November 12, 2021 Filed in: Articles
Saara Naudts, Peel District School Board
What a ride these past couple years have been… We dealt with contract negotiations and navigated through new realities as a result of the global pandemic. We have shown true grit adapting to various new learning environments including quadmesters, virtual learning, modified semesters, hybrid learning, and other previously unfamiliar formats. My intention with this article is to explore what has helped us get through these challenges and the role of the OAPT in building and achieving collective efficacy among physics educators in Ontario. Collective Teacher Efficacy
There has been a shift in how we address the diverse educational needs of our students in today’s unpredictable climate. This shift in what goes into creating an inclusive and equitable classroom goes well beyond the scope of this article. Instead, I want to focus on why teachers are resilient and can adapt to new circumstances, and how subject-specific associations such as the OAPT can support its members.
After collaborating with teachers and administrators from various boards, we agreed that many of our successes hinged on collective efficacy, which is “the shared belief that educators can have a positive impact on student achievement” (Donohoo, 2018). When teachers share a sense of collective efficacy, school cultures tend to be characterized by beliefs that reflect high expectations for student success. These discussions made me reflect on why the OAPT is a small, yet successful organization run by volunteers who seem happy to discuss physics education in their spare time. Its members are connected by their shared interest that aligns with the OAPT’s mission statement to: (1) advance the teachings of physics in the secondary schools, colleges, and universities of Ontario, and (2) promote a professional spirit and collegiality among its members. We share the belief that together we can make a difference in students’ physics experiences.
Although we have not been able to meet in person, the OAPT started offering virtual opportunities to connect with colleagues across Ontario to discuss PER and share experiences and strategies for teaching in different learning environments. As a member of this network, you can reach out to a diverse group of physics educators across the province who are willing to support each other. Finding ways to collaborate, share successes as well as challenges, and build relationships, increases collective efficacy and the notion that we can make a positive difference in our students’ physics experience and educational success. Achieving Collective Efficacy
Not only is collective efficacy good for the students, but it can also help us as educators get through turbulent times. This led me to Bandura’s 1977 paper on Self Efficacy Theory and its four sources that shape and build collective efficacy:
- Mastery experiences: The first source is “mastery experiences''. When you successfully tweak, create, or implement a lesson, instructional practice, or inquiry, you achieve a victory. Although your win may seem minor, it is important to recognize your and your students’ small achievements as, collectively, they accumulate to a greater overall success.
- Vicarious experiences: When you share your mastery experiences, you continue to build collective efficacy through “vicarious experiences”. When colleagues hear about your successful experience, they then believe they can do it too. For example, when people share how they handle teaching in online or hybrid learning environments, we are likely to believe that we too can be successful in similar situations. Examples of how you can share your experiences include collaborating with your colleagues, writing an article for the OAPT newsletter, participating in the “virtual physics hour” each month, contributing questions to the grade 11 physics contest, or presenting at the annual conference. When you share your mastery experiences, you continue to build collective efficacy through “vicarious experiences”. When colleagues hear about your successful experience, they then believe they can do it too. For example, when people share how they handle teaching in online or hybrid learning environments, we are likely to believe that we too can be successful in similar situations. Examples of how you can share your experiences include collaborating with your colleagues, writing an article for the OAPT newsletter, participating in the “virtual physics hour” each month, contributing questions to the grade 11 physics contest, or presenting at the annual conference.
- Social persuasion: The third source is called “social persuasion”. The sense of belonging to an inclusive community contributes to building collective efficacy. You are reading this newsletter because you are (or likely were at some point) a member of the OAPT. Perhaps after reading this article, you may contact an OAPT executive or steering committee and offer to volunteer — even if it is only completing a small task, your efforts make a difference!
- Affective states: The fourth and final source to build collective efficacy is called “affective states” and covers feelings surrounding capability or incompetence. The pandemic has brought with it a lot of stress and frustration, but it also brought out an enormous amount of empathy towards teachers, and helped us realise how adaptable we can really be. Especially when things get a little rough and your intrinsic motivation runs low, know you can reach out to a colleague or OAPT member for support.
Despite the many challenges we have faced these last two years, the OAPT has been able to find ways to connect with many of its members, and has continued to build and achieve collective teacher efficacy. If you want to contribute or have any suggestions on how the OAPT can continue to advance the teaching of physics and support its members, please do not hesitate to reach out and contact us
. The OAPT is always looking for volunteers.Final Thoughts
I fully recognize that building and achieving collective efficacy is only one part of the solution on how to manage and teach in today’s learning climate. The goal of this article was to reflect on the importance of having a subject-specific association, and to recognize how it can connect its members through a shared goal of promoting physics teaching in Ontario, and beyond. Donohoo and Katz (2017) found that “When teachers share the belief that together, they can positively influence and make an educational difference in students’ lives, they actually do”, which I believe holds true even in pandemic times. References
- Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological review, 84(2), 191.
- Donohoo, J. (2018). Collective teacher efficacy research: Productive patterns of behaviour and other positive consequences. Journal of educational change, 19(3), 323-345.
- Donohoo, J., & Katz, S. (2017). When teachers believe, students achieve. The Learning Professional, 38(6), 20-27.