Ducking the doubt

Ducking the doubt

The story first

Source: ‘Let me tell you a story’, book by Tony Campolo

There is a town where only ducks live. Every Sunday the ducks waddle out of their houses and waddle down Main Street to their church. They waddle into the sanctuary and squat in their proper pews. The duck choir waddles in and takes its place, then the duck minister comes forward and opens the duck Bible. He reads to them: “Ducks! God has given you wings! With wings you can fly! With wings you can mount up and soar like eagles. No walls can confine you! No fences can hold you! You have wings. God has given you wings and you can fly like birds!”

All the ducks shouted, “Amen!” And they all waddled home.

Unpacking the concept of Collective Teacher Efficacy

Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE) is the collective belief of teachers in their ability to make a positive impact on students’ learning outcomes. John Hattie, the propounder of Visible Learning calls Collective Teacher Efficacy the “new number one” influence with an effect size of d=1.57, twice bigger than that of feedback (d=0.72), and almost thrice bigger than the effect of classroom management (d=0.52). A high effect size is strongly correlated with student achievement.

d= 0.40 effect size equals about a year’s growth in one year’s time.

Albert Bandura Psychologist.jpg” by [email protected] is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The concept was introduced in the 1990s by Albert Bandura who defined collective efficacy as “a group’s shared belief in the conjoint capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to produce given levels of attainment.” Bandura found that the positive effects of CTE on student academic performance more than outweigh the negative effects of low socio-economic status.

Collective efficacy is the perception of teachers in a school that the efforts of the faculty as a whole will have a positive effect on student learning. However, it is not the belief alone or the talk about it that can lead to dramatic impact on student outcomes. Like Bandura, Hattie reiterates that the teacher beliefs coupled withsustained actionswhich are based on evidence can produce the desired high levels of achievement.

To connect with the duck story, think of the duck minister who simply kept preaching that ducks must fly. If the minister indeed had a strong belief that with wings anyone can fly, had high expectation of all young ducks and actually taught them how to flap their wings and make an effort to fly; the ducks might not have waddled to home. When teachers collectively have a strong belief in their ability to positively affect their students, and act upon those beliefs, they can unlock the potential of individual learners.

Blythe collection 29-08-2009" by Dutch Blythe Fashion licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Blythe collection 29-08-2009″ by Dutch Blythe Fashion licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

So what does it look like in practice?

In a brilliant article titled ‘Building Collective Efficacy’, Dana Brinson and Lucy Steiner offer four practical strategies for school leaders to create conditions for developing CTE

Build instructional knowledge and skills.

Research studies suggest that when leaders provided frequent, structured opportunities for teachers to focus on instructional practices, teachers translated this new knowledge into more effective teaching.
Questions to consider: What kind of teacher team meetings do you have? What gets discussed most of the time – administrative routine tasks or instructional knowledge and classroom practices?

Create opportunities for teachers to collaboratively share skills and experience.

Teacher collaboration not only impacts student achievement, research has also found a positive and significant association between teacher collaboration and job satisfaction, a core element of an effective teacher. When teachers collaborate, feelings of isolation are mitigated.
Questions to consider: Is your school an egg-crate model where teachers work in closed compartments or do you have easy opportunities for collaborative learning?

Interpret results and provide actionable feedback on teachers’ performance.

This is an area I have to work upon too. School leaders have the responsibility to go beyond stating student performance outcomes. They must identify specific efforts that resulted in success and explain how the outcomes fit into a shared understanding of what constitutes success.
Questions to consider: How often do you have conversations in your school where you analyse student results? How do you create a balance when there is tendency towards complacency or defeatism depending on the student results?

Involve teachers in school decision making.

Researchers Goddard, Hoy, and Woolfolk Hoy (2004) state that, “the more teachers have the opportunity to influence instructionally relevant school decisions, the more likely a school is to be characterised by a robust sense of collective efficacy.”
Questions to consider: Do your teachers have a voice in decisions related to teaching and learning content, practices, policies and their own learning? How do you equip and empower teacher leaders in your school to make effective instructional decisions?

Source: Article in October 2007 Issue Brief of Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement

Rowing Team Practicing" by Matthew Rivera licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Rowing Team Practicing” by Matthew Rivera licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A final point

Schools can move from good to great only from learning and growing from within. Knowing how complex teaching and learning is, it is impossible to teach consistently well alone. Teachers and leaders must work together intentionally and purposefully to have a positive impact and unlock the potential of every learner for their individual success and a better world.