Culture and Collective Teacher Efficacy

Culture is a complex manifestation of human relationships and interactions over time. To work in an environment with a positive, healthy culture is ideal. But positive and healthy does not necessarily equal easy and fun. Participating in a positive culture takes work, effort and being cognizant of self and the collective efficacy.

Collective efficacy clearly understands that ‘together, we are better or can do better’ —  no matter what the internal or external circumstances. Simply stated: “In our tribe, we do _ and we do not tolerate _.”

In the book School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It, the authors Gruenert and Whitaker write about six forms of school culture that typically exist in today’s educational institutions, as follows:

  1. Collaborative
  2. Comfortable-Collaborative
  3. Contrived-Collegial
  4. Balkanized
  5. Fragmented
  6. Toxic.

Ideally, institutions should strive to be collaborative in culture. A collaborative cultured school will employ teachers who are committed to developing their practice in order to improve student performance. This entails observing each other’s teaching methods to analyze and apply best practice within their classroom (Gruenert 2005). Additionally, school leadership will challenge ineffective teaching practice while at the same time support teachers to professionally strengthen their craft, in a collaborative cultured school (Gruenert 2005). These two efforts can make a positive difference in the lives of students. Furthermore, a collaborative culture school best supports the students and stakeholders responsible for serving the student body.

A key component to building collaborative culture can be measured by how well school leadership, teachers and students relate and interact with one another. In a collaborative culture there is an understanding that people can share problems candidly, and the strength of the culture’s collective efficacy will conspire to support efforts to best solve those problems (Gruenert Whittaker 2015). The belief that the adults working in schools can make a difference in the life of any student is essential for moving forward. To shape this into reality takes help, trust, support, openness, collective reflection, and collective efficacy (Gruenert Whittaker 2015). Efficacy in teaching can derive from four sources, as follows: 1) mastery experiences, 2) vicarious experiences, 3) social persuasion, and 4) affective states (Bandura, 1986; Goddard et al., 2004).

The article Collective Teacher Efficacy states, “…when staffs see themselves as highly efficacious, they ascribe failure to their use of insufficient strategies and/or not enough (teacher) effort.” Teachers who lack a sense of efficacy may not persist with certain actions to overcome insufficiencies, believing they lack capability to achieve student results. Instead weak efficacy teachers may ‘water down’ the lesson to ensure all students ‘get it’. Teachers with a high sense of efficacy will accept more risk and responsibility for student success and failure, and be more willing to leverage for best student outcomes.

This belief can be compared to how family members support the dreams and/or desires of other family members — yet at the same time may call out any concerns if that member is not applying their best intentions towards achieving their dream. The ability to sustain a positive and collaborative culture takes soft skills and healthy relationship building. In the same vain, family members can ‘play the movie in their mind’ and hold back the drives and desires of others because of what happened to them in the past. And this thinking may lead to holding others back and not supporting capacity for achievement because of our personal, previous experiences. There must be awareness by school leaders and coaches as organizations gain traction in supporting the collective efficacy within the staff which is grounded in the belief of supporting what is best for kids.

The role of the coach is to support and shape these collective energies in order to maximize growth capacity in both students and teachers by developing relationships, challenging possibilities and modeling productive teaching methods. As school leadership and coaches launch the coaching effort we must collectively address ways to strive for a collaborative culture which instills a strong sense of collective teacher efficacy.

We can focus on the four sources of efficacy: mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, social persuasion and affective states, whereby all teachers believe that together we as a school can support all students to achieve their best. And we will not put any blame on external circumstances which may lower teachers’ expectations of what kids can accomplish. 

Here’ a short Powtoon I presented to the faculty.

Coaching Effort from Brent Fullerton on Vimeo.

Collective Teacher Efficacy is Key

A key component in order to build collaborative culture can be measured by how well school leadership, teachers and students relate and interact with one another. There is an understanding that people can share problems candidly, and the strength of the culture’s collective efficacy will conspire to support efforts to best solve those problems (Gruenert, Whittaker 2015). The belief that the adults working in schools can make a difference in the life of any student is essential for moving forward.

According to Visible Learning for Teachers, John Hattie researches factors influencing student achievement (measured in effect sizes) and counts collective efficacy as making the largest impact in student achievement, as illustrated below:

(Hinge point is d=0.40)

  • Collective Efficacy d=1.57
  • Instructional Quality d=1.00
  • Formative Evaluation d=0.90
  • Feedback d= 0.75
  • Teacher Clarity d=0.57

Teacher efficacy can derive from four sources, as listed:

  1. Mastery Experiences – providing teachers with strengths-based feedback, collect data across coaching cycle, co-teach lessons, and use rubrics to assess student learning,
  2. Vicarious Experiences – student-centered learning labs, micro model parts of lessons, co-teach, use video with teachers,
  3. Social Persuasion – use the Seven Norms for Collaborative Work, affirm growth, effort, and learning, reflect on how the group is doing with collaboration, engage in exit interviews at end of coaching cycles, and
  4. Affective States – sharing of one’s feelings, thoughts, and emotions as it relates to teaching learning while given respect and honor.

The Student-Centered Coaching effort can support and focus these collective energies in order to maximize growth capacity in both students and teachers by developing relationships, challenging possibilities and modeling productive teaching methods.

A successful coaching effort will consider a Student-Centered Coaching model that supports its collaborative school culture whereby collective teacher efficacy makes gains in teacher mastery and student performance. This effort will value the teacher, clarify essentials, and provide a discriminating eye for possibilities to explore. We, as a school, can support all students to achieve their best and not put blame on external circumstances which may lower teachers’ expectations of what students can accomplish.

Together, as a school if we believe and hold each other accountable, we can truly accomplish more.

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Providing Strength-Based Feedback

Providing strengths-based feedback is a key to pushing towards rigorous reflection during coaching sessions. Yet is can be uncomfortable for a coach when a teacher asks for feedback.

“How do you envision using the three steps for providing strengths-based feedback?”

“What are some situations when you will use these methods?”

“What language stems would you use to provide strengths-based feedback?”

Evaluating our impact is a core practice for student-centered coaching. It is how we tell the story of learning and growth across the coaching cycle. The Results-Based Coaching Tool is a powerful resource for not only staying on track in a coaching cycle, but celebrating the results at the end.

I believe using strength-based feedback will be valuable in implementing instructional practices in the middle school. Being a newbie to school, this strength-angle move will continue to honor previous work accomplished by teachers and all stakeholders actually.

Having worked in different international schools over the years, I have seen new teachers and administration show up and start redesigning systems, structures, and such and then current faculty finding themselves on unsure ground making for unwarranted anxiety and stress. I have done myself on several occasions. Even with the most positive intentions, at times, these changes have added pressure on current faculty as they begin to navigate everyones new waters.

By understanding and focusing on the three elements of clarifying, valuing and uncovering possibilities, I can foresee myself better relating feedback to both students and teachers and clients–whether it be in the form of: learning targets, newly adopted ISTE standards, rock climbing/mountain biking protocols, and/or Wadi Rum camp guest relations or environs.

I envision using these moves more regularly by staying focused on what the teacher has decided to learn and do in the classroom. In the past I regularly injected my own ‘techie’ feedback thinking it was accurate and useful for the teacher. Now instead I plan to clarify by asking ‘how are the students doing?’ rather than ‘how are you doing?’ in terms of managing and integrating technology within the curriculum. To value teacher work I will concentrate on the evidence of student growth with the deconstructed ISTE “I can” statements to recognize student progress. I love the idea. By uncovering the possibilities and asking ‘what can we do next?’ and ‘how might we differentiate to meet student growth?’ instead of what do they need to learn or stay current in best practice.

Again, in the past I found myself consulting with the teacher related to technology tools and troubleshooting and this often was worked out in informal or formal dialogue but usually during their prep time. But knowing strength-based feedback is driven from spending time in the classroom with students, I will adjust accordingly and concentrate more time to co-teaching and micro-modeling. And being cognizant of the Zone of Proximal Development should lessen the likelihood of me overwhelming teachers with a whole bunch of technology moves that might lead to frustration or burnout. This year in particular I observed a lot of behavior related to the stress and pressure to stay abreast of change.

Our school is undergoing significant shifts as well as new rollouts. As we implement PLC, Adaptive Schools, Design Thinking, Passion Projects and the like, I think using strength-based feedback will fit tightly within the established collaborative learning environment. Using the protocol for providing feedback in teams will help me serve teachers as we regularly meet in division, grade-level and PLC teams. Furthermore, the adoption of a strength-based feedback approach will support our flexible, resilient and ever nimble faculty as we take risks and strides to best serve our community.

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Micro-Modeling While Co-Teaching

Co-planning and co-teaching are essential practices for student-centered coaching. When working with teachers to plan lessons and co-teach, we seek partnership and shared ownership. This is a true sign of partnership.

“Which of the co-teaching moves might you try? Why?”

One of the first moves I would like to incorporate into my practice is micro-modeling. I like that this move is so flexible, allowing for whole group, small group and one-on-one opportunities.

Being a technology learning coach, I believe there will be many chances to apply in quick fashion, especially being situated in the flexible space of the Learning Commons. Taking rational risks with technology can be sensitive issue with teachers, more so than with students at times, so I like the idea of jumping right in with micro-modeling. Being a rock climber and guide I think I do a lot of micro-modeling moves, technique and rope work with clients, too.

Additionally, I will try the stems for ‘thinking aloud’ as a way to share my thinking. Cognitive thinking aloud is another effective way to show rather than tell as it relates to student goals,  sustainability learning and technology initiatives, at school.

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Using the Coaching Cycle to Improve Performance


“How can you use coaching cycles to make your coaching more outcomes-based?”

“How might you refine your goal-setting process?”

“How will you embed student-friendly learning targets into your coaching cycles?”

Providing opportunity of a coaching cycle provides organization, structure and timely schedule. By setting goals with teachers (and not for them) will reinforce the student-centered approach as well as promote teacher choice and equality. Being cognizant of the temptation to redirect a teacher goal in order to ‘fix’ a problem or behavior is also crucial to this partnership. By using “Students will…” language in coaching conversations should respect the belief of working to improve student performance.

While having goal-setting conversations, I will be careful to let the teacher know I hear their thinking, ideas and concerns as we attempt to teach and assess the standards-based instruction. Additionally, using the standards and setting the “just right” Goldilocks Goal will allow me to work with teachers around the processes of solving problems and focus our attention to clear and desired outcomes for students. It will be crucial for me to not introduce my own agenda as this may negatively impact the integrity of partnership agreement.

In order to strive for accuracy for the student-centered goal, we must confirm the goal is:

  1. standards-based
  2. valued by the teacher
  3. right size and scop
  4. measurable through formal assessment
  5. robust enough to carry a coach and teacher through the cycle.

By asking questions to confirm these criteria will ensure we are on the correct path at the beginning of the goal-setting conversation.

Committing to use learning targets and consistently refer to them during the coaching cycle will provide students a clear understanding of what they are supposed to be learning. When students have the ability to connect and direct strategies to optimize their learning experience they will perform better and be more engaged in the process.

To do this, the teacher and I must plan opportunities for students to clearly articulate their learning and be able to monitor progress in a measurable way. I should ensure that the standards are unpacked accordingly with the teacher so that learning targets are simple to follow and visible to all.

One way to do this is by asking the question, “What is important to know about…?” From there, we can plan examples of what proficiency can look like to the students. There are several tools and techniques that I can apply and draw upon.

Incorporating learning targets early on and consistently referring back to them will be a coaching move I strive to implement as I ‘guide on the side’ within the coaching cycle. In order to start efficiently, I may need to create a Google Slide with examples of language and questions for crafting learning target which I easily refer to with teachers.

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Coaching Models That Impact Student Learning

“What are some characteristics of a successful coaching program?”

“How can a school position itself to get the most out of this important resource?”

“On the other hand, what are some predictable failures when it comes to coaching?”

To ensure a successful coaching effort takes support from the educational institution and belief that all students are to gain advantage from its implementation. In order for the school to best position for the coaching role, it must recruit competent hires who are committed to improving student performance. A capable coach should be considered an asset to any organization.

The goal of the coach is to serve with best intentions and provide the capacity for learning and growth, knowing everyone at the institution is a learner, and the work is never done. As articulated in Student-Centered Coaching, The Moves (Sweeney, Harris), there are several coaching models that impact student learning:

  1. Relationship-Driven Coaching
  2. Teacher-Centered Coaching
  3. Student-Centered Coaching.

Each model influences student performance, some more than others.

A coach who chooses to facilitate a student-centered approach will make the most difference in the classroom. A student-centered coach applies core practices to ensure the work gets done effectively.

These practices include but are not limited to:

  1. organizing coaching cycles with teachers
  2. setting goals for coaching cycles
  3. using standards-based learning targets
  4. using student evidence to co-plan instruction
  5. focusing on effective instructional practices
  6. measuring the impact on student and teacher learning and
  7. partnering with the school leadership.  

By applying these practices the student gains best intervention while the teacher grows professionally. The quality coaching effort should satisfy the needs of the educational institution while benefiting multiple stakeholders.

To get the most from a successful coaching effort, the educational institution should hire strategically and/or fund a resource-capable coach. The school administration and coaches should work as a cohesive team to move positively with text, technology and curriculum. Accessibility to coaches is priority as this opens the pathway for partnering with teachers. When coaches and teachers co-plan using learning targets and student goals and administer data based formatives based upon these targets, students gain the best advantage to learn.

Working in any human-based environment is complex. The application of a successful coaching effort must take into account variables and the complex nature involved in human learning and failing. The leadership, coach and school culture need to possess characteristics that build collegiality, trust, support and capacity for relationship building. Teachers and students deserve unconditional respect and belief that all actions by the coach have the best intention.

There are complications which might breach the integrity of this coaching effort. Some examples may include: fear to engage in a coaching cycle, lack of curriculum resources or technology connectivity, not measuring student performance (and hoping for the best), teacher resistance to change, being complacent with relationship-driven coaching, cognitive learning fatigue, and school leadership not supporting or understanding the effort. A quality coaching effort should consider these complications and work to mitigate any issues to ensure students are getting the most bang for their buck.


Sweeney, D., & Harris, L. S. (2017). Student-Centered Coaching: The Moves. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

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Focusing the Shift from Teacher-Centered to Student-Centered


Yes, I have been playing it safe this first year.

The Technology Learning Coach role is both new to our school and me. Previously coming from a Technology Coordinator and Facilitator role has me now learning this Coaching role. Thankfully the school and faculty have been supportive and patient with my newbieness.

To compensate for being such a novice, I have been drawing upon my years of teaching, coaching team sports and outdoor pursuits in order to build trust and respect on campus.

My weekly blog posts and email notifications have provided techie tools, Google moves, resources, apps and hacks to make life easier in the teacher lane. I am not really sure if it is making any impact on students.

The only data I have been using with teachers is MAP RIT scores and analysis, which occurs only twice per school year. Being one of the MAP coordinators, I thought this would responsibly serve teachers with informative data.

My position lands me in a beautifully designed Learning Commons whereby faculty and students find me happily ready to provide a helping hand. This proximity sometimes has me assisting them with making photocopies, too.

Fortunately, and despite my inexperience as Learning Coach, I believe the school is on board with making student learning meaningful rather than just ‘skilling up’ the teacher. Once this philosophy is better socialized, teachers will feel less pressure and be more open to engaging with a Coach and the coaching cycle.

Importantly, students will gain the most from the Student-Centered approach. The residual effect of the Student-Centered model may also allow for windows of opportunity for teachers to reflect on their craft in order to enhance the lives of OUR students.

Win win.

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Coaching for Change: The Gist of It

For the final project of the second course of the Student-Centered Coaching Certificate: Organizational Change and Student-Centered Coaching, I created a Google Slide presentation.

Please see below:

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Student-Centered Coaching Effort

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The New Google Earth

The new Google Earth is so cool.

From Google YouTube:

“The whole world is now in your browser. Fly through landmarks and cities like London, Tokyo and Rome in stunning 3D, then dive in to experience them first hand with Street View. See the world from a new point of view with Voyager, which brings you stories from the BBC, NASA, Sesame Street and more. Start exploring:”

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Screen Record with QuickTime Player

Record your story with QuickTime and upload .mov file to Drive. Turn share link on and you are ready to go.

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