Self-efficacy is a critical component of teacher development. In this guest post, data scientist and KU graduate student J.J. DeSimone explores why self-efficacy is so important and provides two easy ways to increase the self-efficacy of novice teachers in your school.

A key driver in many people’s lives is to become the best pianist, statistician or (insert any educational or career goal here) on the planet. Unfortunately, we oftentimes set up barriers in our minds – we tell ourselves we can’t do something, or we just don’t try. Positive psychology research has demonstrated time and again that (like the old phrase that hung up in our elementary school classrooms) “If you believe it, you can achieve it.” In other words, if you possess self-efficacy in teaching, you will most likely be a successful teacher.

Self-efficacy is: “… one’s belief in one’s own ability to successfully perform a specific task.”

Self-efficacy, however, does not operate independent of other psychological functions. Motivation, drive, flow, and positive affect are all concepts that are intricately linked with self-efficacy.

That is, success is not as easy as saying “I can teach better.” Other factors must be developed for an individual to develop that mindset.

According to Albert Bandura, the father of this concept, increased levels of induced self-efficacy increase performance achievements. Not surprisingly, this phenomenon has strong application to the world of teaching. Here’s a short list of what a few studies have demonstrated:

  • In a survey of over 30,000 educators, perceived efficacy within teachers and principals was related to professional commitment to education and continued work as an educator. That is, as efficacy went up, so too did personal commitment.

  • Efficacy beliefs have been linked with improved teacher lesson plan development and thoughtfulness surrounding the development of curricula.

  • A literature review demonstrated that time and again, student learning and achievement is positively related with increased teacher efficacy.

The common conclusion? Teacher efficacy matters.

But how can we actually increase efficacy beliefs within teachers? Fortunately, research can guide us to answers to this critical question. Again, according to Bandura, experience is one of the strongest predictors of self-efficacy. In the context of education, the more a teacher teaches under certain conditions, the more he or she will develop a sense of efficacy. In lieu of years of teaching experience, other factors can contribute to a young teacher’s sense of efficacy:

  • When an early career educator directly observes an experienced teacher, the novice educator can learn from and transfer the experience, producing increases in efficacy.

  • Social feedback from peers or colleagues is also highly influential in a novice teacher’s development of efficacy. Principals and established teachers can support the development of novice teachers by providing positively valenced feedback.

In summary, professional learning experiences that include peer observation, trial and error, and positive feedback are likely to contribute positively to a young teacher’s development of efficacy.

Self-efficacy is an extremely important concept in the development of successful teachers. Collectively working together to increase educators’ self-efficacy can make the difference between middling student development and strong student growth and achievement. We must encourage novice teachers to discover their sense of efficacy.

J.J. De Simone works full time as a data scientist (a cross between statistician, consultant, and data visualizer) for an insurance company. Concurrently, he is also a Ph.D. student in Curriculum and Teaching at the University of Kansas, where his research interests lie in teacher affect and data driven decision-making.

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