Friday / June 14

How to Build Individual and Collective Efficacy While Teaching Online

The educational community (like all other communities throughout the world) is experiencing a time of uncertainty. It’s scary having to give up what we know and change the way we do things, but the unknown is where our new reality exists (at least for a little while anyway)What we need to do now, more than ever, is to conquer the fear that prevents us from stepping outside of our comfort zones. We need to harness the power of collective efficacy and remember that together we have what it takes to overcome challenges.  

One of the biggest adjustments for many teachers will be moving from face-to-face to online learning environments. If teachers haven’t taught online, their confidence may be waning. Teachers can have a range of self-efficacy beliefs and while some might be very confident in their abilities to teach in classrooms, they might not feel as confident in their ability to create rich online learning experiences for their students. Below are a few suggestions fostering individual and collective efficacy for online teaching.  

1. Carve out time for virtual collaboration and learning with your colleagues.  

Over the past week I have seen numerous examples of educators sharing tools, resources, ideas, and offering learning support (to both students and other educators) through social media. Even though the educational community is taking social distancing seriously in its efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are not socially isolated from one other. We are connected. One thing that will be important to our shared success over the next few months is to stay connected. In fact, we need to depend upon each other more than ever before as we navigate these uncharted waters.  

2. Keep a list of the successes you experience every day.  

Successful experiences are the number one source of efficacy shaping information. Create an ongoing list of successes you’ve had in the online learning environment. The list might include things like:  

  • everyone in the virtual learning environment has uploaded a personal image;  
  • a learning community is being established (as evidenced by you and your students demonstrating vulnerability); 
  • you designed a rubric using online tools and shared the rubric with students;  
  • all students contributed to a discussion thread and built meaningfully on each other’s ideas. 

3. Share what you are learning with your colleagues.  

Vicarious experiences are the second most potent source of efficacy shaping information. When others see the new skills you’ve acquired and the learning you’ve accomplished, it will help them to think, “Hey, if she did that, then surely, I can do it too.”  

4. Use social persuasion to build the confidence of your colleagues.  

Efficacy can be enhanced through social persuasion. When a credible and trustworthy other convinces individuals and/or teams that they have what it takes, it can go a long way in enhancing efficacy. Remind your colleagues that this is not an obstacle, it’s an opportunity to develop new skills and that you believe they can accomplish whatever they set their mind out to do.  

One final note for readers. Do your best at being okay with letting go of certainty in these uncertain times. As Margaret Wheatley so eloquently stated, “But the world now is quite perplexing. We no longer live in those sweet, slow days when life felt predictable, when we actually knew what to do next. We live in a complex world, we often don’t know what’s going on, and we won’t be able to understand its complexity unless we spend more time in not knowing.”  


Wheatley, M. (2009). Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CA. 


Written by

Jenni Donohoo is a best-selling author and Corwin consultant with more than 20 years experience in leading school change. Jenni and Steven Katz’s latest book entitled Quality Implementation: Leveraging Collective Efficacy to Make ‘What Works’ Actually Work is available through Corwin.

Latest comments

  • With the greatest of respect, I’m not sure many educators are in the right place mentally to be subjected to much “social persuasion”. Many are struggling just to keep their heads above water and may not want to feel pressured to be using all of the latest technologies.

  • Thank you Ruth. Hope all is well with you, your family, your faculty, and your students.

  • Thank you Jenni for helping us to continue our Journey with you this year. Such great peer to peer learning going on in our school. So great to watch the vicarious experiences happen so naturally.

    • Thank you, Ruth! That is awesome. This has much to do with your leadership! Take care. Jenni

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