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Social Sources of Teacher Self-Efficacy: The Potency of Teacher Interactions and Proximity to Instruction

by Sabina Rak Neugebauer, Megan Hopkins & James P. Spillane - 2019

Background: Research over the past two decades documents how social capital, or the resources attained through social relationships, is associated with a range of outcomes at both the individual and organizational levels. Yet few, if any, studies explore the relationship between social capital and teaching self-efficacy. Given that teaching self-efficacy is a significant predictor of instructional effectiveness, identifying the kinds of social interactions that facilitate positive teaching self-efficacy can offer important information with respect to how schools and school systems can bolster teachers’ perceived competence and thus their instructional capacity.

Objective: This study integrates social capital and social cognitive theories to frame an investigation of the social sources that contribute to teachers’ self-efficacy over time. Specifically, we explore how social interactions that vary in their relationship with and proximity to instruction influence teachers’ developing self-efficacy.

Research Design: We analyzed self-report survey data from 345 teachers in the same district over 4 years. These data captured various social sources of teaching self-efficacy, including indicators of verbal persuasion and vicarious experiences, and allowed us to account for contextual variables found to influence teachers’ sense of mastery. We used the multilevel model for change framework to explore associations between these types of social interactions and teacher self-efficacy over time.

Findings: Results suggest that interactions firmly rooted in actual teaching practice—namely, those focused on a specific instructional episode (i.e., feedback about a class) or on particular teaching practices (i.e., discussions about specific teaching resources and artifacts)—were associated with higher reports of teaching self-efficacy over time. On the other hand, interactions that reflected more general or less targeted interactions about teaching (i.e., being sought out for general instructional advice or observing someone else teach) were not.

Conclusions: To further the capacity of individual teachers, school and system leaders should invest in supporting social interactions among teachers that afford direct and targeted opportunities to learn about particular instructional practices and to discuss specific teaching episodes. Interactions less proximal to classroom practice may be ineffective for promoting individual teachers’ feelings of teaching competence.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 4, 2019, p. 1-32
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22611, Date Accessed: 7/29/2021 6:16:15 PM

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About the Author
  • Sabina Neugebauer
    Temple University
    E-mail Author
    SABINA RAK NEUGEBAUER is an assistant professor in the College of Education at Temple University. Dr. Neugebauer’s research focuses on teacher practices and instructional programs that support students’ language and literacy development. Two recent publications: “Teaching beyond the Intervention: The Contribution of Teacher Language Extensions to Vocabulary Learning in Urban Kindergarten Classrooms” in Reading and Writing with Michael Coyne, Betsy McCoach, and Sharon Ware and “Promoting Word Consciousness to Close the Vocabulary Gap in Young Word Learners” in the Elementary School Journal with Perla Gamez, Michael Coyne, Ingrid Colon, Betsy McCoach and Sharon Ware.
  • Megan Hopkins
    University of California, San Diego
    E-mail Author
    MEGAN HOPKINS is an assistant professor in the Department of Education Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Her research explores systems-level approaches to educational change and instructional improvement, with an emphasis on designing school systems that support equity and inclusion and that facilitate teacher learning and development. Two recent publications: "School system educational infrastructure and change at scale: Teacher peer interactions and their beliefs about mathematics instruction," with James P. Spillane and Tracy Sweet, and "Organizing English learner instruction in new immigrant destinations: District infrastructure and subject-specific school practice," with Rebecca Lowenhaupt and Tracy Sweet, both of which can be found in the American Educational Research Journal.
  • James Spillane
    Northwestern University
    E-mail Author
    JAMES P. SPILLANE is the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Professor in Learning and Organizational Change at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. Spillane has published extensively on issues of education policy, policy implementation, school reform, and school leadership. His work explores the policy implementation process at the state, district, school, and classroom levels, focusing on intergovernmental and policy-practice relations. Two recent publications: “Educational reform as system building” in Educational Researcher with David Cohen and Don Peurach, and “The elephant in the schoolhouse: The role of propinquity in school staff interactions about teaching” in Sociology of Education with Matt Shirrell and Tracy Sweet.
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