How Can School Leaders Increase Teachers’ Collective Efficacy?

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By: Kathleen Marx and Melissa Bloom


How can you increase collective efficacy at your school?


“Success is due to our stretching to meet the challenges of life.”  – John Maxwell

Looking ahead into the summer and fall of 2021, what can you see?

Even without a crystal ball, most districts can easily identify that opportunities abound. These might present themselves in the guise of challenges, sometimes causing leaders to feel overwhelmed with where to start and how to proceed – but in truth, these very challenges are opportunities.

One of these key opportunities is the chance to increase collective efficacy.

For schools, collective efficacy refers to the perceptions of teachers in a school that the faculty as a whole can execute the courses of action necessary to have positive effects on students (Tschannen-Moran & Barr, 2004, p. 190).

The sense of individual and collective efficacy has certainly been tested this year, and the range of needs and challenges can feel daunting.

But viewing challenges as what they are – opportunities – can help you refocus on the right steps and recover with even more efficacy than you had before the pandemic.


Examples of opportunities to build collective efficacy

Some of the opportunities that school and districts may identify for the upcoming school year include:

    • Increasing teacher expertise and skills
      After more than a year of learning new technologies, planning for a new mode of teaching, and worrying about students who were checking out or who were less able to access their learning virtually, teachers hope to enter a year less fraught with anxiety. Many report that the demands of the ever-changing 2020-2021 school year, have resulted in a sense of diminished efficacy. “Did my best efforts make a difference?  Did my students really learn this year?” Building teacher expertise through professional development and feedback will be critical to reestablishing that sense of efficacy.
    • Rethinking assessment and the use of student data
      Whether your school was fully virtual all year, hybrid, or fully open, the past school year has been one of changes and uncertainty. Some students may have been quite successful in a virtual or hybrid model. Others may not have been. Many districts have data demonstrating that a sizable percentage of their student population did not attend or participated inconsistently in school and in assessments during these months. How has that impacted the data around student learning? You now have a new opportunity to rethink when and how teachers assess students, and how that data will be shared and used.
    • Working to close achievement gaps
      Post-pandemic gaps that schools identify are bound to be different from the normal range of achievement within grade levels at the beginning of a school year. Now is a time to rethink how the instructional model will address these gaps, and what teachers will need in order to implement those strategies effectively.


Focusing on opportunities such as these allows you to reframe what being in school looks, sounds, and feels like to a wide range of diverse students with diverse strengths and needs.

When choosing which opportunities to prioritize, ask yourself: What can my school plan and implement to build a stronger, more equitable and accessible learning environment?

If you are planning to go back to business as usual, what supports and resources will you need for that to be successful?

If you will instead take the opportunity to reimagine core instruction, interventions, and school culture, how will you plan and provide resources for your revised vision?

Reframe your challenges as opportunities: how can you provide resources to increase teacher expertise and skills, rethink assessment and use of student data, and close achievement gaps? Build collective teacher efficacy. @Learn_Sci Click To Tweet


A silver lining: ESSER funding

Fortunately, districts now have unique opportunities in the form of additional funding to address the issues they identify.

Public schools across the United States received additional federal COVID-19 relief funding through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA), signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020. The CRRSAA provides an additional $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II).

These funds provide critical assistance to help schools and districts maintain a high-quality learning environment, continue the establishment of innovative learning methods, and combat COVID-19 related learning loss.

Among the ways such funds can be spent are:

    • Professional development
    • Identifying and addressing unfinished learning
    • Assessments
    • Instructional materials

How do districts and schools, then, ensure that these dollars are utilized in ways that best address the challenges (opportunities) in front of them?

Researchers Carbaugh and Marzano, in School Leadership for Results (2018) identify three components to a school leader’s work in the domain of A Data Driven Focus on School Improvement. They are:

    1. Using data to establish the most critical goals that need to be addressed.
    2. Using the right sources of data to monitor progress toward those goals.
    3. Choosing, implementing and assessing/adjusting intervention programs based on their effectiveness (p.20).

It is tempting to look at initial achievement data and seek programs and technologies that address knowledge gaps. There are so many interesting intervention programs, for instance.

But how do leaders know those interventions are going to meet the needs of their particular population of students at this unusual time in the field of education?

With data that may not be as predictive or diagnostic as that normally obtained, it can be challenging to identify the one or two best intervention approaches.

Districts must and should continue to seek the most effective interventions for their student populations based on needs identified through the use of the best data sources they have.

However, the opportunity of ESSER funds also allows leaders and teachers to take a step back and ask themselves, “Overall, what has research shown to have the most impact on student learning”?


How could considering collective efficacy impact our decisions?

John Hattie (2017) positioned collective efficacy at the top of the list of more than 250 factors that influence student achievement.

According to his Visible Learning research, based on a synthesis of 1,400 meta-analyses, collective teacher efficacy is greater than 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 parental involvement.

It is also greater than three times more predictive of student achievement than student motivation and more than two times more effective than student concentration, persistence, and engagement (see figure 1).

Factors that influence student achievement

Figure 1. Factors that influence student achievement, based on data from Hattie (2017). Collective teacher efficacy has an effect size of 1.57, which makes it the #1 factor of 250+ factors. It is more than three times more likely to predict student achievement than motivation (which has an effect size of 0.42), parental involvement (0.5), and socioeconomic status (0.52). Collective teacher efficacy is more than two times more predicative than prior achievement (0.55) and concentration/persistence/engagement (0.56).


As leaders can attest, the events of the prior and current school year have challenged the belief of collective efficacy among teachers.

To what degree do your teachers feel confident that they and their colleagues have been able to – or will be able to – meet the needs of their students?


What can leaders do?

In this time of change and uncertainty, what can school leaders do to increase teachers’ sense of efficacy?

It is well-known and established that it is the teacher in the classroom and the leaders who support them make the most impact on student learning out of all school-related factors. A recent report by the Wallace Foundation synthesized two decades of research and confirmed this fact (Grissom, et al., 2021).

Richard Elmore (2000) argues that the key barrier to successfully improving student performance is the fact that too many teachers are isolated and have little opportunity for professional collaboration with colleagues, the principal, or the district.

While many districts have made meaningful progress on teacher-isolation-related issues over recent years, the past 18 months of remote schooling has certainly diminished the opportunities for collaborative learning and growing.

Even so, helping to ensure that teachers have the instructional skills and the professional confidence they need to teach their students effectively is the most important challenge school leaders face, and building collective efficacy can provide leaders a means to achieve this goal.


John Hattie’s research ranked collective efficacy at the top of a list of 250+ factors influencing student achievement. During this challenging school year, take time to rebuild your teachers' confidence & support collaboration.… Click To Tweet


4 ways leaders can help their districts and school build or re-build a sense of collective efficacy:

    1. Provide teachers with opportunities to build instructional knowledge and expertise.
    2. Ensure that teachers collaborate with colleagues about teaching and learning.
    3. Give meaningful feedback to teachers on their instruction that is insightful, specific, and encourages incremental growth.
    4. Maintain a vision of success in which teachers are treated as sources of expertise.


Districts that are implementing Marzano Teacher Evaluation models have a strong foundation from which to address these four components. The leaders in these districts have research-based, coherent models of instruction.

A few ways to strengthen your implementation of the Marzano Teacher evaluation models include:

    • Helping teachers stay focused on the components within the instructional model
    • Planning for additional teacher professional development to refresh or add to their skills in these components
    • Allowing teachers time to address these components in a collaborative discussion with their peers
    • Providing feedback as teachers grow in their expertise

All of these strategies will have a positive impact on individual and collective teacher efficacy – and ultimately on meeting the needs of students.


Example activity: Supporting teacher collaboration and growth through focused interaction

The following example uses the “Save the Last Word for Me” Protocol created by Patricia Averette (n.d).

    1. Give teachers access to a professional learning article such as this one on teacher efficacy from NAESP. (Perhaps post it in a Google Drive or similar online folder.) Ask them to read it before an upcoming meeting and highlight or underline no more than 2 key sentences/passages that stood out to them in the article.
    2. Make sure all teachers have their copy of the article (physical or virtual), with their highlights. In a staff meeting (in person or virtual) organize teachers into small groups (preferably four), naming a facilitator and timekeeper for each group.
        • Facilitator: Begins the process of reading one of the key passages he/she had underlined, without explaining why they chose the passage.
        • The other three participants each have one minute to respond to the passage—saying what it makes them think about, what questions it raises for them, etc.
        • The facilitator then has three minutes to state why he or she chose that part of the article and to respond to—or build on—what the other participants have said.
        • The same pattern is followed until all four members of the group have had a chance to be the presenter and to have “the last word.”
        • Optional: The small group may then hold an open dialogue about the text and the ideas and questions raised.
      1. The small group debriefs the experience. What commonalities did we have in our thinking? What differences?
    3. Engage in large group processing and sharing. Key question: What are the opportunities we have right now for increasing our sense of individual and collective efficacy?
    4. NOTE: The group work should take about 30-40 minutes, plus time for large group sharing. If you have less time available, form groups of three instead of four members, and possibly remove step f (small group debrief).



Further professional development for teachers and leaders

“Resources are to a complex organization what food is to the body. Resources important to a school extend well beyond books and materials,” (Marzano, et al., 2005, p. 139).

One of these critical resources is professional development opportunities, which introduce, refresh or deepen teacher knowledge and expertise.


Some of IE’s professional development offerings include:


Half-day and full day live virtual FTEM training (group and onsite training also available)

This is a convenient and easy way to help your newer teachers and leaders who might have missed your initial training as well as provide another option for training to help prepare your district for next school year!

    • Marzano Focused Model for New Observers (full-day course)
    • Marzano Focused Teacher Evaluation Model through an Equity and Access Lens: Marzano Focused Model for Existing Observers (half-day course)
    • Marzano Focused Model Overview for Teacher and Coaches (half-day course)
    • Marzano School Leader Model Overview for District and School Leaders (half-day course)



Professional development courses for teachers:
  • On-site or virtual Deep Dives: two-hour virtual sessions focused on a single component of the instructional model.For instance, two hours to “dive deeper” into strategies and how-to’s around:
    • Identifying Critical Content
    • Engaging in Cognitively Complex Tasks
    • Revising KnowledgeAnd more.
  • On-site or virtual half or full-day sessions focused on topics like:
    • Monitoring for Learning
    • Creating Conditions for Learning
    • Deliberate PracticeAnd more



Book studies (four one-hour virtual sessions led by an IE expert):

Marzano leadership book:

From the Essentials series:


Leaders – create a customized evaluation plan: 
    • Expert consulting
    • Side-by-side coaching for leaders: Refresh and calibrate – practice accurate scoring to increase teacher confidence and increase effectiveness of feedback
    • Classroom walkthrough tools for actionable, daily data without directly evaluating teachers




Finally, remember:

“All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year … Success comes when we wake up every day in pursuit of WHY we do WHAT we do.”

– Simon Sinek (2011, p. 224)

For all those district leaders, building leaders, classroom teachers, and all who support the work keep on being people who start and stay with your WHY.  Your students will reap the benefits.



Averette, P. (n.d.) “Save the last word for me” protocol. The National Writing Project.

Carbaugh, B.G. & Marzano, R.J. (2018). School leadership for results: A focused model. Instructional Empowerment.

Elmore, R. F. (2000). Building a new structure for school leadership. The Albert Shanker Institute.

Grissom, J.A., Egalite, A.J., Lindsay, C.A. (2021). How principals affect students and schools: A systematic synthesis of two decades of research. The Wallace Foundation.

Hattie, J. (2017). Visible learning plus: 250+ influences on student achievement.

Marzano, R.J., Walters, T., & McNulty, B.A. (2005). School leadership that works: From research to results. ASCD.

Sinek, S. (2011). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. Penguin.

Tschannen-Moran & Barr (2004). Fostering student learning: The relationship of collective teacher efficacy and student achievement. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 3(3), 189-209.


About the Authors

Melissa Bloom, Ed.D.

Dr. Melissa Bloom is Executive Director of Evaluation and Strategic Partnerships at Learning Sciences Marzano Center. Her passion is to energize and inspire K-12 educators to improve effectiveness through research-based instructional and evaluation models. After spending her career as a teacher, regional school improvement coach, school principal, assistant superintendent for curriculum, and continuing teacher education coach at Quincy University, Dr. Bloom understands what it takes to encourage teachers and leaders in a way that ultimately results in increased student learning.


Kathleen Marx, MSEd

Kathleen Marx, MSEd, is a leading expert in personal development across industries. Ms. Marx works very closely with Dr. Robert J. Marzano and the Instructional Empowerment team in developing content and training new staff developers. Her background of classroom teaching, gifted education consulting, school counseling, life-success facilitation, and building administration gives her unique insight into leading strategies in implementing research-based instructional and evaluation models. She earned her master’s degrees in educational leadership and school counseling from the University of Dayton.



About IE

Our vision for education is to close the achievement gap. Equip all students with the social, emotional, and cognitive skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. Expand equity by giving every child access to rigorous core instruction that empowers learners to free themselves from generational poverty.

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