Last year, I watched in agony as a young, talented 2nd year [Level 5] teacher who had very strong achievement scores and growth scores made the decision to walk away from the profession. “It’s just too hard” she stated as I inquired about the root causes that led to her decision. Teacher retention studies indicate that the leadership at the school level has the highest impact on whether teachers opt to leave or remain at a school. However, this was not the issue…I quickly realized that she was overwhelmed. The pressure of performance expectations, weekly meetings, district initiatives, and other tasks were just too much. This isn’t exactly what she had bargained for. The job was radically different than what she had experienced during her “student teaching” days. As a nation, our educational system is currently in an era of high stakes testing where schools are held highly accountable for the success of all children. This means that teacher performance is non-negotiable. This “performance pressure” has very serious and even detrimental implications for teachers that personally impact their efficacy. Efficacy is defined as one’s ability to produce a desired effect or outcomes. As Tennessee makes the shift to a much more rigorous assessment series [TN Ready], it is imperative for teachers to have the instructional capacity to propel their students forward. Dr. Anita Woolfolk, leading researcher and expert on Teacher Efficacy Studies from Ohio State University suggests that teacher efficacy is rooted in a teacher’s confidence in his/her ability to reach the most challenging students and help them achieve at a high level(Woolfolk, 1998). In a national study on Teacher Effectiveness outcomes, the overwhelming majority of teachers indicated that student failure and the lack of mastery despite numerous attempts to close the gap, detrimentally impacted their ability to believe that they could reach all children. A study from the Journal of Experimental Education also indicated that teacher efficacy significantly impacted the level of commitment that teachers have towards the profession and it impacted their decision to leave the profession altogether(Coladarci, 1992). This finding is essential because national trends show that more than 50% of all teachers opt to leave the profession within the first five years. Invariably, teachers want to feel like they are making a difference. The perceived ability to make a difference increases employee job satisfaction. Based upon the income that teachers earn, it’s obvious that educators are driven by other innate factors other than money. They truly want to see children succeed, and help students fulfill their dreams. Job satisfaction really matters. The “X-Model of Employee Engagement” paradigm suggests that employees who experience more satisfaction in their work, will also make greater contributions to the organization. As a result, the organization exponentially increases output and performance; thereby reaching and potentially exceeding its goals on a much faster trajectory. Research has demonstrated that teachers with higher levels of teacher efficacy are motivated to persist when faced with setbacks and are more willing to exert extra effort to overcome difficulties (Knobloch & Whittington, 2003). Albert Bandura is regarded as the father of efficacy studies. According to Bandura, Teachers with low instructional efficacy believe there is little they can do if students are unmotivated. Bandura insists that if teachers believe they have no power to produce results, they will not attempt to make things happen. He insists that outcomes are always a product of human actions, and the outcomes people anticipate depend largely on their judgments of how well they will be able to perform in given situations(Journal of Instructional Psychology, 2000).
In consideration of the information listed above, it is a moral imperative for all schools to have highly efficacious and motivated teachers serving our children on a daily basis. Naturally, the magic question is where do we find these teachers? The answer is simple. You don’t find them, you grow them from within.
Strategies to Promote Teacher Efficacy- T.C.C.A[ Training, Communication, Collaboration, Appreciation]
- Teacher participation in on-going job-embedded professional development
- School leaders should increase professional collaboration and team building through (PLC’s, Target Tuesday, Team meetings, Planning days, Teacher In-service sessions)
- Create a venue for teachers to voice concerns-“What works/What’s Broken”
- Peer Observations (Woolfolk)- Share positive feedback [vicarious experiences]
- Great Climate/Culture: Staff members encourage each other/ Staff bonds through difficulties and adversity
- Leadership regularly provides rewards/recognition-Small tangible incentives and tokens of appreciation
**This article has real implications for school leaders, educational advocacy groups, legislators and policy makers. Thanks for reading… Please share with others!