Is learning really just believing? A meta-analysis of self-efficacy and achievement in SLA

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Julia Goetze
Meagan Driver


The positive psychology movement (Seligman, 1998) has contributed to the proclamation of a positive turn in second language acquisition (SLA) (MacIntyre et al., 2016). Within the context of individual differences, self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997), an individual’s judgment of their capability to achieve goals, has gained particular interest in language learning (e.g., Lake, 2013). The present study meta-analyzes a body of research that has investigated the relationship between second language (L2) self-efficacy and L2 achievement by exploring 1) reporting practices in this domain, 2) the strength and direction of the relationship, and 3) the effects of moderator variables on the self-efficacy-achievement link. A comprehensive literature search uncovered 37 studies, which contributed to a total of 40 independent samples (N = 23,050). The average observed effect in the sample was r = .46. A moderator analysis showed systematic variations in the effect size for learners’ first language, target language, proficiency level, and both self-efficacy and achievement type. We discuss our findings with respect to theoretical constructs and methodological practices and suggest implications for L2 pedagogy and future research into self-efficacy in SLA.


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Goetze, J., & Driver, M. (2022). Is learning really just believing? A meta-analysis of self-efficacy and achievement in SLA. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 12(2), 233-259.
Author Biographies

Julia Goetze, Pennsylvania State University, State College, USA

Julia Goetze is Assistant Teaching Professor and the German language coordinator in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, Pennsylvania State University, USA. His research focuses on instructed second language acquisition. She specializes in the investigation of the psychology of teachers in the foreign language classroom, such as teacher emotions and their relationship with cognitive processes, their beliefs and belief system formation, how their behaviors influence language teaching and learning.


Contact details: The Pennsylvania State University 442 Burrowes Building University Park, PA 16802 (

Meagan Driver, Michigan State University, Lansing, USA

Meagan Driver is Assistant Professor in the Department of Romance and Classical Studies and a core faculty member in the Second Language Studies (SLS) PhD Program and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Dr. Driver is an applied linguist who specializes in mixed-methods approaches to heritage and second language acquisition (SLA). Within this realm, her research implements cognitive theories and methodologies to explore topics including affect, bilingualism and multilingualism and study abroad, and the relationship with a range of linguistic, psychological, and social factors, including vocabulary learning, moral judgment, and identity. Presently, her work explores the relationship between various emotions, including interest and linguistic insecurity, and questions surrounding linguistic and ethnoracial identity, specifically with respect to the acquisition of a heritage or foreign language.


Contact details: 3850 Tunlaw Rd. NW Apt. 805 Washington, DC 20007 (driverme@


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