Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Developing Collective Classroom Efficacy: The Teacher's Role as Community Organizer

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Developing Collective Classroom Efficacy: The Teacher's Role as Community Organizer

Article excerpt

Scenario of a fifth-grade classroom:

   As a university researcher who became the resident
   classroom ethnographer in Ms. Falls's fifth-grade classroom,
   I entered the classroom on a day in mid-October
   with a visiting faculty candidate who was interested in
   seeing the classroom in action. The students were in
   reading groups, pouring over their assigned novels.
   After introducing the visitor to Ms. Falls, we went to sit
   in the back of the room, just to observe.

      We were approached by Bethany who offered to
   introduce us to the class, and who asked Ms. Falls if it
   was ok to tell the visitor about their reading response
   activities. Ms. Falls agreed, and the students began to
   talk about the various kinds of reading response formats.
   What was common to all of these students was
   that they had to become the characters and perform the
   ideas from the novels they were reading. As they were
   trying to explain, Beto exclaimed, "This is too hard to
   explain, we need to just do it!" Bethany agreed and
   called for "Fishbowl" with the group reading Pedro's

      Immediately the group sprang into action, moving
   chairs to the center of the room. Beto assigned students
   to sit in close as they were the "evaluators" of the performance.
   Ms. Falls reminded the others that they were
   to get ready to ask "probing questions." Jaz said, "You
   know, the kind of questions that make us say 'why'
   something happened." As the students continued into
   their performance, I caught the look from our visitor
   that indicated something special was happening here.
   On our way out of the school, she asked, "How did that
   group of kids get to be so independent that they could
   just take control of their learning in that way?"

The question posed by the visitor to this classroom creates an interesting area of inquiry related to classroom instruction and learning. As part of an ongoing ethnographic study with this classroom teacher, we noted that in each of the four years studied the participants constructed a community in which student responsibility appeared to be central to the learning environment. At the same time, this was not the first person visiting the classroom who expressed admiration for the way the "class runs itself."

In sifting through the research journals of the resident classroom ethnographer, we read such comments anecdotally from other visitors she had taken into the classroom, from other classroom teachers at the same school, from the principal of the school, from substitute teachers who left notes to the teacher, and in interviews with preservice teachers. The bigger questions for us as researchers at that moment became, how did this sense of collective responsibility develop over time, and how was it promoted through participation in classroom activities? Was the sense of responsibility and belonging also related in any way to collective efficacy?

The central tenets of collective efficacy relate to how well group members respond and relate to one another as they work toward common goals. They also relate to the resilience of a group and the willingness of group members to continue to work through difficult situations (Goddard, Hoy, & Hoy, 2004). Knowing these central tenets led us to question whether collective efficacy could be examined through a sociocultural lens, which focuses on the learning and development of individuals through their participation in a cultural collective. Could using a Vygotskian (1986) approach provide a means to demonstrate how teachers and students establish a cohesive sense of responsibility toward their learning and toward each other that result in performance capability?

Our intention is to examine collective classroom efficacy as a construct that is socially constructed and that develops over time between members in a classroom context. To do so we needed to combine the initial construct of student self-efficacy and collective efficacy from Bandura's (1997) work with a perspective that allows us to examine collective functioning from its genesis to its realization, which Vygotsky provides. …

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