Collective Teacher Efficacy

Author: Walter Basnight, Secondary Learning Coach for the American International School Chennai, India
and member of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team

“Perceived collective efficacy is defined as a group’s shared belief in its conjoint capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given levels of attainments” – Albert Bandura in Self-efficacy: The exercise of control.

In Collective Efficacy: How Educators’ Beliefs Impact Student Learning (2017), Jenni Donohoo explores the power of collective teacher efficacy to improve student learning and achievement. She begins with John Hattie’s research which ranks Teachers’ Collective Efficacy as the greatest factor impacting student achievement.

Through their collective action, teachers can positively influence student outcomes. This includes students who may be disengaged, unmotivated, and/or disadvantaged. Educators’ beliefs affect thought patterns and behaviors in ways that are either in service of quality implementation or in opposition to it. Efficacy is required for innovation and change. When efficacy is firmly established, the shared sense of efficacy supports behaviors that fosters change. (Donohoo, 2017)

There are three ways in which beliefs can affect behavior to support or hinder implementation of change initiatives in schools:
1. Efficacy impacts how teams perceive constraints and opportunities afforded in their unique school environments.
2. Collective efficacy impacts motivational investments.
3. Collective beliefs about efficacy shape experiences.

Donohoo shares that efficacious teams figure out ways to own their own work, even in the face of setbacks. Teams lacking efficacy are quick to settle for lower quality work, having lower motivation and set fewer goals. In sum, Donohoo argues that efficacy leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In her book, Donohoo suggests ways for leadership to foster collective efficacy that range from increasing teacher voice in decision making to encouraging teachers to learn about each other’s work. She also suggests that leaders should encourage collaboration that focuses on instructional improvement. This leads to greater collective efficacy, which, in turn, leads to greater student achievement.

How might your coaching and facilitating support the development of collective teacher efficacy?
What are some ways in which teacher participation in school decision making can be increased?
How might fostering greater Collective Teacher Efficacy in your school support student achievement?

Donohoo, Jenni. Collective Efficacy: How Educators Beliefs Impact Student Learning. Corwin, 2017.