What If Efficacy Did Not Matter in Schools?
What if efficacy did not matter in schools or on the PLC journey?
What if we focused exclusively on the knowledge and skill set of every individual on a team? In the sports world, it would be very easy to predict the next Super Bowl or Major League champion. Simply stated, the team with the most talent would be awarded the championship trophy at the start of the year. Yet, even the most casual fan knows that there is an intangible factor that always seems to play a role in the success or failure of every team. In other words, the team’s collective efficacy or perception of their ability to successfully complete a given task truly matters and is a critical component to success in sports and schools.
Many school leadership teams know that it’s not the talent of their teachers or leaders that stands in the way of remarkable academic gains but rather how they perceive and tackle inevitable challenges. Members of an effective PLC embrace the power of their collective efforts and, most importantly, believe that they have the capacity to influence student achievement. Conversely, inefficacious teams feel powerless over positively influencing student learning and are more motivated to identify the problems with moving forward than developing solutions.
Based on the work of Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura, there are four high-leverage strategies that positively influence efficacy levels. Obviously leadership teams would benefit from developing environments that enhance the efficacy levels of individuals and, most importantly, teams. Therefore, reflect on your school’s routines and rituals as you consider the following questions:
How do we foster opportunities for quick wins?
In one math department, the department chair encouraged every team to implement short-term or two-week SMART goals as a way to quickly assess the team’s effectiveness as well as highlight their effect on student learning. We can all recall our outlook and persistence on any difficult task when we experienced success early in the process.
When was the last time we shared data showing that others like us are being successful?
Asking highly effective teams to present to their colleagues ensures that inefficacious teams begin to challenge their deeply embedded beliefs of what is possible. Schools have also benchmarked their student outcomes to other similar schools as a way of capitalizing on the common belief that if "they" could do it, we can too.
How many ways did we recognize and validate the work of teams moving in the right direction?
Just like the coach that inspires an athlete to another level by simply stating to a player, "I know that you can hit that shot," school can send a similar message in various ways. Over the years, schools have switched from regularly recognizing individuals to celebrating the achievements of their teams and in turn developing the efficacy of all the team members. See Recognition Ideas under Related Resources below.
How did we help staff members lower or manage their anxiety levels?
Experts such as Robert J. Marzano, Doug Reeves, and Mike Schmoker have exhorted the virtue of focusing on a few initiatives rather than a litany of new ideas. While deep implementation increases the likeliness of success, it also lowers the stress level of individuals who quickly become overwhelmed with multiple tasks and initiatives.
Implementing a PLC requires much more than an understanding of the key principles or talented individuals. Highly effective PLC teams understand that their beliefs serve as the foundation of their success or failure in any endeavor. As Tony Robbins once stated, what we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs…
What ideas seem to be the most effective in raising your school’s collective efficacy level?
Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V.S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998)