Sunday, 21 May 2017

Collective efficacy

A flyer dropped into my inbox from Osiris Education about the conference “What the best schools do to be the best” they are hosting along with GTCS and other partners in November, here. John Hattie is the keynote for this conference and as I missed last year’s conference I am keen to go this time. I also noticed that ‘collective efficacy’ is on the agenda which reminded me that I had a book entitled ‘Collective Efficacy’ by Jenni Donohoo, which I have not read yet.
So in the last few week I have found the time to read this book and I was xxxx, as the themes of the book resonated with my own perceptions of how we can support teachers to enhance their professionalism.
The theory in developing collective teacher efficacy is to improve outcomes for all children and young people. This involves creating opportunities for meaningful collaboration, empowering teachers, establishing goals and high expectations, and helping teachers use impact data for improvement of all things that are being discussed across Scotland and therefore to help teachers improve outcomes for children and young people.
So, what is teacher efficacy? It is a teacher’s belief that they can perform the essential activities to influence student attainment, Donohoo quotes Protheroe (2008) who said that teacher efficacy is “a teachers sense of competence – not some objective measure of actual competence”. When teachers share the belief that they and their school can make a collective difference to their students’ lives, it outranks every other factor for impact on student attainment and achievement. Hattie (2016), based on meta-analysis by Eells (2011), said that collective teacher’s efficacy (effect size 1.57) is the most influential practice that supports students’ achievement. This supports Marzano’s 2003 findings that “schools that are highly effective produce results that almost entirely overcome the effects of student backgrounds”.
So how do teachers develop collective efficacy? Collective efficacy emerges through the cognitive and social interactions of the teachers through mastery experiences (being successful), vicarious experiences (sharing), social persuasion (being credible witnesses), and affective states (ethos of support). It is premised on teachers being both consumers and creators of research, through school wide strategies, learning from past experiences and monitoring and tracking student progress.
Through collective efficacy, teachers develop more resilience to external factors and focus on the individual needs on the students. Students are given more opportunities to be successful as the teacher creates and maintains the learning environment to support leaners by providing scaffolds, promoting peer support and cooperation, providing feedback and empowering students. However, as Deci (1995) points out there are limits as the curriculum has to be covered but “there is almost always still room for [learners] deciding what to do”. So, collective efficacy support learners become more autonomous in their learning.
Leaders also have a crucial role to play in developing collective efficacy in a school. Strong leaders are responsive to the personal aspects of teachers and protect them from issues and influences that detract from their teaching time or focus. This results in greater collective efficacy as teachers feel truly supported and empowered.
Alongside this empowerment, leaders need to help facilitate the structures and processes that promote and require interdependence, collective action, transparency and group problem solving. These help collaboration, to move beyond “happy talk” (Sunstein &Hastie, 2015) and avoid the pitfalls of Balkanisation, contrived collegiality and group think. Another important aspect of leadership in promoting collective efficacy is that they need to carve out time to support collaboration which is meaningful, frequent, supported by shared goals and commitment, and promotes a willingness to interpret result collectively and act on feedback in authentic ways.
One final thought about collective efficacy is that although it can be powerful, it does not “cause things to happen, they increase the likelihood that things will turn out as expected”. So, given that this book suggests collective efficacy can have a positive impact on teachers, children and young people, is it worth further exploration?

Donohoo, J. (2017) Collective efficacy: Corwin, SAGE Publication Ltd

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