Teacher self-efficacy (teachers’ beliefs in their own ability to bring about the outcomes that they hope to see)
Use this measure:
Access a copy of the Teachers’ Sense of Self-Efficacy Scale survey
Measurement instrument overview
This survey is designed to help provide an understanding of teachers’ beliefs in their own ability to bring about the outcomes that they hope to see. Researchers have named this concept as teachers’ self-efficacy.
Respondents are asked to indicate their opinion on a twelve-item continuous Likert-scale survey instrument, in which responses range from (1) “None at All” to (9) “A Great Deal.” In their responses, respondents are asked to consider the combination of their current ability, resources, and opportunity to do the things asked about in their present position. The survey items tend to group into three moderately correlated factors: Efficacy in Student Engagement (items 2,3,4,11), Efficacy in Instructional Practices/Strategies (items 5,9,10,12), and Efficacy in Classroom Management (items 1,6,7,8).i
Eight additional demographic questions are included on the survey form. These questions ask about respondents’ gender, race, grade level, primary subject matter, school context, and years of experience. These demographic questions can be added to the survey to support data disaggregation and analysis.
i Tschannen-Moran, M., & Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2001). Teacher efficacy: Capturing an elusive construct. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17, 783–805.
Connection to student learning
Self-efficacy refers to the belief that a person can successfully execute a desired behavior to result in a desired outcome.ii The scholarly lineage of this concept includes ideas about teachers’ perceptions of the locus of control regarding student outcomes, and whether teachers see outcomes as largely being within their control or determined by external factors and out of their control.iii Self-efficacy can influence how much effort teachers put forth, how long they will persist in the face of obstacles, how resilient they are in dealing with failures, and how much stress or depression they experience in coping with demanding situations.
Several studies have shown relationships between teacher efficacy and student achievement in mathematics.iv Teacher efficacy has also been shown to play a role in student’s motivation, interest in school, and perceptions that what they are learning is important.v Similarly, teachers’ sense of efficacy has been shown to affect other elements of teaching or school context that may, in turn, relate to student achievement. For example, it has been shown to have a strong positive effect on the percentage of project goals achieved, the amount of teacher change, and the continued use of project methods and materials after the project ended.vi Other studies revealed relationships between teacher efficacy and (a) teachers’ willingness to implement innovation,(b) teachers’ stress level, and (c) teachers’ willingness to stay in the field.vii
ii Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. W. H. Freeman.
iii Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 80, 1–28.
iv Armor, D., Conroy-Oseguera, P., Cox, M., King, N., McDonnell, L., Pascal, A., Pauly, E., & Zellman, G. (1976). Analysis of the school preferred reading programs in selected Los Angeles minority schools (Rep. No. R-2007-LAUSD). RAND. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 130 243); Moore, W., & Esselman, M. (1992, April). Teacher efficacy, power, school climate and achievement: A desegregating district’s experience. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco; Watson, S. (1991). A study of the effects of teacher efficacy on the academic achievement of third-grade students in selected elementary schools in South Carolina. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, South Carolina State College, Orangebury. (University Microfilms No. UMI 9230552).
v Midgley, C, Feldlaufer, H., & Eccles, J. (1989). Change in teacher efficacy and student self- and task-related beliefs in mathematics during the transition to junior high school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 247–258; Woolfolk, A. E., Rosoff, B., & Hoy, W. K. (1990). Teachers’ sense of efficacy and their beliefs about managing students. Teaching and Teacher Education, 6, 137–148.
vi Berman, P., McLaughlin, M., Bass, G., Pauly, E., & Zellman, G. (1977). Federal programs supporting educational change: Vol. VII. Factors affecting implementation and continuation (Rep. No. R-1589/7-HEW). RAND. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 140 432).
vii Smylie, M. A. (1988). The enhancement function of staff development: Organizational and psychological antecedents to individual teacher change. American Educational Research Journal, 25, 1–30; Parkay, F. W., Greenwood, G., Olejnik, S., & Proller, N. (1988). A study of the relationship among teacher efficacy, locus of control, and stress. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 27(4), 13–22; Glickman, C, & Tamashiro, R. (1982). A comparison of first-year, fifth-year, and former teachers on efficacy, ego development, and problem solving. Psychology in Schools, 19, 558–562.
What we know about how well this measure works for its intended use
The developers analyzed survey responses from 255 teachers to establish the construct validity and reliability of the Teachers’ Sense of Self Efficacy Scale. For more information, see Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy (2001) and Wilhelm & Berebitsky (2019).
Interviewees we spoke with described using the measure in relation to a specific intervention to measure efficacy prior to and after the intervention. Because efficacy may be context specific and not subject to rapid changes, it is unclear whether it would be valuable to use the measure on a frequent and ongoing basis.
Measurement routine details
The measure can be administered as an online survey.
Data analysis details
Data analysis should be guided by the inquiry questions. Scores from individual teachers could be gathered to understand how efficacy changes over a period of time, or individual teacher scores could be aggregated to a group level (e.g., school) and displayed as averages.
Additionally, the measure could be used in whole or in part. All 12 items could be averaged together to produce an overall efficacy score. The items could also be grouped into the previously identified factors (efficacy in student engagement, instructional practices/strategies, or classroom management), with average scores displayed for each group of items. (Researchers suggest running factor analysis to confirm that these items group together statistically with the new sample, although such analysis may require a substantial sample size to produce meaningful results.) The 12 items could also be examined separately as, for example, aggregate average scores.
Conditions that support use
Using the efficacy measure alongside other measures of teacher knowledge, mindset, or instructional practices may help to clarify the resulting efficacy scores, by providing additional information about the teachers’ instructional context.
One challenge to this measure of self-efficacy is that the beliefs identified by the survey questions may be both context and subject-matter specific; efficacy in one situation may not transfer to another. Because efficacy may be context specific, it may be useful to add additional reference language that helps respondents understand what they should be considering in their responses. Including a statement at the top of the survey directing the survey takers’ attention to a particular context may be useful. For example, “Respond to the items below in reference to your math classes” (or “to 8th grade math class” or “to your job as a teacher,” etc.)
The measure uses a 9-point scale, which some users may find overwhelming. It may be unclear what distinctions are between points along this scale (e.g., between 2 and 3 or between 6 and 7).
Amy Brodesky, Project Director, Strengthening Mathematics Intervention Project, EducationDevelopment Center
Jackie Zweig, EDC lead researcher
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