Collective efficacy: An example of how to improve the student experience
According to Hattie’s (2016) Visible Learning research, 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 home environment and parental involvement. It is also greater than three times more predictive of student achievement than student motivation and concentration, persistence, and engagement. What this research suggests is that if we work collegially, we can achieve so much more than the sum of our individual efforts.
The benefit of making time as a team for reflection and review of teaching
Dedicating time to focusing on the quality of teaching and the student experience across a course is incredibly important and yet extremely rare. According to implementation science literature (Fixsen, 2005), much is made of design and development of the ‘implementation’ and insufficient effort and thinking goes into evaluation of the ‘implementation’. The Clinical Audiology team at Macquarie University are different.
The Audiology team reviewed their curriculum in 2018 and made significant changes at that time. In 2020 they have been purposeful and proactive about reflecting on the course changes, with the aim of further improving the student experience. They engaged in the process of collecting data from multiple perspectives and were open to suggestions for improvement. Underpinning the willingness to engage in the review process was collective efficacy.
Introducing Brookfield’s four lenses
The four lenses (or perspectives) reflective model developed by Stephen Brookfield (1995) is a useful theoretical tool for adult educators to reflect on teaching from various points of view as it enables a state of continuous learning and improvement. As a reflective model it is effective because it is both teacher and student focused and the four different lenses ensure that we face our own assumptions by holistically looking at the learning environment.
Example of Brookfield’s four lenses in action
The following is an example of the model used by the Master of Clinical Audiology teaching team in S2, 2020. The process employed follows the structure of the four lenses, with only a few deviations. The collective efficacy of the Audiology team ensured that they were comfortable with the process and self-sufficient; only reaching out for support resources, advice and facilitation support for a one-day workshop in early December:
- The Clinical Audiology team started the review process with a self-assessment of their teaching using a blended-learning self-assessment quiz set up in the Faculty professional development site. The quiz provides automated feedback and an overall score mapped to a matrix of evidence-based standards of performance.
- My ‘autobiography’ as a teacher was embedded during discussion in the final face-to-face workshop.
- Student questionnaires were created by some Unit Convenors (UCs) to gain understanding of how the student experiences the classroom and the teacher. A ‘questionnaire’ tool is available within iLearn and can be easily set up to get student feedback on anything from a change in teaching approach to targeted areas of interest.
- Data readily available from LETs and LEUs was reviewed by UCs to gain understanding of the student perspective and draw out recurrent themes.
- Weekly team meetings, lead by Assoc Prof Mridula Sharma enabled a collective academic efficacy to develop and intimate knowledge of teaching approaches and strategies, assessment design and curriculum development across the course.
- Peer review of online unit, curriculum practices, teaching practice or assessment design was encouraged and supported by peer review resources provided by Faculty Learning Designers.
- Sharing an aspect of ‘good teaching practice’ was scheduled for the two-day workshop.
- The Faculty Learning Design team provided feedback to UCs on one unit (most UCs taught two or more units). The feedback was based on the scholarship of learning and teaching with regard to instructional and online unit design. The recurrent themes across the units were collated into course feedback for discussion at the closing face-to-face workshop.
- The benefits of active and engaged learning were critically discussed, showcased through case studies and promoted during the face-to-face workshop.
- Bloom’s Taxonomy was revised to ensure a range of learning activities provide opportunities for students to demonstrate lower to higher order thinking skills.
- Biggs’ constructive alignment was discussed to ensure that assessment, teaching and learning activities align with Unit learning outcomes.
Course review outcomes
- A workshop focusing on assessment design is planned for early in 2021, along with further iLearn training workshops; pedagogy and technology that enables active and engaged learning.
- By the end of day two of the dedicated workshop, staff were able to map out an individual action plan for iterative improvement to the student experience in 2021. In this way the reflection-improvement cycle for the unit/course is seen as an ongoing and integral process of learning and teaching.
What did the teachers think about the concluding workshop?
I think I speak for everyone when I say it was incredibly helpful and there are a lot of great tools that we can explore. We don’t know what we don’t know, and we tend to use the same tools we are comfortable using so it’s great to have outsiders’ question what we do and show us new things. I think we all learnt a lot from your perspective.
2020 Audiology workshop participant
I found this workshop very useful and I want to thank you for the specific tips and advice.
2020 Audiology workshop participant
A final word about the role of collective efficacy
When a team of individuals share the belief that through their unified efforts, they can overcome challenges and produce intended results, groups are more effective.
Donohoo, J., Hattie, J. and Eells, R. (2018)
Biggs, J. (2011) Biggs. J. Teaching for Quality Learning at University – What the Student Does 4th Edition SRHE / Open University Press, Buckingham.
Bloom. B.S. (Ed.) (1956) Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals: Handbook I, cognitive domain. Longmans, New York.
Brookfield, S.D. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Donohoo, J., Hattie, J. and Eells, R. (2018). The Power of Collective Efficacy, in Educational Leadership, Vol 75, Number 6, pp 40-44.
Fixsen, D., Naoom, S., Blase, K., Friedman, R., Wallace, F. (2005). Implementation Research: A Synthesis of the Literature. Tamps, FL: University of South Florida, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, National Implementation Research Network.
Hattie, J. (2016, July). Mindframes and Maximizers. 3rd Annual Visible Learning Conference held in Washington, DC.