Science has proven what you probably suspected.
The number one influence in schools related to student achievement is what your teachers collectively believe about your students.
John Hattie and his team, using a meta meta-analysis have studied effect size of what works in schools. Hattie’s work is chronicled in his numerous books, conference speeches, and papers, notably found in his book Visible Learning.
The single most important question for any school or school system is this: what do the teachers at this school REALLY think about the students?
If the teachers REALLY believe that students can learn, that collective belief becomes who they are as a faculty. The opposite is just as true. If the teachers don’t believe they can make a difference, regardless of what other initiatives you launch, their impact will be limited.
What Hattie and his team have done and updated regularly is a list of factors (252 to be exact) related to student achievement and their effect sizes. The higher the effect size, the more likely the positive outcomes on student achievement.
Ranking number one is collective teacher efficacy, defined by Hattie as the “collective belief of teachers in their ability to positively affect students.”
Another way to look at it could be the “group think” of the adults in your school; that notion you’ve been working on since you’ve been in school leadership– culture. Specifically, your school’s culture around whether they believe that together, they can make a difference.
In your efforts to improve instruction at your school, are you building confidence in the heads and hearts of your teachers that they can do their work well, and together make a difference?
At this point in the school year, you are deep into observations, observation write-ups, and the evaluation process. Do the teachers truly see your work as a vehicle to help them be better prepared individually and collectively to make a difference for your students? Or, do they see you much like you view the fire marshall when they make an appearance at your school? (necessary but not necessarily welcomed)
The subtle difference of your work in the evaluation process can make a difference in the way that individual teachers at your school think about their work. This isn’t a suggestion to “go easy” on your teachers in evaluation work: it’s quite the opposite. Teachers who get meaningful feedback and timely follow-up become more confident to do the work, and then begin to believe that their work can make a difference. That attitude spreads; if teachers think that your feedback is a canned response, rushed, or for compliance, its influence on their belief in their work will be limited if anything at all.
Think back to your days as a student. The teachers who challenged you are the ones who made the biggest difference in your learning. If you can challenge your teachers individually to be the best they can be as a part of a team of teachers that are on an important mission, you’ll be amazed at how differently your school can be. Like all good things, it takes time.
Where do you begin? With one teacher at a time, but in each interaction sharing a vision of what you can do together.
© 2018. Dr. Mark D. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.
For additional study, check out these links:
Hattie’s Visible Learning Listing
Issue Brief from CSRI
Research on Collective Teacher Efficacy