-efficacy strength. After countless talks with his coaching staff and high school counselors, Alex was encouraged to apply to college. This was the first step to the rest of his life, but Alex was not sure if he would be accepted or attend due to his self-efficacy, since "in education, it [self-efficacy] has been shown to affect students' choices of...persistence, interest, and achievement" (Schunk 2009).

Troy couldn’t imagine college life without his best friend, so he knew he would have to have a serious conversation with Alex. Troy offered Alex verbal persuasion like “you’ll succeed” and “imagine how life will be when we make it to the NFL.” That night, Alex went home to tell his family that he was now interested in attending college so that he could ensure a better future for them all, heightening his self-efficacy magnitude. His mother was overjoyed. High school went on as usual; weeks turned to months. Neither Troy nor Alex had received any acceptance letters and they both became worried. Unexpectedly, Troy and Alex received letters stating that they were accepted to the college of their choice, and they wanted to recruit them for the football team, but they had to attend try-outs. Alex was nervous, but Troy was confident that they both would make the team.

Try-out day arrived and both Troy and Alex performed beyond what the coaches had ever seen, but they still had to wait until the next morning for official notices about who made the team. That night was full of anxiety for both boys, and they knew that "it takes time for a causal factor to exert its influence and activate reciprocal influences" (Bandura 1989). The next morning they were up before dawn, ready to hear the final verdict. As Troy and Alex walked to the training building to check the roster, they both experienced feelings of anxiety. When they finally reached the list and saw both of their names, they were excited. Troy and Alex both experienced obstacles which could have altered their chances at success, but, all in all, motivation and performance helped them to believe that they could make what seemed impossible possible. 


In conclusion, Alex and Troy overcome their self-efficacy problems and anxieties by perseverance in work motivation. Both, Alex and Troy, used football as motivation even though it was an outlet for two different cases. Alex self-efficacy magnitude is challenged by trying to obtain 200 touchdowns a season which would be an astonishing record in football history. Alex's performance outcomes are controversial too as he fails to complete the winning reception of  pass play that would have won the game for the team. He is teased by Troy, which lowers his self-efficacy, but compared to all his other performance outcomes and set of goals for the season, he easily overcomes one failure due to the self-efficacy he feels about his other achievements. A vicarious experience is mainly attributed to Alex because he is motivated by his parentts competitiveness and assertiveness which their job, lawyers, consist of portraying. Verbal persuasion is used by Troy, coaches, and counselors to help Alex overcome his anxiety of going to college and leaving his mom to take care of the family of her own. He is burden with responsibility for his family, but verbal persuasion is able to convince him to start a life filled with new and better opportunities for them and him. Overall, Alex and Troy are able to become motivated and succeed by using different self-efficacy techniques.


Bandura, A. (1989). Social cognitive theory. (pp. 1-60). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Schunk, D. H. (2009). Self-efficacy theory. (pp. 35-38). New York: Routledge

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