Collaboration and Building Teacher Efficacy | Steve Barkley

Collaboration Building Teacher Efficacy

“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.” (Source: Leadership and Policy in Schools)

I’m reading 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning, by John Hatti and Klaus Zierer. Chapter 3 is focused on this mindframe: I collaborate with my peers and my students about my conceptions of progress and my impact.”

As Hatti and Zierer unpack this mindframe, the critical work of instructional coaches and school leaders to create the structure, processes, practices and culture for teacher collaboration becomes extremely evident. Citing the research of Eells (2011) the authors identify collective efficacy as the number one influencer of student learning. “How teachers collectively think about their impact and student progress is most relevant to success for their students.”

10 Mindframes for Visible Learning Book Cover

The phrases that I have been using are: “Teaching needs to be a team sport” and “Teaching needs to be a public act.” Teaming and collaboration require trust. I see real trust as extremely difficult to build if my students’ work and my work isn’t public with my colleagues. For me this is illustrated in Hatti’s and Zierer’s statement that teacher conversations should be less about “how to teach” and more about “the impact of teaching.” That’s why for me it is critical that PLCs consistently have student learning products on the table. As a team, teachers should be:

  • Setting the goals of student learning.
  • Defining what it means to meet a standard.
  • Establishing what a year’s worth of growth means for various students.

“Teachers’ collective efficacy refers to the enhanced confidence to overcome any barriers and limitations and have the collective belief that all students in this school can gain more than a year’s growth for a year’s input.” (Page 26)

What challenges are we setting for us as a team?

“Ultimately, a culture is only as good as what you are collectively working towards.”

A.J. Juliani

Having agreed on the desired outcomes, collaboration can now turn to identifying what teachers believe are the student learning production behaviors that will generate the learning outcomes. What should students be asking, doing, experiencing, practicing, struggling with, observing and experimenting with, in order to “learn?”  When is it the same for most students and when is it different for some?

As I was exploring with a school staff what teacher to teacher dialogues in a culture of collective efficacy might sound like, a teacher offered this example. She shared that she coaches the girls’ JV basketball team and that every game is followed by a conversation with the varsity coach concerning the teams’ performances and the coaches’ effectiveness. A total shared vision of the desired outcome, a respect for the skills and commitment of each other (trust), player and coach performances publicly observed, a common time (they ride the bus back from a game together) create a culture of vulnerability, analysis, problem-solving, hypothesizing, and experimenting focused on continuous improvement. The teacher’s insight was that no similar conversations were occurring with her colleagues concerning student content learning success. My thought is that meeting curriculum content standards and success skills like empathy, perseverance, and collaboration is at least as complex as creating a sport team’s success. Considering that many students didn’t voluntarily join my class probably adds to the complexity.

Hatti and Zierer provide nine steps toward the development of collective efficacy. The list concludes with, “All this depends on the role of school leaders to legitimate, support, esteem, and create the trust and time needed to develop collective efficacy.”

It is common for me to be working with the entire staff of a school, teachers and administrators, and hear the comment, “The schedule prevents us from collaborating.” It takes some time for the realization that the people who create the schedule are all “in the room.”  I’ve sat with a PLC team of four third grade teachers during their scheduled common time who said they needed to get fourth grade teachers input on student writing but there was no common time. They were surprised when I suggested that two of them could cover fourth grade classes while their colleagues met with the two fourth grade teachers. The following week they could switch teachers and repeat the process. Besides getting the writing input the teachers desired, the third-grade teachers get a chance to see their previous students working with the next year’s material.

What’s the mindframe in your school(s) concerning collaboration? Should impacting the collective efficacy mindframe be a conscious leadership team goal? Please comment below. I’d love to hear your ideas.

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