Professional Development (PD) in education has the responsibility of promoting teacher growth in a valid and practical manner. A community of teacher-learners can effectively promote this growth beyond what simple in-servicing (alone) can accomplish. Applied workshop and other in-service content to individual teaching environments will yield results which can only be magnified by a shared-experience follow-up. Literature on Self-Efficacy, Mentorship, & Professional Learning Communities validate the need for teaching professionals to learn, share, and collaborate with their peers. Teaching professionals need to feel successful and believe in their ability to succeed.
The constant for all teachers is students and their learning needs. All teachers hope that they can make a difference is what can contribute to their decision to continue teaching. Johnson and Birkeland (2003) quoted Jerry, a beginning teacher they interviewed, as saying, “I’ll need a sense of success, not unqualified constant success, because I know that’s completely unrealistic. But, overall, you know, on average, that I’m making a difference for kids and that they’re learning from me.” (p. 594). The teacher’s desire to feel successful with his students was echoed by many of the teachers who chose to stay in the profession with their school community in Johnson & Birkeland (2003).
“Efficacy expectations determine how much effort people will expend and how long they will persist in the face of obstacles and aversive experiences” (Bandura, 1977). Bandura further states, “The strength of people’s convictions in their own effectiveness is likely to affect whether they will even try to cope with given situations” (Bandura, 1977). Therefore to further understand efficacy expectations, Bandura used the four major sources of information as shown in Figure 1:
Figure 1. Major sources of efficacy information and the principal sources through which different modes of treatment operate. (Bandura, 1977).
Bandura (1977) elaborates on these four sources of efficacy information:
- Performance accomplishment – personal mastery experiences: Successes raise mastery expectations; repeated failures lower them, particularly if the mishaps occur early in the course of events.
- Vicarious experiences – Seeing others perform threatening activities without adverse consequences can generate expectations in observers that they too will improve if they intensify and persist in their efforts.
- Verbal persuasion – people who are socially persuaded that they possess the capabilities to master difficult situations and are provided with provisional skills for effective action are likely to mobilize greater effort than those who receive only the performance aids.
- Emotional arousal – By conjuring up fear-provoking thoughts about their ineptitude, individuals can rouse themselves to elevated levels of anxiety that far exceed the fear experienced during the actual threatening situation.
These four areas of self-efficacy are achievable through the prolonged, sustainable collaborative programs and they provide a framework for researchers to explore the theory’s impact on educational program design and development.
Tschannen-Moran and Hoy (2001) gave the following definition of teacher efficacy. “A teacher’s efficacy belief is a judgment of his or her capabilities to bring about desired outcomes of student engagement and learning, even among those students who may be difficult or unmotivated” (p. 783). Research has shown that a teacher’s efficacy is related to how teachers’ decisions are made, how goals are shaped, how planning and organization are implemented, and how teachers react in the classroom and relate to students (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001). In addition, teachers with high self-efficacy embrace new ideas and methods for teaching (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy (2001). In developing a favorable or unfavorable attitude toward an innovation, an individual may mentally apply the new idea to his or her present or anticipated future situation before deciding whether or not to try it (Brown 2003). The study resides in the willingness of the teachers being studied to adopt the technology and apply it to their professional settings.
Collaboration in Teaching through Mentorship
Teachers who were identified in a federal study on teacher mobility as “movers” or “leavers” described teaching in isolation as one factor that contributed to their dissatisfaction. Movers left the schools where they worked in isolation for schools where colleagues interacted and shared ideas for teaching. Those teachers, titled “settled stayers”, described their supportive colleagues as a reason for their decision to stay at their school (Johnson & Birkeland, 2003). In sum, these studies point to the need for the sharing of ideas as important components in the teacher development process.
Smith and Ingersoll (2004) conducted research using the SASS and TFS data. Among other types of induction support, the authors studied the impact of colleague support on the retention of teachers. Those beginning teachers provided a common planning time with colleagues and a scheduled time to interact with colleagues on instructional issues had a 42% less likelihood of leaving as opposed to staying and a 25% less likelihood of moving as opposed to staying.
Peer coaching and mentorship programs that provide collaborative atmospheres can be highly effective in promoting teacher success. Mentoring is a professional role that requires professional renewal, enhanced self-esteem, more reflective practice, and leadership skills. The knowledge and skills that experienced teachers acquire as part of mentor training and practice can be viewed as part of the continual professional growth (Hanson, 2010). When mentoring is viewed as a peer coaching requiring teachers to plan, demonstrate, and practice new instructional practices in a collaborative manner, schools may find less fragmentation, less teacher isolation (Reiman and DeAngelis Peace 2002). Mentoring programs for teachers should serve to offer deliberate psychological and professional development (DPPE) conditions necessary for the development of teacher knowledge, skills, and dispositions, thus increasing teacher retention through effective, efficient mentoring. The DPPE program and its foundation of research-based exemplary practices for teachers, center on curriculum designed to develop teachers’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions through a more thorough understanding of building helping relationships, effective teaching practices, effective coaching/supervision practices, and adult cognitive development (Dotger & Reiman 2006). In a mentorship effectiveness study conducted by Shippee and Dotger (2010) the key finding was the high value placed on collaboration between colleagues. The study will use a virtual professional learning community (PLC) allowing the teachers involved in the study to asynchronously collaborate, in a reflective manner, on their teaching practices and the application of the motivation in the classroom content, on their daily classroom teaching practices.
Collaboration in Teaching through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)
A professional learning community (PLC) can be defined at multiple levels (local, state, national, and international) in multiple contexts (team of teachers, building staff, school district of teachers, group of common content teachers, etc…) yet the focus of every PLC must be to explore three major questions: What do we want each student to learn? How will we know when each student has learned it? How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning? (DuFour 2004).
Hord (1997) Identifies five major attributes of professional learning communities:
1. Supportive and Shared Learning – the collegial and facilitative participation of the principal, who shares leadership (and power/authority) through inviting staff input in decision making.
2. Collective Learning – application of collective learning to address student needs.
3. Shared Values and Vision – a shared vision that is developed from the teachers’ commitment to student learning.
4. Supportive Conditions – time scheduled for teachers to come together to learn, make decisions, problem solve, and create work exemplified by collaboration.
5. Shared Personal Experience – a peers helping peers process, based on a desire for individual and community improvement founded in mutual respect and trustworthiness of the teachers involved.
These five major attributes are reflective of Bandura’s (1977) performance accomplishment, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion and emotional arousal. Clearly the research shows repeditive themes in community building and job satisfaction for teaching professionals.
The teaching can be a lonely profession complete with isolation and the close-my-door-and-teach mentality. Yet, the wealth of knowledge and experience that can be accessed through well structured professional development and collaboration opportunities. This takes effort on the part of the teachers, administrators, and institutions of learning, but the effort WILL yield positive results.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change. Psychological Review 84 (2), 191-215.
Dotger, B. & Reiman, A. 2006-01-26 “Measuring Fidelity and Concerns in the Process of Implementing an Innovation” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Online. <PDF> 2009- 05-25 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p36187_index.html
DuFour, R. (2004) What is a “Professional Learning Community”? Schools as Learning Communities. Educational Leadership 61(8)
Johnson, S.M. & Birkeland, S.E. (2003). Pursuing a “sense of success”: New teachers explain their career decisions, American Educational Research Journal 40 (3) (2003), pp. 581–617.
Hord, S. M. (1997) Professional Learning Communities: What Are They and Why Are They Important. Issues… about change. 6 (1). Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) Austin, Texas
Reiman, A.J. & DeAngelis Peace, S. (2002) Promoting Teachers’ Moral Reasoning and Collaborative Inquiry Performance: a developmental role-taking and guided inquiry study. Journal of Moral Education, 31(1), 51-66.
Rogers, Everett M. Diffusion of Innovations. 5th ed. New York: Free, 2003. Print.
Shippee, M. & Dotger, B. (2010) Perceptions of Success for Teachers: The Role of Mentor Programs. (unpublished).
Smith, T.M. & Ingersoll, R.M. (2004). What are the effects of induction and mentoring on beginning teacher turnover?, American Education Research Journal 41 (3) (2004), pp. 681–714.
Tschannen-Moran, M. & Hoy, A.W. (2001) Teacher efficacy: Capturing an elusive construct, Teaching and Teacher Education 17 (2001), pp. 783–805.