Where does efficacy fit into education? A lunch conversation.

efficacyDefineLunch Time:

Efficacy – I used this word recently with a group of teachers and we had a rich lunch conversation regarding what efficacy means in education. Our conversation meandered through the New York State Teaching Standards and how these have been translated into APPR plans and test scores. Are these measures of efficacy, efficiency or something else? Or is efficacy something that is felt and is not necessarily measured through observations, artifacts and test scores?

We decided that generally, efficacy refers to being confident and competent. It means being effective at what you do. So I suppose one can be confident without being competent and vice versa. However, can an educator demonstrate efficacy without effective outcomes- probably not. And what role does efficiency play in obtaining efficacy? I looked up the definition for efficacy and found this:

Capacity for producing a desired result or effect; effectiveness.

So this seemed to make sense to our lunch group – in order for an educator to be confident and competent, there had to positive and planned student outcomes obtained.

So what?

Over the course of our lunch conversation we agreed on a few premises. I wondered how our thoughts compared to research. Sarah Silverman and Heather Davis provide a concise summary of research on teacher efficacy. One finding was the importance of self-reflection to both develop and maintain a sense of efficacy. Nancy Protheroe in Teacher Efficacy: What is It and Does It Matter? discusses what teacher efficacy means and how it is developed and fostered. She highlights that past experiences, vicarious experiences and social persuasion impact a teacher sense of efficacy. Furthermore, she talks about collective efficacy or the effect of a group of teachers. Research supports the finding of a positive relationship between collective efficacy and student achievement. This seems to suggest to us, that a culture promoting professional collaboration is necessary.

Furthermore, Peggy Childs in Essential Educator reminds us that with so much going on in education and competing demands for energy, time and attention, it is critical for us to weigh the effort of actions with result of actions. In order to do so, depending on current research for effective practices is important.

Our lunch conclusions:

So to return to our lunch conversation and our three premises for efficacy in educators:

  1. First, for an educator to feel efficacious, they need to like young people and be engaged and fascinated by learning and personal growth of others. I did not uncover “research” for this premise but our lunch gathering concurred that this was just a common sense point!
  2. The critical importance of a school culture to support educators as they collectively focus on student outcomes we quickly agreed upon. Bruce Oliver provides one such summary of what he feels is non-negotiable for culture for learning. Work on foundations for Professional Learning Community is another source for further exploration.
  3. Attention to what works for effective learning is the necessary glue. Grant Wiggins provides a summary of John Hattie’s research.

What are your thoughts?

Until next month,


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