This quote belongs to Pippi Longstocking, a fictional main character in a series of children’s books by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. It is a very optimistic and bold quote, but what can we learn from it?


Pippi Longstocking’s quote concerns the concept of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy[1] refers to your judgement on your own capabilities. It is a belief; so it’s not about how competent you are as a professional, but how competent you feel. But in contrast to what Pippi Longstocking says, your self-efficacy beliefs can be self-fulfilling prophecies that are affected by the amount of practice you have had. If you perceive your teaching practice as successful, your feelings of self-efficacy are raised, which in turn increases your chances of future success. Likewise, if you perceive your performance as unsuccessful, your feelings of self-efficacy decrease, which negatively contributes to your future expectations of your performance.

Research on self-efficacy of teachers shows that it is an important predictor of their behavior in the classroom. Teachers with more positive self-efficacy beliefs provide better emotional support for children[2] and are more effective in dealing with problem behavior in the classroom[3]. Therefore, it is important to support teachers in developing positive self-efficacy beliefs. Self-efficacy beliefs are not set in stone and can change over time. Moreover, they can vary per activity or situation. For instance, you might feel more competent as a professional when you are reading to children than when you are engaging in their role play. You might also recognize that you feel more or less competent in dealing with specific children. Perhaps you feel more insecure when dealing with children with certain behavioral problems, or you might feel more competent in general when teaching girls compared to boys.

Take a moment to reflect on your own self-efficacy beliefs. How competent do you feel as a professional? Are there specific children or situations in which you notice that you feel more or less efficacious? Talk about this with your colleagues. Do they feel less efficacious in the same situations or you could you learn from one another?

Self-efficacy in diverse classrooms

Research also shows that teachers differ in their self-efficacy beliefs when it comes to working with children from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds[4]. Feeling competent in general as a teacher, does not automatically imply that you feel equally confident in supporting the development of children with diverse backgrounds. Actually, studies show that teachers have less positive self-efficacy beliefs when it comes to dealing with cultural and linguistic diversity. So, what affects these diversity-related self-efficacy beliefs and, more importantly, how can you we support positive self-efficacy beliefs?

Increasing your diversity-related self-efficacy

Your self-efficacy beliefs are affected by your experiences in practice. This is also true for diversity-related self-efficacy. The extent to which you have (had) the opportunity to work with children from diverse backgrounds, can impact your self-efficacy beliefs. Teachers who work in more diverse classrooms generally feel more efficacious in supporting children with diverse backgrounds. So, gaining experience in a diverse classroom is important, but it does not guarantee high efficacy beliefs. It is of special importance that you engage in activities that focus on diversity. Teachers with higher levels of diversity-related self-efficacy are more often engaged in intercultural group activities. These are activities in which you pay attention to different norms and values, activities that enrich children’s’ knowledge of different cultures, or using materials that reflect diversity in society.

Such intercultural activities are not just important in highly diverse classrooms. Early childhood education plays an important role in preparing all children for a society that is increasingly diverse. Therefore, it is important that all teachers feel competent in dealing with diversity. The best way to achieve this is by creating opportunities to experience successes in working with diversity so you can build up your diversity-related self-efficacy beliefs.

Three tips for building up your diversity-related self-efficacy beliefs:

–        Is your classroom not very diverse? See if there is another classroom in your organization with more diversity in cultural and linguistic backgrounds of children. Perhaps you can observe your colleagues and build up some experience yourself in these classrooms. Or talk with your colleagues about how they adjust their curriculum and practices to their children’s backgrounds.

–        Is your entire organization not very diverse? Try to find opportunities to gain experiences with diversity outside of your work environment. Maybe you could get some field experience in exchange with other schools? Or get acquainted with neighborhood center or other local organizations that can get you in contact with children and parents from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. You could also sign up for some (low key) volunteering in this area, for instance by becoming a reading buddy for multilingual families.

–        Look for professional development opportunities. Perhaps you could make this an explicit topic for coaching on the job. Or organize a meeting together with your colleagues to discuss this issue.


This blog post was contributed by Bodine Romijn (Utrecht University)


[1] Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy (2001). Teacher efficacy: Capturing an elusive construct. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17, 783-805. doi:10.1016/s0742-051x(01)00036-1

[2] Guo, Piasta, Justice, & Kaderavek (2010). Relations among preschool teachers’ self-efficacy, classroom quality, and children’s language and literacy gains. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26, 1094-1103. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2009.11.005

[3] Almog & Schechtman (2007). Teachers’ democratic and efficacy beliefs and styles of coping with behavioural problems of pupils with special needs. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 22, 115-129. doi:10.1080/08856250701267774

[4] Romijn, Slot, Leseman, & Pagani (2020). Teachers’ self-efficacy and intercultural classroom practices in diverse classroom contexts: A cross-national comparison. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 79, 58-70. doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2020.08.001

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