Monday / June 17

Teacher Clarity Is to Collective Teacher Efficacy As…

Analogies require us to identify similarities between two or more items that may appear very different on the surface. Let’s look at two examples. Consider the following two analogies from Miller Analogies Practice Test (

____________ is to PLANETARY ORBITS as RATIOS are to BAKING.


____________ is to IODINE as YELLOW is to PURPLE.

  1. WATER

Before I reveal the answers, let me first say that identifying similarities between two apparently different items is the purpose of this post. How is Collective Teacher Efficacy related to Teacher Clarity? Let’s start by briefly defining these concepts.

Collective Teacher Efficacy

The term efficacy, by itself, is the ability to produce a desired or intended outcome. Self-efficacy, then, is the belief that I have the ability to produce a desired or intended outcome. For example, I have a strong belief that I can successfully write this Corwin Connect blog post and explain the relationship between Collective Teacher Efficacy and Teacher Clarity. Both of those are the desired and intended outcomes. Thus, you might say that I have high self-efficacy in this specific task and situation. Should I have been asked to prepare this blog in Mandarin Chinese, although still a blog, my self-efficacy in this specific task and situation would not be so high.

When considering Collective Teacher Efficacy, we are talking about the collective belief that teachers in a specific school have the ability to produce the desired or intended outcomes in their specific educational setting (i.e., the school and classrooms) above and beyond other factors. Put differently, Collective Teacher Efficacy represents the overall belief of a school and its teachers that they can make a difference in the learning of their students regardless of where they came from and what they bring with them to the school doorway.

If you are familiar with the work of John Hattie, Jenni Donohoo, and Peter DeWitt, you will immediately recognize the term Collective Teacher Efficacy and the research finding that Collective Teacher Efficacy has a high impact on student achievement, with an effect size of 1.57.  FYI: An effect size of 1.57 is almost four times the average effect size associated with one year of formal school (0.40).

Teacher Clarity

Now let’s look at Teacher Clarity. Fendick (1990) defined Teacher Clarity as the compilation of organizing instruction, explaining content, providing examples, guided practice, and assessment of learning. Hattie (2009) describes Teacher Clarity as communicating the learning intentions and success criteria for the learning intentions. Teachers and students have clarity if they are able to answer three questions:

  1. What am I learning?
  2. Why am I learning it?
  3. How will I know when I have learned it?

With an average effect size of 0.75, teacher clarity results in almost twice the average effect size of one year of formal schooling. When teachers are clear on what students are learning, they can better select learning experiences that specifically target that learning. Similarly, when teachers know why students are learning what they are learning, they can better design learning experiences that are authentic and relevant to learners. Finally, when teachers know what success looks like, they can show learners what success looks like, design opportunities for students to make their own thinking  and learning visible, and gather evidence about where to go next in the teaching and learning. All this, because of teacher clarity.

Put Them Together

The last sentence in the previous paragraph hints at the answer to my original question: How is Collective Teacher Efficacy related to Teacher Clarity? Just as planetary orbits are not possible without gravity or the gravitational force, and thus baking is not possible without specific ratios, Collective Teacher Efficacy is not possible without Teacher Clarity. Just as sulfur vapor is yellow and iodine vapor is purple, Collective Teacher Efficacy is fostered by Teacher Clarity. Let me explain.

There are four sources of efficacy and self-efficacy (Bandura, 1995; 1994; 1992; 1977): master experiences, vicarious experiences, feedback, and emotion. When we do something and do it well, we develop self-efficacy. When we interpret how well we do something, we develop self-efficacy. These are mastery experiences. As teachers, we evaluate how well a particular strategy or lesson worked in our classrooms. Our interpretation of that contributes to our belief in our ability to be effective teachers.

When we observe or watch a colleague do something in his or her classroom, and his or her approach works, we increase our beliefs about our ability to do that same thing in our classroom. These are vicarious experiences. This same thinking applies to the third source, feedback. Feedback from our peers or students shapes our beliefs as well.

Finally, our emotions are a source of efficacy. Our beliefs in our ability are associated with how confident we feel prior to engaging a task. Feeling confident before teaching a lesson increases your belief in your ability to do so effectively.

Funneling mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, peer pressure, and emotion into Collective Teacher Efficacy hinges on Teacher Clarity. Walking into your classroom knowing what you want students to learn, understanding why they are learning this content, and grasping what successful learning looks like provides an unmatched feeling of confidence and positive emotion about your ability to get your students to that successful learning outcome (Source #4: Emotions). Having clarity on the what, why, and how questions allows teachers to purposefully and intentionally select the right approach to teaching, the right strategy, at the right time, for the right content, and the right student. This purposeful and intentional decision-making will lead to greater gains in learning (Source #1: Master Experiences). Furthermore, you can interpret those learning gains as the result of your preparation, planning, and decision-making (Source #1: Master Experiences).

By sharing clarity with your students, making them aware of what they are learning, why they are learning it, what success looks like, learners will be better able to communicate when they have gaps in the learning progress. This feedback will allow you to make adjustments, adjustments that are equally as purposeful and intentional as the approach and strategies selected at the onset of the lesson. You will know what is necessary to close the gap because you have clarity on the learning target (Source #3: Feedback).

Finally, the challenges of day-to-day teaching and learning will yield less than desirable outcomes from time-to-time. However, when Teacher Clarity is present throughout a grade-level, content area, and school, teachers have a greater opportunity to collaborate with peers and address problems of practice. “My learners are not progressing in their understanding of author’s purpose. What do you do in your classroom that works?” “My learners are having difficulty selecting the best approach for solving quadratic equations. What works for your learners?”  Asking and addressing these specific questions requires both clarity on our part as well as clarity amongst our colleagues. Colleagues are our best source of ideas as long as we are clear on what we are asking (Source #2: Vicarious Experiences).

Teaching and learning are complex. Teachers and learners are complex. When all four of these items are blended together in our schools and classrooms, there are many factors that can and do contribute to the most important outcome desired and intended outcome: student learning.  These factors are not part of a checklist that, when checked off in a certain order, yield amazing results. Instead, these factors interact with each other just as the words on the Miller Analogies Practice Test interact to produce a challenging mental exercise. The belief in ourselves and the collective ability of our colleagues to produce the ultimate desired and intended outcome involves the interaction of many significant factors. The belief that we can make a positive impact on student learning, first, requires that we have clarity on what the learning is, why our students are learning it, and how we will know they have learned it: Teacher Clarity.


Bandura, A. (1995). Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies. Cambridge University Press.

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human

behavior, 4. New York: Academic Press, pp. 71-81.

Bandura, A. (1992). Exercise of personal agency through the self-efficacy mechanisms. In R.

Schwarzer (Ed.), Self-efficacy: Thought control of action. Washington, DC: Hemisphere.

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological

Review, 84, 191-215.

Fendick, F. (1990). The correlation between teacher clarity of communciation and student

achievement gain: A meta-anlaysis. Unpublished Ph.D., University of Floriday, FL.

Hattie, J. A. C. (2009). Visible learning. A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to

achievement. Routledge: New York, NY.

Written by

John Almarode conducts staff development workshops, keynote addresses, and conference presentations on a variety of topics including student engagement, evidence-based practices, creating enriched environments that promote learning, and designing classrooms with the brain in mind. John’s action-packed workshops offer participants ready-to-use strategies and the brain rules that make them work. John is the author of Captivate, Activate, and Invigorate the Student Brain in Science and Math, Grades 6-12.

Latest comments

  • Gravity and sulfur

  • There is power in the statement: Let students be clear about what they are learning, why they are learning it, and what success looks like. This will show the gaps. ”
    Thank you for putting it this way! I am eager to do this and see my results!

  • Great article. Such a believer in both and see how one aids the other.
    I am curious to know the answers to the two analogies at the start of your blog:)

    • The answers were given in the blog…..

    • Gravity and sulfur

leave a comment