“I Think I Can!”: the influences of the four sources of self-efficacy upon the development of vocal performance belief in nine classical collegiate vocalists
Lewis, Megan Catherine
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Self-efficacy is theorized to represent our ability, capability, or capacity to accomplish particular tasks. One’s belief in that ability (self-efficacy belief) has been identified as the greatest predictor of successful performance and is influenced by four primary sources (enactive mastery experience, vicarious experience, verbal/social persuasion, physiological and affective states), in addition to personal and contextual influences. However, the development of accurate self-perceptions may be particularly challenging for the collegiate vocalist. In the development of singing technique—where self-assessment is complicated by the corporal nature of the vocal instrument—Bandura’s (1997) sources of self-efficacy provide a framework whereby assessment of ability and capability may become more tangible. The aim of the present study, therefore, was to investigate how collegiate vocal students’ beliefs in their vocal performance abilities may be influenced by the four self-efficacy sources and personal/contextual factors. I distributed the Vocal Performance Self-Efficacy Survey (adapted from Zelenak, 2011) to 46 voice majors at a private university in the western United States. Nine interview participants, who represented diversity of performance beliefs, were subsequently selected from the survey participant pool. Interview participants completed an initial interview based on a priori themes (four sources of self-efficacy); and a follow-up interview, which explored contextual factors (i.e., student/teacher relationship, environment, cognitive self-regulation, practice habits, and gender). In addition, participants documented three experiences—in a voice lesson, practice session, and performance—that fostered or hindered their performance belief. Vocal students in this study described how they progressed in self-belief by moving from a reliance on external assessments of ability to a reliance on self-appraisal as they (a) developed their technique through practice, studio learning, and performance (enactive mastery experience); (b) watched coping and master models (vicarious experience); (c) received feedback (verbal/social persuasion); (d) knew and felt physically when they were singing freely (physiological and affective states); and (e) learned to exercise agency (cognitive self-regulation). A particularly important finding from this study was the common and consistent reliance singers placed on physiological and affective states. Eight of nine interview participants responded that, of all the self-efficacy sources, physiological and affective states most affected their performance belief. Interview data indicate the importance of nurturing vocal students’ performance beliefs through utilizing the four sources of self-efficacy, fostering qualities of persistence and resilience, facilitating cognitive self-regulation, working toward productive student/teacher relationships, and creating safe learning and performance environments.