Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Path to Efficacy

Organizations, schools, and districts that are successful all lead with efficacy in mind.  The same can be said for teachers and administrators who can effectively implement ideas and strategies in ways that result in improved learner outcomes. To put it simply, efficacy can best be defined as the degree to which set goals are achieved.  The path to achieving it begins with a belief in oneself.  Albert Bandura is one of the most famous researchers in the area of self-efficacy, which can best be described as an individual's belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments.  To put it bluntly, if people don't believe in themselves, then achieving goals will be near impossible.  Thriving cultures focus on empowerment, support, feedback, and autonomy to take risks to build self-efficacy.

The next logical step is to move from an individual belief to one that is embraced by the majority.  This is referred to as collective efficacy, which Bandura defined 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" (Bandura, 1997). It cannot be overstated how much this element contributes to student achievement. Below is a summary from an article by Jenni Donohoo, John Hattie, and Rachel Eells. 
Rachel Eells's (2011) meta-analysis of studies related to collective efficacy and achievement in education demonstrated that the beliefs teachers hold about the ability of the school as a whole are "strongly and positively associated with student achievement across subject areas and in multiple locations" (p. 110). Based on Eells's research, John Hattie positioned collective efficacy at the top of the list of factors that influence student achievement (Hattie, 2016). According to his Visible Learning research, based on a synthesis of more than 1,500 meta-analyses, collective teacher efficacy is three times more powerful and predictive of student achievement than socioeconomic status. It is more than double the effect of prior achievement and more than triple the effect of home environment and parental involvement. It is also greater than three times more predictive of student achievement than student motivation and concentration, persistence, and engagement.
Understanding the critical role self and collective efficacy play in determining the successful attainment of goals lays out a path for achieving efficacy as a whole, something that I expand greatly on in my book Digital Leadership.  Achievement is important, but there are many other facets of school culture that can be improved.  The process can be best articulated through the strategic planning cycle pictured below.

Begin with the end in mind (i.e., goals) while aligning to a shared vision and collective mission. It is then essential to determine specific outcomes, strategies, and measures & targets.  Professional learning, funding, and an array of other supports are crucial to not only stay on the path but also to arrive at the intended destination. The final piece to the puzzle is the results, which can be determined through both qualitative and quantitative means. It cannot be overstated that in the end, it's the degree to which goals have been achieved that ultimately leads to efficacy.

The strategic planning process provides a logical path forward, but there are also many other elements that come into play. In a previous post, I highlighted items in terms of digital initiatives, but upon further reflection, I feel they are worth revisiting as each is important whether or not technology is involved. For anyone that has led change efforts from the trenches, you will more than likely be able to relate to the following.

Questions should lead to more questions

Questions provide context for where we want to go, how we'll get there, and whether or not success is achieved.  Having more questions than answers is a natural part of the initial change process. Consider the following in this order:
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How will we get there?
  • How do we measure success?
  • How did we do?
  • How can we improve?
Research fuels the "why"

Having a foundation and a compelling reason to change is where research plays a pivotal role. It provides a baseline as to what has been found to really work when it comes to student learning and improving culture. We can look to the past in order to inform current practice. If efficacy is the goal, embracing a scholarly mindset to inform and influence our work, not drive it, is critical.

Practicality leads to embracement

It is hard to move any initiative or idea forward if people can't see how it seamlessly aligns with what they already do. The key here is embracement as opposed to buy-in.  If it's not practical, the drive to implement new ideas and practices wanes or never materializes.  

Evidence provides validation

The only way to determine if goals have been met is through evidence. To discount this shows a lack of understanding as to what real change looks and feels like in education.  Evidence can come in many forms, but in the end, it should clearly paint a picture that the ideas and strategies implemented have resulted in a better, more improved outcome.  A combination of data and artifacts will tell you and anyone else whether or not goals were met. 

Accountability ensures success

What's measured gets done, plain and simple. Accountability is prevalent in every profession and is not something that should be feared or loathed in education.  The key is to establish protocols (checkpoints, check-ins, walk-throughs, observations, evaluations, portfolios) that ensure everyone is doing their part and is provided feedback on the way leading to accountability for growth.

Reflection propels growth

I love the last question that comes at the end of the strategic planning cycle, and that is how can we improve.  Since there is no perfection in education, this is a question we should always be asking and reflecting on. 

The path to efficacy can be an arduous and frustrating journey.  No one likes to spend time coming up with goals, and associated action plans only to have them not come to fruition.  Developing a strategic plan and following through based on the elements described above will help get you there, but staying on the path also requires teamwork, communication, patience, and professional learning.  In the end, when success is achieved, the journey and time spent are well worth it. 

For more on the topic of efficacy check out the short video below.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Eells, R. (2011). Meta-analysis of the relationship between collective efficacy and student achievement. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Loyola University of Chicago.

Hattie, J. (2016, July). Mindframes and Maximizers. 3rd Annual Visible Learning Conference held in Washington, DC.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks alot for this article Eric Sheninger, as a leadership and goal mapping facilitator coaching high school students, I have learnt from this article.