Wandering in the Educational Desert

May 3rd, 2019 | Category: Administrative Talk, Columns, Teaching Young Children, Words for Thought
By Kimberly Lavado

Words for thought

As easy as it is to tell someone to believe in himself or herself, it is not as easy to help them to do so. In order for teachers to accomplish desired outcomes it is important that they first believe that they can. This is the core of self-efficacy and one of the keys to being effective in education, or in any enterprise for that matter. Self-efficacy is related to the concept of agency, and it influences an individual’s willingness to take on risk and to innovate. It allows the individual to try something new, even with the risk of failure or only moderate success.

My years as an administrator showed me that it isn’t an easy task to help teachers to believe in themselves and in their capacity to achieve the outcomes they desire. I failed more than I succeeded at helping my teachers believe in themselves, and it was frustrating. There is more than sufficient research on the topic of teacher self-efficacy and how it impacts student achievement, I just didn’t realize at the time that self-efficacy was what I should focus teacher professional development around in order to develop the faculty. We can know all there is to know about subject matter, but without self-efficacy we are not likely to succeed in effectively teaching what we know. We need to believe in our capacity to help students learn, our ability to successfully innovate, and to comprehensively manage a classroom as well.

Why is it so hard for humans to believe in their capacity to affect the outcomes they desire? What is it that causes humans to listen to the voice of defeat as opposed to the voice of possibility and promise? The Israelites wandered in the wilderness much longer than they needed to because a group of men failed to trust in God and believe, not only in His capacity and power, but also in their own individual ability to contribute to the effort of settling the new land.

Our schools need leaders that understand the importance self-efficacy plays in teacher effectiveness. School leaders that understand self-efficacy’s impact on effectiveness will support professional development for their teachers on this and related topics. They will encourage self-efficacy as well as model it.

Yes, professional development costs money, and schools – especially our Lutheran schools – often suffer from lack of funds. Nonetheless, funds must be made available to support teacher growth if schools are to dynamically and effectively serve students. Teacher self-efficacy must be developed. Professional development is one way to make that happen.  Developing and supporting teacher self-efficacy offers the potential of keeping schools and faculty from years of wandering in the educational desert. LEJ

Dr. Kimberly Lavado is an Assistant Professor of Teacher Education and Lutheran Teacher Education coordinator at Concordia University Chicago where she teaches foundational education courses as well as methods courses in Lutheran Vocation, K-12 Spanish, and Middle Grades Social Studies. Dr. Lavado served as a classroom teacher in both public and parochial K-12 schools and also as a K-8 Principal before coming to Concordia University Chicago. Dr. Lavado has recently been appointed to serve as the Assistant Editor of the Lutheran Education Journal. This issue is her debut in that role.