Power from Within
Collective teacher efficacy (CTE), the perceptions of teachers in a school that the efforts of the faculty as a whole will have a positive effect on students (Bandura, 1977, 1986, & 1997), has a 1.57 effect size (Eells, 2011, Hattie, 2014). It has been identified as one of the greatest impacts on student learning. In fact, it is so powerful it can mitigate for the effects of poverty (Hoy, Sweetland & Smith, 2002). With that kind of influence, it behooves educators to understand exactly what underlies collective teacher efficacy and how to realize it in our schools.
CTE is often interpreted as collaboration, but it is so much more. Efficacy is a belief, and, in this case, it is the teachers’ belief and confidence that they have the ability to positively impact students’ learning no matter what the student brings to the table. The belief in each other and their collective capacity has the power to make an enormous difference to each and every student.
When teachers believe they can make a difference, they do!
Learn from Within
We believe, no, we KNOW that the greatest resource for change exists under the roof of every school building. All highly effective schools recognize that, for schools to improve, the energy and expertise have to come from within the school itself. The question, of course, is how to leverage the vast knowledge and skills in the school so that teachers have access to one another’s expertise.
That’s where collaboration moves to collective efficacy. It’s about ”operationalizing” the high impact influences and practices that have the greatest effect on student learning. In fact, the meta-analytic research on high impact influences highlights the critical importance of creating conditions for both teachers and students to learn from and with one another, to create opportunities to build on strengths, to provide a risk-free environment that values learning above all, and to build efficacy through successful experiences in learning.
One of the gifts of being an educator in 2016 is having a plethora of research to inform and improve our practices. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We know what makes teams effective. We know what accelerates learning for students. We know what makes teams productive in service to our students.
Gallimore and Ermeling et al (2009) cite five components:
- Job-alike teams (common relevant focus)
- Clear goals
- Trained peer facilitator
- Inquiry-based protocols
- Stable settings (protected time, principal commits to the process over time)
Recently a paper out of Harvard Graduate School of Education by Johnson, Reinhorn, and Simon (2016) examines how collaboration works best, listing five factors that contribute to a team’s success:
- Clear worthwhile purpose
- Sufficient regular time
- Administrative support and attention
- Trained teacher facilitators
- Integrated approach to teacher support
Beginning to see some consistencies?
5 Critical Components
Over the years, we have worked with hundreds of school teams, and both the research and our experiences with clients supports our claims on what makes teacher teams effective. The following are what we have identified as the 5 critical components of “Rock Star Teams” that ensure engagement, analysis, debate, and action—hallmarks of effective teaming.
- Purpose – common purpose and goals (authentic relevant commitment)
- Support – administrators actively promoting and participating in team learning (walk the talk)
- Trained facilitator – promoting inquiry-based protocols (focus and efficiency)
- Safety – team members feel safe to share, feel free to talk about the tough stuff, and to have hard conversations to stimulate reflection, analysis, and deeper thinking (it’s about relational trust)
- Collective action – it’s not just talk; collaboration results in thoughtful action
At the core of the work, these teams are learners. They are constantly and relentlessly reflecting on their practice, their strategies, and their actions and asking, “What is our impact on student learning?” These teams make a difference. They are constantly learning in service to their students. Because the number one source for building efficacy is mastery experiences, these teams are in the process of building efficacy, that is, the belief that they can and will make a difference in student learning.
As longtime educators who believe in the power of good teaching and, even more, good teachers, our belief was validated when John Hattie (2014) identified collective teacher efficacy (CTE) as the highest educational influence found in the research literature to date—1.57 effect size! This translates to more than quadrupling the rate of learning (.40 effect equals about a year’s growth in one year’s time).
The ”collective,” that is, teachers working together to make a difference, have the potential to change kids’ lives. That’s what we all want out of our precious team time—collaboration so relentlessly effective that we can guarantee positive impact on ALL students.
Growing from Within
Schools don’t get better from the top down. They get better from learning and growing from within. And the core of the ”within” is teachers learning from one another to improve practice, to continuously learn from one another to be the best they can be in service to all students.
We know how outrageously complicated teaching and learning is in today’s world. It’s simply not possible to teach consistently well alone. We must work together purposefully, efficiently, and effectively to have a positive impact on all students and to build a culture of efficacy. Collective teacher efficacy is a collective confidence in the power of the faculty and/or team to make a difference. It’s so powerful, in fact, that it can quadruple the rate of student learning!