Collective teacher efficacy: A little idea with big impact

Perceived collective teacher
efficacy: A little idea with big
impact (Tschannen-Moran and
Woolfolk Hoy, 2007:944)
Dr Clive Smith
Department of Education Leadership
and Management
University of Johannesburg
[email protected]
• Individual perceptions of self-efficacy (SE) to
bring about personal behaviour change are
convincing predictors of individual behaviour
(Goddard, Hoy and Woolfolk Hoy, 2000:480).
• Since the 1980s convincing evidence has been
found of a relationship between teachers’
perceived SE and teachers’ behaviours that
positively influence pupil academic
achievement (Goddard, Hoy and Woolfolk
Hoy, 2000:480; Skaalvik and Skaalvik,
• Bandura (1997) characterises perceived self SE
as “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and
execute the courses of action required to
produce given attainments in specific
situations or contexts” (p.2).
• It is one’s belief in what one can achieve
(Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2007:621).
• The concept of perceived SE is grounded in
Bandura’s (1977, 1986, 1997, 2006) social
cognitive theory (SCT) of human agency.
Human agency concerns the beliefs and ways
that people can intentionally act to change
their behaviour and thereby exercise
• In SCT, all self-efficacy belief constructs are
future-oriented judgments about capabilities
to pursue a particular course of action in order
to achieve a particular goal under specific
circumstances (Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk Hoy,
• SCT recognises that “personal agency operates
within a broad network of sociostructural
influences” (Bandura,1997:6), meaning that
perceived levels of ability in any specific
situation are mediated by the social
interaction norms prevailing in that situation
(Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy & Hoy,
1998). The theory therefore “extends the
analysis of mechanisms of human agency to
the exercise of collective agency” (Bandura,
1997:7), peoples shared beliefs that by
working together they can make a difference.
• Within an organisation, perceived collective
efficacy represents the beliefs of group
members concerning, “the performance
capability of a social system as a whole”
(Bandura, 1997:469).
• Perceived collective teacher efficacy (CTE) is
therefore primarily a function of teachers’
interactions with colleagues and refers to
individual teachers’ perceptions or judgments
of the attributes and capabilities of the groups
to which they belong (Klassen, Usher and
Bong, 2010:466). These are mostly
unarticulated perceptions.
• Bandura (1993), in a groundbreaking study,
found that CTE perceptions predicted schoollevel pupil achievement. Successful schools
are characterised by teachers’ collective sense
of efficacy to enable pupils to learn and
develop (Klassen et al. 2010:465).
• Despite the aforementioned research that has
found links between teachers’ collective
perceptions of their own efficacy and pupil
achievement, perceived CTE has been largely
neglected by researchers (Goddard, Hoy and
Woolfolk Hoy, 2000:480; Goddard, Hoy and
Woolfolk Hoy, 2004:3). Goddard (2001)
referred to perceived CTE as a “neglected
construct” in education research (p.467).
• Besides this dearth of research on perceived CTE,
there are at least two research findings that are
of particular note for a SA context. First,
perceived CTE has been shown to be a more
powerful predictor of pupil academic
achievement than pupils’ socio-economic status
(SES), race, family background, urbanicity and
previous academic achievement (Bandura, 1993;
Goddard, 2001; Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk Hoy,
2004; Goddard, LoGerfo & Hoy, 2004; Hoy &
Woolfolk Hoy, 2004; Goddard & Skrla, 2006;
Klassen et al., 2010; McCoach & Colbert, 2010).
That perceived CTE has a mediating role in the
effect of socioeconomic status and other
demographic variables on pupil academic
achievement is good news.
• A second research finding that is of particular
interest for SA educators, that is a corollary of
the relationship between perceived CTE and
pupil academic achievement, is that perceived
CTE has been found to be associated with
successful and sustained school change and
improvement (McCoach and Colbert, 2010:33)
Some caveats
• It is important at the outset to note that
perceived CTE is just that. It is a perception
and not to be confused with actual
assessments of ability, competence,
effectiveness or performance. Terms used
include efficacy judgments, perceptions of
efficacy, sense of efficacy, perceived efficacy,
estimations of efficacy or efficacy beliefs. As
Goddard, Hoy and Woolfolk Hoy (2004) point
out, all these terms connote judgments about
capabilities to accomplish a task” (p.4).
• However, despite efficacy being a perception, it
has real consequences. People often over- or
underestimate their efficacy. These estimations
influence their choices of action and the effort
they exert in pursuing those courses of action.
Such over- or underestimations of efficacy may
also influence how well people use their skills.
• Bandura (1997) observed, “A capability is only as
good as its execution. The self-assurance with
which people approach and manage difficult
tasks determines whether they make good or
poor use of their capabilities. Insidious selfdoubts can easily overrule the best of skills”
• It is also important to distinguish perceived CTE
from other self-conceptions, such as self-concept
and self-esteem. According to Gist and Mitchell
(1992), “Self-esteem usually is considered to be a
trait reflecting an individual’s characteristic
affective evaluation of self (e.g., feelings of selfworth or self-liking). By contrast, . . . (perceived
efficacy) is a judgment about task capability that
is not inherently evaluative” (p.185).
• Perceived efficacy is therefore distinct from these
other conceptions of self in that it is “specific to a
particular task” (Goddard, Hoy and Woolfolk Hoy,
2004:4) rather than a general attribute of self.
Sources of perceived CTE
• Bandura (1986, 1997) identified four major
sources of perceived SE beliefs: mastery
experience, vicarious learning, social
(sometimes also referred to as verbal)
persuasion and affective states.
• These sources of efficacy apply equally to
perceived CTE. According to Bandura (1997),
“perceived personal and collective efficacy
differ in the unit of agency, but in both forms
efficacy beliefs have similar sources, serve
similar functions, and operate through similar
processes” (p.478).
• Mastery experience refers to teachers’
confidence in their teaching ability based on past
pupil academic achievement (Goddard, 2001;
Adams & Forsyth, 2009:136). Past school success
(of which there is a dearth in SA) builds teachers’
belief in their joint capability and a provides a
shared expectation that they will continue to be
successful in the future.
• The reverse is also true. A collective perception of
failure tends to undermine efficacy beliefs, that in
turn results in a shared expectation of continued
failure (Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2007:613) and a
general state of discouragement.
• Goddard, Hoy and Woolfolk Hoy (2004) note
that attributions are also involved in perceived
CTE beliefs. If success is attributed to an
internal locus of control, such as ability or
effort, perceived CTE is enhanced. However, if
success is perceived to be dependent on
others or simply circumstance, perceived CTE
is more likely to be reduced (p.5).
• An important caveat is that in order to be
resilient, perceived CTE needs to be developed
by overcoming challenges through determined
effort. There is no victory without a battle.
Making success easier does not build a solid
perceived CTE. At the first sign of difficulty,
such CTE is susceptible to giving up.
• Mastery experience has been found to be the
most influential source of efficacy information
(Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk Hoy, 2004:5) and
has come to be associated with the concept of
a learning organisation (Senge, 1990).
• Vicarious learning refers to “if he or she can
do it, I can do it” experiences, where the “he”
or “she” is a respected other. Vicarious
experiences are derived from observations of
similar and significant others on particular
tasks. When teachers observe a successful role
model with whom they identify, this has been
found to engender confidence in teachers
lacking confidence or short on previous
mastery experiences, such as novice teachers
(Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk Hoy, 2004:5).
• Likewise, perceived CTE can be enhanced by
organisations, such as schools, observing
successful schools, especially those that
succeed in the face of similar contextual
factors, challenges and constraints as the
observer school. Dutton and Freedman (cited
in Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk Hoy, 2004) refer
to this process as “vicarious organizational
learning” (p.5).
• Schools can also learn from dissimilar peers
where they share a common goal, such as
academic excellence.
• Social persuasion can take the form of
encouragement or feedback from someone in
an authority position or a colleague. It can
also include informal discussions among
teachers or reflect community opinion
regarding teachers’ ability to influence
learners’ academic performance. Social
persuasion is especially effective when the
communicator is perceived as both
trustworthy and competent. This relates
especially to those who hold formal leadership
positions (Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2007:612).
• Workshops and other professional development
opportunities, as well as feedback, can inculcate
in a school staff the conviction that they have the
capability to set and achieve challenging goals,
and inspire action: “A robust sense of group
capability establishes a strong press for collective
performance” (Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk Hoy,
• Furthermore, new teachers, whether novice or
experienced, are enculturated into this norm of
effort and success. In this way, organisation
participants interdependently cultivate and
perpetuate their perceived CTE. Such a norm
becomes a core feature of an organisation’s
• Finally, affective states refers to individual
physiological reactions, such as sweating,
increased heart-rate, excitement and
exhaustion arising from emotional arousal,
that can enhance or reduce efficacy levels.
These responses will often be associated with
prior failure or success and effect teachers’
perceived CTE expectations in a particular
situation (Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2007:612).
• Goddard, Hoy and Woolfolk Hoy (2004) note
that an organisation’s mood is profoundly
influenced by its performance in public
examinations or its position on published
performance ladders, for example.
• An organisation’s climate is a strong predictor
of organisation participants’ efficacy beliefs.
Organisations with strong perceived efficacy in
group competence can better tolerate
pressure and crises and continue to function
without debilitating consequences. Such
organisations become increasingly resilient.
• On the other hand, “cold-climate,” less
efficacious, organisations are more likely to
react dysfunctionally. An organisation’s
affective state influences how it interprets and
reacts to challenge.
• In short, a group of teachers’ perceived
collective confidence and competence is
influenced by their past achievement,
observation of other groups’ successes,
encouragement from influential others and
the development of coping mechanisms to
manage their emotional climate (Goddard &
Goddard, 2001:801).
• It is important to note that the exercise of
agency depends upon how individuals and
groups interpret efficacy beliefs shaping
information and experiences. Bandura (1997)
pointed out that the influence of mastery
experience on perceived efficacy does not
depend entirely on the actual performance
but rather on their interpretation of that
performance, “changes in perceived efficacy
result from cognitive processing of the
diagnostic information that performances
convey about capability rather than the
performances per se” (p.81).
• In this way, perceived CTE can be conceived as
“a cognition that mediates between
knowledge and action” (Raudenbush, Rowan
& Cheong cited in Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk
Hoy, 2004:6). They (Goddard, Hoy and
Woolfolk Hoy, 2004) go on to note than the
same is true for all four sources of perceived
• Finally, Bandura (1997:21) and TschannenMoran and Woolfolk Hoy (2007:19) found that
perceived self-efficacy beliefs are more
malleable early in learning but are stable and
resistant to change once established (p.21).
• That perceived SE is most amenable to change
and formation early on in a teacher’s career
has implications for initial teacher preparation
and especially for novice teachers’ induction
into the teaching profession if they are to
develop SE beliefs and practices that are
strong, resilient and sustainable.
Perceived CTE and pupil socioeconomic status
• As mentioned in the introduction, research
has shown a direct link between perceived
CTE and pupil academic achievement after
controlling for demographic variables such as
SES, race and urbanicity (Bandura, 1993;
Goddard, 2001; Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk
Hoy, 2004; Goddard, LoGerfo & Hoy, 2004).
• McCoach and Colbert (2010) found in their
investigation of the factors underlying perceived
CTE, that what they referred to as teacher
competence factors, such as their teaching skill,
are more predictive of pupil academic
achievement than what they refer to as task
factors, such as pupil SES and community barriers
to learning (p.43). This is a significant finding and
confirms earlier research (Colbert & Kulikowich,
2006) that showed that “there are many
examples of students with the lowest SES and the
most challenging barriers who succeed at the
highest levels because of skilled and competent
teachers” (McCoach & Colbert, 2010:44).
• It also suggests that while schools can do little
about their external environment or teachers’
perceptions of that environment – the task
factors, they can attend to internal
competence factors through staff
development initiatives (p.43). Enhancing
perceived CTE through staff development
initiatives that enhance teacher competence
can override the potentially debilitating effect
of pupil SES on pupil academic achievement
Perceived CTE and school organisation
• One of the main reasons for the interest in
perceived collective efficacy is its link to work
group effectiveness, including goal attainment, in
numerous and unrelated fields. Little and
Madigan (1997) found that a group’s perceived
collective efficacy has “a mediating, or facilitating
effect on team performance” (p.518). Perceptions
of group competence are strongly and positively
related to group processes and outcomes
(Goddard, Hoy and Woolfolk Hoy, 2004:8). High
perceived group capability creates expectations
and behavioural norms for success that motivates
group members individually and collectively to
work purposefully and diligently toward their
goals (Goddard, Hoy and Woolfolk Hoy, 2004:8).
• The power of collective efficacy perceptions to
influence organisation life and outcomes lies
therefore in the expectations for action that are
socially transmitted by collective efficacy
perceptions. Sampson, Morenoff and Earls (2000)
argue that collective efficacy beliefs “explain how
organised capacity for action is tapped to
produce results” (**). For example, an
organisation with a high level of social capital, as
reflected in openness, trust and collaboration,
will only enjoy the potential value of that social
capital when the level of perceived collective
efficacy is sufficiently strong to move participants
to action in pursuit of desired organisation goals.
Collective efficacy beliefs directly affect a group’s
resolve and persistence to pursue organisation
• Perceived collective efficacy is therefore a
powerful characteristic of the normative and
behavioural influence of an organisation’s culture
(Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk Hoy, 2004:8). In that it
is associated with task challenge, levels of shared
responsibility, levels of collegiality, confidence,
effort, persistence, shared thinking, morale,
stress and group achievement, CTE helps explain
the varying effect that school cultures have on
teachers and pupils. For example, Demir (2008)
found that a collaborative school culture is an
antecedent of perceived CTE (p.103).
• This all raises the question of how schools can
take control of their circumstances to facilitate
high levels of perceived CTE. The crux of this
question relates to school leadership.
Leadership and perceived CTE
• One way for school leaders to positively
influence pupil academic performance is by
facilitating the conditions conducive to
elevating the collective efficacy beliefs of their
teaching staff (Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk Hoy,
• Teachers from schools with high CTE beliefs
are characterised by high levels of principal
support (Klassen et al., 2010:466).
• The formal leader is the key person in facilitating
the supportive conditions, structural
arrangements and organisation processes
conducive to successful teaching (Ross & Gray,
2006:803). These include structures that
encourage teachers to work together in teams,
involving them in decision making and
distributing leadership. Instruction-related
activities, such as communicating with parents,
lesson planning, positive relationships with pupils
and discussing instructional issues with
colleagues lead to successful interactions and
teaching experiences both of which are also
perceived CTE factors (Adams & Forsyth,
• Goddard (2002) investigated the link between
opportunities to exercise collective agency and
perceived CTE. He found that where teachers
have and use the opportunity to participate in
and influence important school decisions, such as
those concerning curriculum, learning materials,
pedagogy, professional development, parent
communication, pupil matters, discipline and so
on, they had high levels of perceived CTE.
• In contrast, where teachers’ are directed and
stifled, they are charaterised by low perceived
CTE. They are more likely to develop a sense of
helplessness and dependency and to feel that
events around them are out of their control.
• Agential processes and practices create a norm
that it’s normal to work together, to share
challenges and successes and to reflect together
rather than to compete against one another
(Dean cited in Demir, 2008:97). Somech and
Drach-Zahavy (2000) had earlier found that
agential collegiality enhances perceived CTE.
• In contrast, Skaalvik and Skaalvik (2007) found in
a Norwegian study that teachers working in
isolation from one another, in conflict with
parents and having to organise teaching in ways
they did not think were best were the strongest
predictors of low perceived CTE, emotional
exhaustion and depersonalisation. In addition,
imposed teaching strategies ie external controls
were positively related to low perceived CTE,
while teacher autonomy was positively related to
high perceived CTE (p.621).
• Ross et al. (2006) found perceived CTE related
to the practice of transformation leadership
by leaders holding formal leadership positions
in the participating schools. A core
characteristic of transformation leadership is
that transformation leaders elevate
participants’ motives beyond individual selfinterest to the level of the group and
organization’s interest (Bass, 1990; Leithwood,
1992). Transformation leadership is associated
with teacher empowerment and stakeholder
participation in school decision making,
among other things (pp.799-800).
• Ross and Gray (2006) found that principals’
transformation leadership influence on
teachers’ willingness and commitment to
engage in school-community, especially
parent, partnerships – the strongest indirect
impact on pupil achievement - occurred
through perceived CTE (p.812). Efficacious
teachers who believe they are an effective
instructional team are more likely to take
responsibility for school outcomes than to
attribute school failure to uninvolved parents
and are less likely to feel threatened by
• Teachers from schools with high perceived CTE
beliefs are also characterised by high levels of
parent support (Klassen et al., 2010:466).
Transformation leadership is a strong
predictor of teacher beliefs and practices ie
perceived CTE (Capara, Barbaranelli, Borgogni
& Steca, 2003; Koh, Steers & Terborg cited in
Ross & Gray, 2006:800; Demir, 2008:103).
• Transformation leadership contributes to
perceived CTE through each of the four
mechanisms identified by Bandura (1986,
1997) as sources of efficacy (mastery
experience, vicarious experience, social
persuasion and affective states), each of which
influences teachers’ perceptions of the school.
For example, by setting achievable goals,
emphasising accomplishment, giving frequent
feedback, advocating an academic emphasis
and linking teachers’ behaviours to pupil
achievement, a principal influences perceived
CTE by promoting mastery (Ross & Gray,
• Leaders also contribute to perceived CTE
beliefs through persuasion, that includes
inspirational messages and affirmations of
teacher competence by sharing decision
making (Goddard, 2002).
• Furthermore, they contribute to perceived
CTE through staff development opportunities
that include vicarious experiences, such as
opportunities to observe each other’s
successes and exposure to good news stories,
such as schools that succeed against the odds
(Christie, 2001), and through supporting
teachers’ affective states by insulating them
from stress.
• Smylie (1988) found that despite challenging
and stressful conditions, teachers in a high
perceived CTE environment characterised by
collegiality, trust, effective communication and
so on, experience little stress and high levels
of job satisfaction and commitment (see also
Evans & Tribble cited in Tschannen-Moran &
Woolfolk Hoy, 2007:18; Kyriacou cited in
Klassens et al., 2010:467).
• Leadership that facilitates a school culture
characterised by high perceived CTE is associated with
a teacher ethos of academic optimism (Bandura, 1993;
Bandura, 1997; Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk Hoy, 2004;
Ross & Gray, 2006:814; Klassen et al., 2008), ambition
(Ross & Gray, 2006:814), hope (Snyder, Cheavens &
Sympson, 1997:115), job satisfaction (Caprara et al.,
2003:823; Ross & Gray, 2006:814; Skaalvik & Skaalvik,
2007; Evans & Tribble cited in Tschannen-Moran &
Woolfolk Hoy, 2007:18; Kyriacou cited in Klassens et al.,
2010:467), motivation (Ross & Gray, 2006:814;
Klassens et al., 2010), an enhanced sense of
community (Sergiovanni, 1996), low stress levels
(Smylie, 1988; Hoy & Tarter, 2004; Klassens et al.,
2010), low levels of burn-out (Bandura, 1997; Skaalvik
& Skaalvik, 2007), persistence in the face of challenges
(Hoy, Tarter & Hoy, 2006:443; Ross & Gray, 2006:814)
and the school as a self-reflective or learning
organisation (Ross & Gray, 2006:813; Skaalvik &
Skaalvik, 2007).
• The reverse is also true. Teachers with low
perceived CTE view much of their teaching
environment as fraught with danger and threat,
dwell on their deficient coping mechanisms and
exaggerate the magnitude of potential or
imagined threats. Bandura (1997) found that low
perceived SE resulted in escapist modes of coping
that create more strain. He also found that low
mastery expectations can threaten a teacher’s
identity as a teacher and elicit defensive
• Such a pattern and combination of cognitive and
emotional responses increases emotional
exhaustion, depersonalisation, alienation and
feelings of incompetence in the face of little
personal accomplishment (Skaalvik & Skaalvik,
• Such long-term occupational stress is the
endpoint of coping unsuccessfully over time
with pupil challenges, conflict with colleagues
and parents, administrative demands,
incompetent leadership and curriculum
change. Teaching becomes a lonely existence.
Many teachers leave the profession. This all
has a deleterious effect on perceived CTE and
pupil academic success.
• In short, there is overwhelming evidence that
principals are the lynch-pin in effective schools
(Hallinger & Heck, 1996). One, perhaps the
main, way they achieve this is not through
heroic action but through facilitating school
cultures that optimise perceived CTE.
Perceived CTE across cultures
• “Culture shapes how efficacy beliefs are
developed, the purposes to which they are put,
and the sociostructural arrangement under which
they are best expressed” (Bandura, 2000:77; see
also Klassen et al., 2010:482).
• Klassen et al. (2010) note that there is a research
move to investigate the relationship between CTE
and cultural values in school settings (p.465). This
is in response to the current move toward
culturally responsive education psychology that
“grounds its understandings in the socialization
practices of differing environments” (Pajares,
• In the light of increasingly multicultural
staffrooms, efficacy research in education
settings will be deficient unless it is
“understood as being bounded by a host of
situated, cultural factors that must be
attended to” (Klassen et al., 2010:477).
• Klassen et al.’s (2010) study is among the first
to investigate the influence of these cultural
factors on CTE, using a cross-cultural
framework (p.477).
• Klassens et al.’ (2010) research shows that
perceived CTE is a significant influence on job
satisfaction across cultures. They conclude
that the implications are for school leaders to
support the cultivation of perceived CTE by,
for example, increasing teacher control of the
teaching environment through teacher
leadership, maximizing participative decision
making and increasing opportunities to
collaboratively influence school policies. These
actions may increase teacher job satisfaction
and reduce stress.
Research on perceived CTE
• Goddard, Hoy and Woolfolk Hoy (2004)
discuss the various methods, all quantitative,
used to measure collective efficacy
perceptions. The situation does not seem to
have changed much since then.
• One research method is to average the aggregate
of individual (self) efficacy beliefs. Another is to
take the average of individual’s opinion of
perceived collective efficacy. A third method is to
ask group members to discuss their collective
capabilities together and come to a consensus
about their perceived collective efficacy. One
criticism of this method is that a group consensus
approach is susceptible to social desirability bias.
Another concern is that group consensus hides
individual variation within the group’s perception
of their collective efficacy. Finally, a fourth
method is to measure the extent of agreement
among group members across their individual
perceptions. This is an elaboration of the first
• Following Bandura (1997), that “perceived
collective efficacy is an emergent group-level
attribute rather than simply the sum of members’
perceived personal efficacies” (p.478), Goddard,
Hoy and Woolfolk Hoy (2004) advocate
measurements that aggregate individual
perceptions of group (as opposed to self) efficacy
to assess perceived collective efficacy as an
organisation property comprised of group
members’ interdependent perspectives on group
capability. They argue that questions about group
competence elicit perspectives on the obstacles,
constraints and opportunities of a given social
system more readily than do items asking
individuals about their self-capability that vary
more as a function of individual as opposed to
group differences.
• Potentially fruitful areas for further research
• The relative contribution to perceived CTE ie at
the group level of vicarious experience, verbal
persuasion, mastery experience, physiological
arousal and contextual factors
• Changing perceived CTE to strengthen
organisation culture
• The meaning and effects of perceived CTE
• The role of leadership in enhancing perceived CTE
• Perceived CTE in school turn-around
• CTE in mixed culture groups
• In the light of the fact that almost all perceived
CTE research is based on quantitative surveys
that use statistics to arrive at their results, there
is a need for in-depth focused qualitative studies
to probe the nature of perceived CTE (TschannenMoran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2007:23). Skaalvik and
Skaalvik’s (2007) call for in-depth, descriptive
comparative qualitative case studies of schools
characterised by high and low perceived CTE that
can provide a basis for further quantitative
studies (p.443) and Klassens et al. (2010) call for
qualitative research to understand the
relationship between perceived CTE and cultural
values (p.482).
• In response to these calls, I conducted indepth, descriptive comparative qualitative
case studies of two schools characterised by
high and low perceived CTE respectively, from
an organisation and leadership perspective.

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