The Benefits of Project Based Learning and Independent Study for Low Self-Efficacy


We know that education isn’t a one-size-fits-all institution, just as one child can vary so much from the next child. Hence, it comes as no surprise today that there are so many schooling options out there for your student.

At Method, we have a variety of students who thrive here but just didn’t fit into the mainstream public school system. It is interesting to note that those students who have or previously had low self-efficacy are making bigger strides in this independent study program than they did in their previous environment. They have built more confidence in themselves, leading to a more positive mindset and increased motivation for learning.


How is self-efficacy correlated with learning?

According to Bandura (1994, 1997), students’ self-efficacy helps determine how students think, feel and behave, which directly relates to their motivation and performance. Positive self-efficacy protects students against peer victimization and depressive symptoms, both of which have negative influences on their academic performance (Caprara et al. 2004, 2010). In other words, students who lack confidence in their problem solving and ability to socialize are likelier to be depressed and possibly bullied due to the emotional and social maladjustments from self-efficacy deficits (Juvonen et al. 2000). Hence, this can create a vicious cycle where low self-efficacy leads to drops in academic performance and confidence, which further diminishes self-efficacy.


How is self-efficacy increased through project based learning (PBL) and independent or self-directed learning?

Project based learning allows students to apply their knowledge and learn through the very process of solving a problem. Done effectively, it can scaffold students’ self-directed learning and support them through each stage of problem solving, thereby positively boosting their self-efficacy. It can also encourage teamwork and community building, as students work on their individual projects and encourage one another through the process. In this environment, students can build up their confidence again and revamp their own views of themselves in relation to others.

With independent study, students may learn at their own pace at a level that is both challenging and appropriate for them. Curriculum that realistically meets students at their level serves to motivate and encourage them, as the material will neither be too hard nor too easy. At Method, instructors are also available to support students on a one-to-one or small group basis to tackle difficult skills together.

With a more personal, student-driven learning, students with low self-efficacy can rise above the negative mindset of being a victim. Instead, they may learn to see themselves as empowered individuals who are active participants in their own learning.



Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V.S. Ramachaudran (Ed.). Encyclopedia of human

behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: Freeman.

Caprara, G. V., Barbaranelli, C. Pastorelli, C., & Cervone, D. (2004). The contribution

of self-efficacy beliefs of psychological outcomes in adolescence: Predicting beyond global dispositional tendencies. Personality and Individual Differences, 37, 751-763.

Caprara, G. V., Gerbino, M., Paciello, M., Di Giunta, L., & Pastorelli, C. (2010).

Counteracting depression and delinquency in late adolescence: The role of regulatory emotional and interpersonal self-efficacy beliefs. European Psychologist, 15, 34-48.

Junoven, J., Nishina, A., & Graham, S. (2000). Peer harassment, psychological

adjustment, and school functioning in early adolescence. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 349-359. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.92.2.349.



Learn More About Project Based Learning at Method

Sally Feng
Sally Feng
Sally Feng is a Southern California native and nature lover who earned both her B.A. in Psychology and M.A.T. at University of California, Irvine. She has worked with students ranging from kindergarten through high school in various environments and loves to see her scholars grow in their confidence. She taught for two years in Beijing, China, and is excited to work in this new environment at Method Schools Arcadia!

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