Strategies for Improving Self-Efficacy: A Qualitative Analysis of Detroit’s Downtown Boxing Gym




community youth development, self-efficacy, lower-income youth of color, qualitative research


Structural inequalities present throughout U.S. public schools are known to contribute to the significant achievement gaps that persist between lower-income students of color and their more financially secure, White peers. Because of this, community programs have been identified as places where typically underserved students can receive the support required for positive development and academic achievement. The current study used qualitative methods to explore how one community program, Detroit’s Downtown Boxing Gym, fosters self-efficacy in school-aged youth from Detroit Public Schools. Focus group participants reported they are indeed experiencing increases in self-efficacy as a result of the mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, and verbal persuasion they receive at the gym. Specific recommendations for how other programs might foster self-efficacy, including establishing a program climate where students feel cared for, ensuring program staff truly believe students can be successful, identifying opportunities for students to have mastery experiences, and utilizing peer modeling, are discussed.

Author Biographies

Amanda Sommerfeld Case, Purdue University

Amanda S Case, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Counseling Psychology
Department of Educational Studies
Purdue University

N. Keita Christophe, University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Department of Psychology

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro 

296 Eberhart Building

Greensboro, NC 27412


Alivernini, F., & Lucidi, F. (2011). Relationship between social context, self-efficacy, motivation, academic achievement, and intention to drop out of high school: A longitudinal study. The Journal of Educational Research, 104(4), 241-252. doi:10.1080/00220671003728062

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.84.2.191

Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American Psychologist, 37(2), 122-147. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.37.2.122

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York, NY: Freeman.

Bandura, A., Barbaranelli, C., Caprara, G.V., & Pastorelli, C. (2001). Self-efficacy beliefs as shapers of children's aspirations and career trajectories. Child Development, 72(1), 187-206.

Bandura, A., & Cervone, D. (1983). Self-evaluative and self-efficacy mechanisms governing the motivational effects of goals systems. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45(5), 1017-1028. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.45.5.1017

Berg, M., Coman, E., & Schensul, J. (2009). Youth action research for prevention: A multi-level intervention designed to increase efficacy and empowerment among urban youth. American Journal of Community Psychology, 43(3-4), 345–359. doi:10.1007/s10464-009-9231-2

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101. doi:10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

Britner, S. L., & Pajares, F. (2006). Sources of science self-efficacy beliefs of middle school students. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43(5), 485–499. doi:10.1002/tea.20131

Butz, A. R., & Usher, E. L. (2015). Salient sources of early adolescents' self-efficacy in two domains. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 42, 49-61. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2015.04.001

Cervone, D. (1997). Social-cognitive mechanisms and personality coherence: Self-knowledge, situational beliefs, and cross-situational coherence in perceived self-efficacy. Psychological Science, 8(1), 43–50. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.1997.tb00542.x

Darling-Hammond, L. (2001). Unequal Opportunity: Race and Education. Retrieved from

DeAngelis, T. (2012). Helping at-risk students succeed: A psychologist-designed program that supports learning among at-risk kids gains momentum nationwide. Monitor on Psychology, 43(2), 46-47.

Dee, T., & Gershenson, S. (2017). Unconscious Bias in the Classroom: Evidence and Opportunities. Mountain View, CA: Google Inc. Retrieved from

Devine, P. G., Forscher, P. S., Austin, A. J., & Cox, W. T. L. (2012). Long-term reduction in implicit race bias: A prejudice habit-breaking intervention. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(6), 1267-1278. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.06.003

Grether, T., Sowislo, J. F., & Wiese, B. S. (2018). Top-down or bottom-up? Prospective relations between general and domain-specific self-efficacy beliefs during a work-family transition. Personality and Individual Differences, 121, 131-139. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2017.09.021

Jussim, L., & Harber, K. D. (2005). Teacher expectations and self-fulfilling prophecies: Knowns and unknowns, resolved and unresolved controversies. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 9(2), 131-155

Morton, M. H., & Montgomery, P. (2013). Youth empowerment programs for improving adolescents’ self-efficacy and self-esteem: A systematic review. Research on Social Work Practice, 23(1), 22-33. doi:10.1177/1049731512459967

Nickens, H. W., & Smedley, B. D. (2001). The right thing to do, the smart thing to do: Enhancing diversity in the health professions: Summary of the Symposium on Diversity in Health Professions in Honor of Herbert W. Nickens, M.D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Retrieved from

Robbins, S. B., Lauver, K., Le, H., Davis, D., Langley, R., & Carlstrom, A. (2004). Do psychosocial and study skill factors predict college outcomes? A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 261-288. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.130.2.261

Samuels, S. M., & Gibb, R. W. (2002). Self-efficacy assessment and generalization in physical education courses. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32(6), 1314-1327. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2002.tb01438.x

Schunk, D. H., & Pajares, F. (2002). The development of academic self-efficacy. In A. Wigfield & J. S. Eccles (Eds.), Development of Achievement Motivation (pp. 15–31). San Diego: Academic Press. doi:10.1016/B978-012750053-9/50003-6

Schwartz, S., & Suyemoto, K. (2013). Creating change from the inside: Youth development within a youth community organizing program. Journal of Community Psychology, 41(3), 341-358. doi:10.1002/jcop.21541

Schwarzer, R., & Jerusalem, M. (1995). Generalized self-efficacy scale. In J. Weinman, S. Wright, & M. Johnston (Eds.), Measures in Health Psychology: A User's Portfolio (pp. 35-37). Windsor, UK: NFER-NELSON.

Shelton, S. H. (1990). Developing the construct of general self-efficacy. Psychological Reports, 66, 987-994. doi:10.1177/003329419006600301

Usher, E. L., & Pajares, F. (2008). Sources of self-efficacy in school: critical review of the literature and future directions. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 751–796. doi:10.3102/0034654308321456

Vaismoradi, M., Turunen, H., & Bondas, T. (2013). Content analysis and thematic analysis: Implications for conducting a qualitative descriptive study. Nursing and Health Sciences, 15, 398-405. doi:10.1111/nhs.12048






Program & Practice Articles