Sometimes I feel like I’m learning a new language. Beside me as I work I have a thick research methodology book to clarify ‘phenomenology’ and ‘epistemology’. There is also Prof Google to double-check new words I come across, not assuming that I know what ‘extant’ or ‘reflexive’ actually mean, or for looking up new words like ‘polyvalent’ (effective against, sensitive toward, or counteracting more than one toxin, microorganism, or antigen) and ‘attenuated’ (To reduce in force, value, amount, or degree; weaken; diminish). So when I started reading about ‘collective teacher efficacy’ I wanted to make sure I knew exactly what it meant.
This weekend I have been exploring the idea moving beyond teacher efficacy, and considering the power of a faculty or team of teachers. Teacher efficacy is the capacity of a teacher to believe they can positively influence the learning outcomes of their students (Goddard, 1990 -reference below). The crux of the matter, with regard to teacher efficacy, is that the teacher believes that their efforts can make a difference, despite the context, and that they display a dogged determination to see this through for the sake of their students. When I work with teachers I am somewhat bemused when they say to me, “yes, but you don’t know our kids, the homes they come from, the struggles they have”. Teachers can be change agents for their students.
The idea of collective teacher efficacy is powerful and is at the heart of agency and collaboration, asking the question:
What is the combined impact of our team’s efforts on the learning achievement of the students we teach?
Where teacher efficacy refers to the impact of a teacher, collective teacher efficacy views the teachers as a team that due to their shared beliefs, shared values and shared commitment, they can create the conditions for the positive learning outcomes of their students. The hypothesis of Goddard’s study was that collective teacher efficacy is positively associated with the difference between schools with regard to student level of achievement. And he found that collective teacher efficacy was a significant predictor of student achievement in the areas of the study, maths and reading. Collective efficacy, according to Goddard, is evident in:
- Level of effort
- Shared thoughts
- Stress levels
- Achievement of group
For collective teacher efficacy two elements are matter:
Analysis of teaching task
Assessment of teaching competencies.
The former considers the school’s resources and facilities, the instructional materials and abilities of students, and the latter relates to the capacity of the teachers, their content knowledge, teaching skills and expertise. The assessment of teaching competencies also includes, “positive faculty beliefs in the ability of all students to succeed”. I’ll say that again… “beliefs in the ability of all students to succeed” (emphasis mine).
When we talk about innovative learning environments many would regard the idea of teachers’ shared practice as a key to this paradigm. If the egg crate classroom model is the less preferred option, then how teachers work together in these spaces is key. When Goddard wrote this paper in 1990, education had fallen off the open/shared ‘bandwagon’ of the 60s and 70s, but now in the 20-teens we are exploring this again and I wonder about the power of collective teacher efficacy when teachers not only share a faculty, but also share the students they teach, the space they work in and commitment for doing the best for their students.
Collective Teacher Efficacy: Its meaning, measure and impact on student achievement (2000) Goddard, Hoy & Hoy, American Educational Research Journal, Vol 37, No. 2 pp 479-507