Self-efficacy, the belief in one’s own abilities, is rarely considered an important trait for teacher quality. But it is a rising star in the latest research on characteristics that make a teacher most effective in the classroom.
A recent study in The Elementary School Journal found that teacher self-efficacy had a greater effect on the reading outcomes of 5th-grade students than teacher experience or teacher education. The study examined teachers’ classroom practices to account for differences in student outcomes associated with teacher characteristics. The researchers report that teachers with a higher sense of self-efficacy provided more support for student learning and created a more positive classroom environment.
“This significant, indirect effect supports the assumption that the association between teacher self-efficacy and student achievement may be mediated through classroom practices,” the researchers write.
“These findings indicate that fifth-grade students learn more when their teachers communicate with them in more emotionally supportive and responsive ways and provide evaluative feedback and a classroom environment that support learning.”
Teacher education had no effect on student outcomes in this study.
Time spent on academics
Besides providing support for student learning, the other classroom practice examined in this study of 3 teacher characteristics (self-efficacy, teacher education and experience) was time spent on academics. Researchers found that teachers with more experience and stronger self-efficacy spent less time on academics, and teachers with more education spent more time on academics. In this study, there was a negative association between time spent on academics and 5th grade reading outcomes.
The researchers used data from the Phase III study of the larger ongoing longitudinal National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD). This study followed children and measured their development at frequent intervals from birth through adolescence. Phase III of the study was conducted 2000-2005 and followed over 1,100 children through their seventh year in school. This study was based on data from 1,043 students.
Teachers in the study completed the Teacher Self-Efficacy Questionnaire (Bandura, 1997) from NICHD SECCYD, which assesses teachers’ self-efficacy using 5 subscales: efficacy to influence decision making (2 items), efficacy to influence school resources (1 item), instructional self-efficacy (9 items), self efficacy to manage children’s behavior (3 items), and efficacy to create a positive school climate (6 items).
Observations of classroom practices
To evaluate teachers’ classroom practices, researchers used the Classroom Observation System for 5th grade (COS-5), developed specifically for NICHD SECCYD. Trained observers took notes on teachers’ interactions with students and the classroom environment during time-sampling periods. Observers rated teacher warmth and sensitivity, teacher detachment and control based on manifest behaviors.
“Among the teacher characteristics variables, our study establishes that teacher self-efficacy predicts teachers practices, which in turn predict student literacy outcome over and above the influence of teachers’ experience and teachers’ education, when controlling for students’ previous literacy skills and their social and economic status,” the researchers conclude. “The importance of teacher self-efficacy moves beyond the typical concept of teachers’ qualifications.”
“The effects of teacher qualification, teacher self-efficacy, and classroom practices on fifth graders’ literacy outcomes,” by Ying Guo et al., The Elementary School Journal, 2012, Volume 113, Number 1.