How Collective Teacher Efficacy Impacts Student Achievement

How Collective Teacher Efficacy Impacts Student Achievement

As a result of the expanding field of educational research, we now know more than ever about what does and does not influence student learning and achievement. And, because Dr. John Hattie wanted not only to know what works and doesn’t work, but what works BEST, we have an answer!

As I write this, Collective Teacher Efficacy holds the number one spot with an effect size of 1.57 in impacting student learning and achievement. Collective teacher efficacy refers to the beliefs of the staff as a collective group that through their collective actions they can positively impact student learning even the hard to reach students.

They believe they can overcome influences from the home and community to increase student academic learning and growth.

I bet as you look around your school staff or even grade or subject team members, you probably know which teachers possess teacher self-efficacy and which staff members are the negative Nellies or Neds.

There are means to change the perceptions of those negative Nellies or Neds. Nurturing collective teacher efficacy among your team, the building staff, or district staff cannot be left up to chance. Make the development of collective teacher efficacy a priority in your district, school, or on your team!

Collective teacher efficacy refers to the beliefs of the staff as a collective group that through their collective actions they can positively impact student learning even the hard to reach students.

Based on the research there are four sources that influence efficacy beliefs

They include direct experience, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and the affective and physiological states. You as a leader of a school or district, or as a teacher leader can take action to promote collective teacher efficacy with this information in your hands.

An example of direct experience is when a teacher or a team of teachers try a new strategy such as Cornell Note Taking and experience success because of their actions and not on other factors. Possibly students retained the content better, scored well on an assessment, or were easily able to summarize content after it was presented.

These teachers have confidence in their abilities to positively impact student achievement. They believe their teaching can overcome, the fact that some students come from single-family homes, are homeless, or are from low socio-economic families. The power of the mind is amazing.

You as a leader of a school or district, or as a teacher leader can take action to promote collective teacher efficacy with this information in your hands.

1. Direct Experience Leads the Way

During my first year as a 7th-grade social studies teacher, I had my students complete a performance task in my classroom while studying the 13 colonies. I found it to be a great success since all the students were engaged in learning and they were able to demonstrate their learning on the unit assessment.

I incorporated a second performance task on the unit leading to the American Revolution. The same excitement, level of engagement and learning were apparent. To this day I am a true believer in the power of performance tasks for learning. So, much so that I have written two books on the topic.

I only wish back when I was teaching that I knew what I know now as the performance tasks would have been that much better.

Obviously, direct experience is the most powerful of the efficacy sources. As a teacher I possessed self-efficacy. If by chance the performance task was a flop, that too would have influenced my efficacy but not in a positive way.

During my first year as a 7th-grade social studies teacher, I had my students complete a performance task in my classroom while studying the 13 colonies. I found it to be a great success since all the students were engaged in learning and they were able to demonstrate their learning on the unit assessment.

You know the teachers in your building who will try a new strategy after reading a chapter in a book study. These are the teachers who most likely have a high level of self-efficacy.

They believe their actions make a difference and can overcome the hardships and challenges that students face on a day to day basis. The goal is to harness those same thoughts as a collective and collaborative teaching staff.

Individualism is out, and collaboration and collective thinking are in.

2. Vicarious experience is the second best source for developing efficacy beliefs

Vicarious experiences occur through some form of observation. In this situation, a teacher might observe a colleague guiding students through a passage using reciprocal teaching. After observing the colleague and seeing students level of understanding of the reading, the observing teacher starts to use the strategy in his/her classroom further developing his/her self-efficacy.

Besides peer observations as described above, there are other means for teachers to experience vicarious experiences.

A principal I recently coached shared with me the great success one of her teachers was having with power writing after reading about it in Visible Learning for the Literacy Classroom during their book study.

This teacher shared her success with the Leadership Team and they concurred that she should be videotaped conducting a lesson using a power write. It will then be placed on the internal system to be shared with all staff. If the manpower or dollars for substitutes are not available, this is an alternative to sharing observations of colleagues doing what they do best—teach.

You-Tube Video and various educational websites have numerous videos that could be viewed individually or in a faculty meeting as a means to promote collective teacher efficacy.

3. Changing Mindsets through Persuasion

Similar to vicarious experiences, but not as powerful is verbal persuasion in developing efficacy beliefs. So, continuing with the power write example, maybe this particular teacher verbally shared with her grade level team at a meeting the results she is seeing with her students such as improved sentence structure, fewer grammatical errors, or enhanced vocabulary.

This could be enough for maybe one or two of her colleagues to try the strategy rather than saying that their students would not be able to do a power write.

Attending a professional development session is essentially verbal persuasion. It may be enough to get teachers to try what they learned. However, the power will come when then teachers who tried the new strategy have direct experience with it and recognize the power behind their actions in reaching students and change their beliefs about their capabilities to reach all students no matter what their circumstances.

Providing teachers with time to collaborate as a grade level team, or department team will allow for deeper conversations on teacher and student learning.  Know thy impact and act on your impact. The powerful conversations that occur during team or grade level means can be a means to an end — developing collective teacher efficacy.

4. The Power of the Mind

The final source that influences efficacy beliefs it is affective and physiological states. For instance, some teachers thrive on and get excited about tackling a challenging situation and rise to the occasion. They believe they can succeed. Others may believe they are do not have the ability to meet the challenge and become anxious and negative.

In either situation, if they are on a team, their excitement or anxiety/negativity could influence the others on the team and impact their confidence one way or the other.

This has been an introduction to collective teacher efficacy. It is nice to have individual teachers randomly across your building possessing teacher self-efficacy.

However, collective teacher efficacy is more powerful. It focuses on the entire teaching staff, as a whole group, having the belief they can make a positive difference in student achievement and overcome the daily challenges students face at home and in the community.

Building Collective Efficacy starts with the school or district leadership. Make it a priority in your building or district.

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Tracey Shiel

Tracey Shiel is author and consultant with over 20 years in the field of education. Through Thought Partners, she provides research-based educational services including balanced leadership coaching, professional development, implementation planning and execution support, and special educational projects of the highest quality. Her passion is with coaching educational leaders to achieve school and district improvement goals while enhancing leadership capabilities.