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Thursday / June 17

Leading Collective Efficacy in Your School 

Listen to Jenni Donohoo and Megan Tschannen-Moran discuss demystifying collective efficacy on the Leaders Coaching Leaders podcast with Peter DeWitt: 


Over the past few years we have seen numerous social media posts in which collective efficacy is the topic. Many depict teams engaged in trust- and community-building activities and challenges. For example, a recent post on Twitter showed teachers standing next to a free-standing structure made completely of paper straws and the caption read, “Which team can build the tallest straw structure? What a great way to build #collectiveefficacy.” Another showed teachers in a gymnasium enthusiastically engaged in a game of human Hungry, Hungry Hippos with the caption, “Great efficacy building activity.” In both examples, teachers appeared to be happy and connected to each other. We agree that laughter, connection, trust, and community building are incredibly essential in the workplace. However, there is a big difference between building community and developing teachers’ sense of collective efficacy. Hattie (personal communication) noted that collective efficacy is more complicated than just making teachers feel good about themselves and their colleagues. 

Educators are beginning to recognize the importance of fostering collective teacher efficacy. The question is how you go about doing so. Educators are asking, What does collective efficacy really look like? How does it improve student achievement and decrease achievement gaps? How can we accomplish it in our school? 

Leading Collective Efficacy 

Leading collective efficacy involves five enabling conditions that have been validated, through research (Donohoo, O’Leary, & Hattie, 2020), as school characteristics associated with collective teacher efficacy. These include gaining consensus on goals, empowering teachers, building cohesive teacher knowledge, and embedding reflective practices, which are all accomplished through supportive leadership. While enabling conditions do not cause things to happen, they increase the likelihood that things will turn out as intended. 

In our model, the outer ring represents supportive leadership. While it is one of the five identified conditions that foster collective efficacy, supportive leaders play a crucial role in strengthening the other four enabling conditions. Bandura’s (1998) four sources of efficacy—mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, social persuasion, and affective states (illustrated on the inner ring of the circle)—are activated when teachers are empowered, cohesive teacher knowledge and goal consensus exist, and reflective practices are embedded as part of the normative expectations of teachers’ everyday work. 

By attending to these enabling conditions, we can tap into sources of collective teacher efficacy. Teachers’ collaborations contribute to their knowledge of each other’s effectiveness through the collective identification of indicators of students’ progress toward goals. Common formative assessments make it easier for teachers to recognize when they are successful. Ross et al. (2004) noted that “mastery is both an individual and a social construction in which achievements by students are interpreted as evidence of teacher success and failure, thereby contributing to individual and collective teacher efficacy” (p. 166).  

For more on the five enabling conditions, read more in Leading Collective Efficacy: Powerful Stories of Achievement and Equity. 

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.

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