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Teacher Efficacy research from an agentic view.


A selection of the research on Teacher Efficacy during the past decade is examined from an agentic perspective, the focal point of Bandura's vision of self-efficacy. Specifically, seven emperical studies were reviewed to 1) investigate conceptual and methodological fidelity to Bandura's theoretical model and 2) determine if adherence (or lack thereof) to an agentic perspective could help explain mixed results that have been found regarding the relationship between Teacher Efficacy and other personal and contextual variables. This review suggests that among studies premised on Bandura's model of self-efficacy, only a few embrace an agentic perspective and even within studies that have adopted this view, the nature and degree of agency has not been measured consistently.


Teachers' sense of efficacy has been recognized as one of the most powerful predictors of teachers' performance in classrooms and, by extension, the performance of their students. Despite general consensual acceptance of these connections, there remains contention regarding the explanatory forces for these associations. It may be that research on Teacher Efficacy has not yielded clear or reliable findings because to date the field has lacked a comprehensive Teacher Efficacy construct, one that can be accurately and consistently measured (Friedman & Kass, 2002; Henson, 2001; Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy, & Hoy, 1998).

Many researchers have investigated the nature and relationships of teachers' sense of efficacy with a variety of variables including both personal and contextual factors. The results have been quite varied. Moreover, results are seldom interpreted of discussed in light of Bandura's position on human agency, despite the fact that his concept and model of self- efficacy has been accepted as the primary theoretical framework in studies of Teacher Efficacy for more than a decade (Chacon, 2005; Friedman & Kass, 2002; Ghaith & Shaaban, 1999; Goddard, & Goddard, 2001; Immants & DeBrabander, 1996; Milner & Woolfolk-Hoy, 2003; Pajares, 2002; Toumaki & Podell, 2005; Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk-Hoy, 2002; Zeldin & Pajares, 2000). This review examined studies of teacher efficacy that claim as their basis Bandura's theoretical model of self-efficacy. The aim of this review is to examine the translation fidelity of these studies. In other words, the focus of the current analysis is to investigate the extent to which researchers have adhered to Bandura's agentic perspective in their conceptual and operational definitions of self-efficacy, study design and instrumentation, and interpretation of findings. In doing so, this analysis may offer an alternative way of understanding the contradictory results that characterize research in this field and could provide clarification.

Theoretical Background

Bandura (1997) defined self-efficacy as "beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments" (p.3). Although the definition has been regarded as a possible theoretical framework in the Teacher Efficacy research, there has been little adherence to the perspective of human agency on which self- efficacy is based (Bandura, 2001). According to the agentic perspective, "people are not just on looking hosts of internal mechanisms orchestrated by environmental events. They are agents of experiences rather than simply undergoers of experiences ... [and their] minds [are] generative, creative, proactive, and reflective, not just reactive" (Bandura, 2001, p.4).

Human agency is activated through triadic reciprocal causation, causal interactions between personal factors, environmental influences, and behavior (Bandura, 1997; Pajares, 2002). This operational model suggests that biological factors, external environments, and behaviors interact dynamically, influencing and being influenced by one another throughout one's life. In this model, Bandura emphasizes the importance and relative power of each of these three sources of influence in this interplay. Consequently, this fundamental principle also guides the current analysis.

Mode of Inquiry

The conceptual definitions, measurement focus and operationalization, and results of seven empirical qualitative and quantitative studies published within the past 10 years were examined. Two criteria regulated the selection of studies for this analysis. To be included, the study had to be a) founded on Bandura's theoretical model of self-efficacy and b) focused on the investigation of the nature and relationship between measures of Teacher Efficacy and additional personal or contextual variables. Therefore, papers whose central aims were conceptual analysis or interventions were not included.

The seven papers were analyzed according to these guiding questions: a) How did the researchers treat Teacher Efficacy in the research design (e.g., as an outcome or as a predictor of other variables)? And b) In what ways did the researchers reflect an agentic perspective in their studies?

Source of Data

The selected studies of Teacher Efficacy are summarized below.

Chacon (2005)

a) Teacher Efficacy defined: English teachers' judgments on their capabilities to bring about student change even among difficult or unmotivated students (p.258)

b) Measurement/Analysis: Focus: relationships among Teacher Efficacy and teacher's English proficiency, use of pedagogical strategies, and demographic variables. Instrument: English Teachers' Sense of Efficacy Scale, interview

c) Results: Teacher Efficacy and English proficiency are correlated. Teacher Efficacy and instructional strategies are not correlated. Teacher Efficacy was correlated with staff development but not with years of teaching experience and traveling or studying abroad. Both low and high efficacy teachers favored traditional methods (modeling and drilling) and expressed deficiencies in spoken English.

Friedman & Kass (2002)

a) Teacher Efficacy defined: The teacher's perception of his or her ability to perform required professional tasks, regulate relations involved in the process of teaching students, and perform organizational tasks (p.684)

b) Measurement/Analysis: Focus: class/organization related tasks and relations, Instrument: The Teacher Professional Capability Scale

c) Results: Teacher's functional domains including the student and classroom, and the colleagues and administration should be reflected in the Teacher Efficacy conceptualization

Ghaith & Shaaban (1999)

a) Teacher Efficacy defined: Personal teaching efficacy is the teachers' own expectations that they will be able to perform the actions that lead to students learning, and general efficacy is the belief that the teacher populations' ability to perform these actions is not limited by factors beyond school control. (p.488)

b) Measurement/Analysis: Focus: relationship between teaching concerns , General Efficacy, Personal Efficacy, gender, grade level taught, and experience, Instrument: Gibson & Dembo' standard teaching efficacy scale (1984), Ghaith and Yaghi measure of teaching concerns (1997)

c) Results: General Efficacy and Personal Efficacy were not related to experience, while teaching concerns were. General Efficacy, Personal Efficacy and teaching concerns were not related to gender. Personal Efficacy and teaching concerns were not related to grade level taught while General Efficacy was. General Efficacy was not related to teaching concerns while Personal Efficacy was.

Imants & De Brabander (1996)

a) Teacher Efficacy defined: School efficacy refers to school staff members' beliefs in their schools' capacity as a context for task performance (p. 181) and Teachers' and principals' perceived efficacy is the extent to which they assess they can affect student learning and their school (p. 183).

b) Measurement/Analysis: Focus: School efficacy and teachers' and principals' sense of efficacy, Instrument: Teacher and Principal Sense of Efficacy scale

c) Results: The differences in self-efficacy and school efficacy were related to gender, experience, and grade level.

Milner & Woolfolk- Hoy (2003)

a) Teacher Efficacy defined: Teacher's belief or thinking about his or her own competence (p.267)

b) Measurement/Analysis: Focus: source of efficacy of a teacher in unsupportive environments, Instrument: observation, field notes, interview

c) Results: Challenges including social/colle-gial isolation and invalidating stereotypes threatened Teacher Efficacy but the teacher persisted by working against the challenges and by reminding herself of respect and accomplishment.

Tournaki & Podell (2005)

a) Teacher Efficacy defined: Teaching Efficacy represents a teacher's belief that teaching can overcome factors external to the teacher, such as the home environment and Personal Teaching Efficacy represents a teacher's belief that he or she can personally affect changes in students (p.300).

b) Measurement/Analysis: Focus: interaction between student characteristics, Teacher Efficacy, and teachers' predictions of students' success. Instrument: Gibson & Dembo 16-item teacher efficacy scale (1984), 32 case teaching stories including student characteristics

c) Results: High efficacy teachers made less negative predictions about students than low efficacy teachers, and seemed to adjust their predictions when student characteristics changed, while low efficacy teachers seemed to be paying attention to a single characteristic when making their predictions.

Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy (2002)

a) Teacher Efficacy defined: The teacher belief in his or her capability to organize and execute courses of action required to successfully accomplish a specific teaching task in a particular context (p.233)

b) Measurement/Analysis: Focus: relationship between Teacher Efficacy and other variables including personal and contextual factors, Instrument: Ohio State Teacher Efficacy Scale (Tsehannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2001)

c) Results: No differences were found in Teacher Efficacy based on teacher's gender, race, age, and school context, but differences were found according to the school level and years of experiences.

This summary presents a comparison of seven studies which demonstrates that although each study was rooted in Bandura's notion of self- efficacy, each represents different sources and degrees of agency in their definition of Teacher Efficacy, their measurement, and their results. In terms of definition, several of the studies emphasized the "exercise of self- influence" (Bandura, 1997, p.7) to bring about changes by overcoming current situational constraints (Chacon, 2005; Toumaki & Podell, 2005). Others involved an examination of perceptions of present capacity (Frideman & Kass, 2002; Ghaith & Shaaban, 1999; Imants & DeBrabander, 1996; Milner & Woolfolk Hoy, 2003; Tschannen-Moran, 2002). However, the different conceptions of agency embedded in their definitions do not appear to be reflected in the measurement instruments utilized. For example, the operational definitions of Teacher Efficacy encompassed in the measurement instruments from Chacon (2005) and Friedman & Kass (2002) are not differentiated in terms of either the nature or degree of agency implied in their conceptual definitions of self-efficacy; rather, both scales merely characterize dimensions of teachers' work: engagement, management, and instructional strategies in Chacon's (2005) and classroom and school responsibilities in Friedman & Kass' (2002) study. In other words, although some researchers have adopted an agentic perspective of Teacher Efficacy conceptually, it has been lost in the operationalization or measurement of the construct.

The way Teacher Efficacy is measured, however, strongly influences the nature of the findings and their interpretation. Research results are often described by directly referring to the variable names used in the data generation instruments. Thus, in these cases, the measurement focus and results most often were not guided by the Teacher Efficacy construct defined even when it appeared to be the intent of the researchers given their working definitions of efficacy. See issue website

Table 1 shows the contradictory results concerning the relationships between Teacher Efficacy and other variables. Interestingly, Teacher Efficacy was not predicted in consistent ways either by external variables or by personal variables (e.g., gender). That is, the results are mixed regarding whether or not Teacher Efficacy can be determined by these personal and external factors. This inference could be compatible with Bandura's triadic reciprocal causation in human functioning. Researchers may need to consider the relative strength of each of the determinants: personal factors, external environment, and behavior. For example, if personal factors (cognitive, affective, and biological factors) are less influential than external environmental factors it would be valid to say that context is critical. On the other hand, if the personal factors are stronger predictors than the environmental ones, one could say that context is less important. At this point, it is important to remember that this sort of simple argument focusing only on context may easily detract attention flora the core feature of self-efficacy, that of human agency, and could lead us to assume self- efficacy is only determined by context instead of pursuing the role of self- influence over context.


This review points out that Teacher Efficacy research tends not to adhere to an agentic perspective as a theoretical framework in consistent and systematic ways. There was often a disconnect between the researchers' ways of understanding and defining Teacher Efficacy and their ways of capturing data and assessing the construct. In addition, across studies, there has been differential attention given to capturing the variation in degrees of agency that characterize the construct. More over, in many of the selected studies, it was observed that Teacher Efficacy was treated as an outcome of other variables such as opportunity for staff development and teaching level, fewer studies have investigated its influential role in directing teaching related decisions and behaviors. This trend reflects a discrepancy between Teacher Efficacy research and the core spirit of Bandura's concept of self- efficacy, or agency, which lends to the confusion in understanding the nature and role of Teacher Efficacy in education.

Conclusively, to make headway in this field of research, it is critical to first clarify and make explicit the theoretical underpinnings of this work. Bandura's triadic reciprocal model provides a useful framework from which to work. The challenge appears to be remaining consistent in the application of the directives of this theory in the design of future studies and in the development of instrumentation. It also may be important to consider the significance of Teacher Efficacy as a personal trait that differentially predicts teacher behavior and subsequent student achievement. Although the current review is limited in its scope due to the small number of studies considered, it is useful in suggesting an alternative paradigm from which to scrutinize Teacher Efficacy.


Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 1-26.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self- efficacy: Exercise of control. New York: W. H. Freeman.

Chacon, C. T. (2005). Teachers' perceived efficacy among English as a foreign language teachers in middle schools in Venezuela. Teaching and Teacher Education 21, 257-272.

Friedman I. A. & Kass, E. (2002). Teacher self-efficacy: A classroom-organization conceptualization. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18, 675-685.

Ghaith, G. & Shaaban, K. (1999). The relationship between perceptions of teaching concerns, teacher efficacy, and selected teacher characteristics. Teaching and Teacher Education, 15, 487-496.

Goddard, R.D. & Goddard, Y.L. (2001). A multilevel analysis of the relationship between teacher and collective efficacy in urban schools. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17, 807-818.

Henson, R. K. (2001, January). Teacher self-efficacy: Subtantive implications and measurement dilemmas. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Educational Research Exchange, at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.

Imants, J. & De Brabander, C. (1996). Teachers' and principals' sense of efficacy in elementary schools. Teaching and Teacher Education, 12, 179-195.

Milner, H. R. & Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2003). A case study of an African American Teacher's self- efficacy, stereotype threat, and persistence. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19, 263-276

Pajares, F. (2002). Overview of social cognitive theory and of self- efficacy. Retrieved July 12, 2005 from http//

Tournaki, N. & Podell, D. M. (2005). The impact of student characteristics and teacher efficacy on teachers' predictions of student success. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21, 299-314.

Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2002, April). The influence of resources and support on teachers' efficacy beliefs. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, at New Orleans, LA.

Tschannen-Moran, M., Woolfolk Hoy, A., & Hoy, W. (1998). Teacher efficacy: Its meaning and measure. Review of Educational Researcher, 68, 202-248.

Zeldin, A. L. & Pajares, F. (2000). Against the odds: Self-efficacy beliefs of women in mathematical, scientific, and technological careers. American Educational Research Journal, 37(1), 215-246.

Shin Ji Kang, Vanderbilt University, TN Carin Neitzel, Vanderbilt University, TN

Shin Ji Kang is a doctoral student in the department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University. Carin Neitzel is an assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University.
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Author:Neitzel, Carin
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2005
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