Leaders and Teacher Collective Efficacy

My current reading is Jenni Donohoo’s book, Collective Efficacy: How Educators’ Beliefs Impact Student Learning. 

“Collective teacher efficacy refers to the collective self-perception that teachers in a given school make an educational difference to their students over and above the educational impact of their homes and communities.” (Tschannen-Moran and Barr, Leadership and Policy in Schools)

John Hatti has identified collective teacher efficacy as the number one factor influencing student achievement. With an effect size of 1.57 he ranks it as double the impact of teacher clarity (.75) or feedback (.75)

Donohoo identifies these teacher behaviors and learning environments as positively connected with teacher efficacy: (page 13-14)

  • Putting forth greater effort and persistence, especially with students experiencing difficulty
  • Trying new teacher approaches based on effective pedagogy
  • Conveying high expectations to students (teacher expectations)
  • Fostering autonomy (student-centered teaching)
  • Decreasing disruptive behavior
  • Increased commitment
  • Enhanced parental involvement

My work with many school staffs, leadership teams, and PLCs illustrates the difference in developing plans and taking actions for increased student learning when collective teacher efficacy is present or missing. Because the payoffs of collective teacher efficacy are so great and the consequences of missing efficacy are so damaging, building efficacy beliefs should be at the center of school leaders’ work.

As I read chapter three, Fostering Collective Teacher Efficacy, the importance of creating effective PLCs was reinforced. Leaders can promote several of the conditions for enabling collective teacher efficacy by supporting well- functioning PLCs:

  • Advanced teacher influence– increasing teachers power to make decisions that impact student learning builds collective teacher efficacy. PLCs where teachers are learning together to increase student learning must be empowered to initiate ideas and changes that they generate. PLCs where teachers are given an agenda of “work assigned by someone else” are more likely to build resentment rather than efficacy.
  • Goal consensus– setting measurable and appropriately challenging goals sets the stage for achieving purposeful results. As PLCs reach consensus on student learning goals, plan actions for reaching those goals, and celebrate success when goals are met, teachers are building beliefs about the abilities of their colleagues and themselves.
  • Teachers’ knowledge about one another’s work- teachers build beliefs about their colleagues’ abilities as they gain more knowledge of what goes on in their classrooms. Teachers studying student work from each other’s classroom provides insights frequently not gained in department, team, or grade level meetings. By adding peer coaching activities to PLC relationships, teachers have the opportunity to witness each other dealing with similar teaching/learning circumstances. When peer coaches observe student learning behaviors connected to teacher behaviors and share that feedback with the observed peer, both teachers’ understanding is deepened and collective efficacy built.
  • Effective Systems of Intervention – when teachers build an effective plan for dealing with students’ needs for remediation and enrichment a sense of collective efficacy is created.

Donohoo presents a theory of action for fostering collective teacher efficacy that can serve as a planning tool for school leadership teams. It can also be used to assess existing PLCs and identify leadership actions that can increase PLCs’ impact on student learning. These critical aspects are not step-by-step but fluid and interconnected.  Leaders should work to…

 … create opportunities for meaningful collaboration.

The starting point is forming teams of teachers who can agree on common goals and creating sufficient time for collaborative problem solving. Working as a team is new to many educators so models, protocols and coaching are often necessary.

… empower teachers.

For teachers to invest in and commit to the work of collective problem solving they must believe that they are empowered to implement strategies or solutions they design. Many educators have experienced false empowerment. They have been asked to design or solve a problem only to find no opportunity to implement. These experiences can create an unwillingness by educators to fully participate. Leaders need to create the empowerment for teams to act.

…establish goals and high expectations.

Setting and communicating clear goals based on high expectations is critical to the success of any school’s strategic plan.  It takes facilitative skills to guide a team in developing, communicating, and gaining consensus on powerful goals that transform teaching and learning.

…help interpret results and provide feedback.

Teachers need to examine evidence of student learning. PLC conversations need to shift from generalized talk about student progress and polite sharing of teaching strategies to in-depth cause and effect explorations.

LearningForward has reported  on a program of continuous improvement implemented in Galveston, TX middle schools:

Middle School Unit Planning teaching teams provide collaborative time for teachers to analyze data and plan for upcoming units each six weeks. Middle school principals meet to learn from each other to strengthen their instructional leadership skills.

“The greatest motivation for principals and teachers is for leaders to embrace and implement an authentic learning system. Through continuous learning as professionals, we can dramatically increase the learning of all staff and students. Going through the process of continuous improvement, we will replicate this body of work to better support our teachers’ learning, which will in turn support student learning. Becoming a learning system means giving every adult working in the district the opportunity to be a part of a mission-driven community that establishes a norm of learning for all.”

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One Response to “ Leaders and Teacher Collective Efficacy ”

  1. Michael Chirichello Says:

    Collective teacher efficacy requires a culture that supports collective leadership- where the process of leading and learning for all staff members is valued and practiced. Leadership becomes a collective process rather than a focus on an individual. The principal and teachers lead and learn together. Collective leadership is like a jazz ensemble- where all the players know when to lead, when to follow, and when to get out of each other’s way. Principals have a direct effect on the collective efficacy of teachers and teachers have a direct effect on student learning outcomes (Marzano). A culture which nourishes collective leadership is fed by risk-taking, trusting relationships, mutual accountability, creativity and collaboration. My work as a consultant, professor, teacher and district/school leader for almost 50 years has afforded me the opportunity to experience and witness the effects of collective leadership and its impact on teacher efficacy and student learning outcomes.

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…