Understanding Collective Teacher Efficacy Better

Ritu Sehji

What does Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE) mean for teachers?

Collective efficacy is defined as “a group’s shared belief in the conjoint capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given levels of attainment.” Bandura (1993, 1997).

When we build collective efficacy together teachers come up with goals to improve students’ outcomes. This post is inspired by a Lead- off conversation between Peter DeWitt and Jenni Donohoo I listened to in early May on Corwin Press. Jenni discusses how teachers can build Collective Teacher Efficacy during this virtual setting.

Is CTE a thing for School Leadership at and operational at the higher levels? The role of leaders in this time is important in building and supporting teachers to be confident and competent. Opportunities for shared leadership which enable others to share ideas and make decisions, benefits everyone. When people feel a sense of ownership and responsibility it helps to build collective efficacy. Tschannen-Moran & Barr (2004) define collective efficacy as, 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.

According to Jenni, teachers have seen a huge challenge and a shift in the way they have taught before, some more than others. Efficacy beliefs are situation specific so some may have felt lack of efficacy at the start of their Online teaching experience. Efficacy results when we experience success through effort and persistence. More than ever before we are hearing so many success stories from teachers trying new things, reaching out to colleagues, and building a global network through social media. Both Prof. John Hattie and Jenni Donohoo have highlighted that collective efficacy is the single most important driver to improving student achievement.

CTE is more complicated than just making us feel good about ourselves. Why does CTE need to be built? We have to understand that CTE isn’t the key target, student’s success is and collective efficacy is one pathway to get there.

What are the sources of efficacy?

Identifying those CTE building experiences is important. Jenni further explains the sources of efficacy that shape individual’s and a team’s efficacy beliefs. These sources include mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, social persuasion and positive emotions. Social mastery experience is the number one experience. It is the first-hand experience of success wherein when we see others meet with success, we think if they did it so can we. Social persuasion from trustworthy other is a powerful driver/motivator. When we have taken a risk and it has worked out, we have feelings of excitement and encouragement. When we overcome challenges, it builds our own efficacy. Once we get away from the personal and management concerns, we start to think about how this is going to affect our students learning.

How do we build students efficacy for online learning and how do we support them?

Leaders, teachers, and students all need to focus on setting goals that are attainable in a short amount of time and as we meet those, we set the bar a bit higher to attain mastery. Sharing success stories and connecting people has credible impact on building efficacy.

I have found that my own efficacy is improved when I share ideas with my network of learning and when ideas are supported. As a Kāhui Ako, our decisions are made as a collective with each person drawing on their own strengths and sharing their thoughts, dreams, aspirations, stories and experiences. Challenging each other’s thinking does not need to be complicated. Efficacy is a belief system and we need to build more of that.

I often wonder why is it that some teachers cannot make decisions on their own. This might be because the phrase ‘shared decision making’ invokes different ideas based on past experiences. What image of past experiences and successes pop up for you? Is it one of excitement, one of empowerment, growth in thinking, desire for improvement for staff and students, when you last shared an idea?

Sometimes, the quiet voice does not count or may not be important. A lost opportunity as this person may have a lot to offer. How do we create opportunities for every single person in the organisation to feel like their thoughts and ideas matter? Teachers sense of collective efficacy is hindered when they lacked information about school environments and in not knowing the outcomes. Schechter and Qadach (2012). How do we ensure decision making processes are transparent and involve teachers in authentic, meaningful ways? How do we give voice to everyone even the quieter ones?

Collective efficacy – what it is not?

  • Simply inviting participation does not guarantee teacher empowerment or sense of efficacy
  • Feeling of alienation based on their perception of the scope of their influence
  • Leaders to maintain Control and get what they want

So, we come to the critical question, how do we raise collective efficacy?

  • Leaders need to reflect on their own practices and actions that lead to collective efficacy
  • If teachers perceive their influence is high, they will feel a greater sense of engagement and increased efficacy
  • Understanding the Ladder of Teacher Involvement in School Decision-Making outlines varying degrees of teacher involvement (Donohoo. 2017) These levels are explained further by Jenni Donohoo (2016)
Degrees of participation

I encourage you to find out more about the levels and the degree of participation. Which ones are evident to you? In a nutshell, teachers must aim to work at levels 7 – Teacher initiated and directed action and 8 – Teacher initiated shared decision making.

Why, we may ask?

  • projects empower teachers
  • Enable teachers to learn from their own experience and that of others
  • Get away from regular tokenism
  • Create environments that tap into Mastery
  • Strengthen experiences through observational learning
  • When staff influences decisions and see positive results, it strengthens their belief in the collective ability to overcome challenges they might face in the
  • It is obvious that successful influence improves efficacy, engagement and involvement.

Here are some questions to ask teachers –

  • Think of a time you experienced non-degrees of participation in school decision making. What was the experience and what did it feel like?
  • What are the opportunities to increase the involvement of teacher teams in decision- making?
  • What are teachers’ perceptions regarding their scope of influence?

A good start would be to do a quick audit and ask teachers these 3 questions

  1. Do you feel empowered?
  2. Do you feel alienated?
  3. Or somewhere in between?

The answers to these questions would shed some light on the true school environment and culture. Does it control, foster, or stifle your ideas? Do you just vanish under the radar because despite wanting to give your 100% you are not fully supported, encouraged, or mentored to perform at your full potential? Can we really blame teachers for not being able to make their own decisions or come up with new ideas? Does seeking permission from those with higher influence and position to validate your ideas sometimes stop and restrict people from being better together?

Why is it that different professional learning tribes behave differently, given we are all going through the same crisis because of COVID – 19 lockdowns? Why is it that some thrive through the constraints/adversities and see possibilities whereas some others do not? Are group’s shared beliefs different in different tribes? Why do some believe they can make a difference together more than others who think they are the only ones who know best, and everyone must follow their lead?

The more I read to gain a better understanding about CTE, the more wondering and questions it created. I invited Jenni to partake in the global initiative I was running at the time and I am humbled to have her contribution from her to share with you. I hope that you can find some takeaways from this blog post and Jenni’s slide attached below.


Below are links to discussions on Collective Teacher Efficacy by Jenni Donohoo and Prof John Hattie

Jenni Donohoo –https://www.facebook.com/CorwinPress/videos/867269880448464/

Prof John Hattie “What is “collective teacher efficacy?””

Donohoo, J. (2017). Collective Efficacy: How Educators’ Beliefs Impact Student Achievement. Corwin, Thousand Oaks, CA. A modification of Fletcher, A. (2003). Meaningful Student Involvement: Guide to Inclusive School Change, soundout.org. Modified from Hart, R. (1992). Children’s Participation: From tokenism to citizenship.

Donohoo, J., & DeWitt, P. (2017). Why Can’t Teachers Make Decisions on Their Own? Education Week, March 12, 2017. Download available from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2017/03/why_cant_teachers_ make_decisions_on_their_own.html?_ga=1.70153168.1774679308.1486819330

Donohoo J, (2019) Quality Implementation: Leveraging Collective Efficacy to Make “What Works” Actually Work

How to build teacher and student efficacy for ‘emergency distance learning’ –https://corwin-connect.com/2020/04/how-to-build-individual-and-collective-efficacy-while-teaching-online/