Wednesday / April 24

When Do We Build Collective Efficacy?

Sometimes collective teacher efficacy and collective leader efficacy are built naturally, on the spur of a moment when we realize we need to improve a situation. Other times, leaders and teachers do not need to count on a good crisis to help them build collective teacher efficacy. Schools looking to improve the learning environment for students can just as easily build collective efficacy through looking at their grading practices, creating restorative justice programs or taking time to focus on enriching the way they teach conceptual understandings to students. 

Too often, school leaders wait for a crisis to build collective efficacy. And by that time, they may find it hard to build collective efficacy to help them respond to the crisis if their behavior up to that point did not always support the idea that teachers have a voice. Stakeholder groups that are really assembled just to support the idea of the leader are a hollow way to build collective efficacy. Unfortunately, when a crisis comes along it may be too late for a leader to elicit good help from teachers if those teachers never felt as though they had a voice before. To put it another way, a feeling of helplessness among teachers who feel their ideas are unwanted or their opinions go unheard can have a negative impact on the school climate: “[I]f educators’ perceptions are filtered through the belief that there is very little they can do to influence student achievement, negative beliefs pervade the school culture. When educators lack a sense of collective efficacy, they do not pursue certain courses of action because they feel they or their students lack the capabilities to achieve positive outcomes” (Donohoo et al., 2018, n.p.). 

Something else to keep in mind is that leaders often believe that they are supposed to be building collective efficacy with their whole staff. Although that may be true, and it is worth our efforts to do so, we can build collective efficacy in smaller but equally as powerful ways. 

Those smaller methods of building collective efficacy, whether collective teacher efficacy or collective leader efficacy, happen when authentic professional learning communities work together on a goal they have constructed. They happen in our stakeholder groups, such as PAC, and in our grade-level groups or departments at the middle- and high-school levels. 

Through a process of implementation outlined in my new book, teachers and leaders can come together collectively, or leaders can work within their administrative team to prepare themselves for conversations with teachers and students. All of these groups learn from one another during the reflection/feedback process, which should ultimately have a positive impact on student learning. If it doesn’t have a positive impact on student learning, then why spend the time doing it?


Donohoo, J., Hattie, J., & Eells, R. (2018, March). The power of collective efficacy. Educational Leadership, 75(6, “Leading the Energized School”), 40–44. Retrieved from http:// www .ascd .org /publications /educational -leadership /mar18 /vol75 /num06 /The -Power -of -Collective -Efficacy .aspx 

This article is an excerpt from Instructional Leadership by Peter DeWitt. 

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