The Power of Collective Efficacy: A Return on Innovation

Topics: Impact and Improvement

By Carolyn Eastman, former KnowledgeWorks Director of School Development

Once in a while I come across an article that’s a “just in time read.” The Power of Collective Efficacy by Donohoo, Hattie and Eells, featured in the March 2018 ASCD Educational Leadership Magazine, was one of those reads.

Albert Bandura defines collective efficacy as “a group’s shared belief in its conjoint capability to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given levels of attainment.” In this article, Hattie positions collective efficacy at the top of the list of factors that influence student achievement – three times more powerful and predictive than socioeconomic status on student achievement. Whether you have established PLCs, team planning or leadership teams, collective efficacy is key, especially when implementing personalized, competency-based learning.

We sometimes believe that if we create time for teachers to collaborate, they will be able to implement a change. But often that’s not enough. What if we spent time building collective efficacy, instead? The article states that the primary input for measuring collective efficacy is evidence of impact – measuring whether improved instruction yields improved student outcomes.

But other than professional development feedback forms, we rarely collect evidence, I think, in part, this is because it makes us feel vulnerable. Both the teachers and the people providing support run the risk of being exposed for either having high impact, some impact or possibly no impact at all.

At KnowledgeWorks, we’ve been thinking a lot about how we measure impact. How do we know, other that state testing data, that what we are doing is yielding high learning results? How do we know if the professional development we provide in schools is having impact? Having the answer to these questions is so important for teacher investment, leadership support and continued funding.

Both teacher voice and student voice matter in building collective efficacy and wait for it….. the more it’s used, the better it gets! I think we can agree that this is a return on investment, or as I heard it recently at a workshop, a return on innovation!

At the end of the ASCD Educational Leadership article, the authors talk about “collaboration,” which has become an education buzz word that’s equivalent to students working in groups. Collective efficacy puts intentionality to the term again. “Success lies in the critical nature of collaboration and the strength of believing that together, administrators, faculty, and students can accomplish great things. This is the power of collective efficacy.”