Creating Educators with Increased Confidence

I didn’t always have a lot of confidence in my teaching abilities. It took time for me to develop it, by mastering different teaching strategies that I could use during my lessons. As I accumulated more strategies that I was confident in, my self-efficacy grew, and so did my confidence. This increase in self-efficacy played a big role in achieving my goals. source

Learning this taught me that true self-confidence can be developed over time. Self-confidence and self-efficacy are not the same thing. Self-confidence is a general positive belief in your own capabilities, while self-efficacy is dependent on the situation.

Research shows that developing self-efficacy is an internal motivation process that can be positively influenced by a collaborative and supportive school environment. This includes things like positive interactions with colleagues, support from administrators, peer mentoring, and personalized feedback.

In a study conducted by professors Megan Tschannen-Moran, PhD, and Anita Woolfolk Hoy, PhD, they looked at the relationship between teacher self-efficacy and instructional strategies. They found that teachers who had higher beliefs in their own abilities used more innovative teaching practices, which led to improved academic achievement for their students.

Because of this, when we work with our partner schools to create professional development experiences, we focus on nurturing a sense of community and effective teaching. We do this by meeting teachers where they are in their teaching journey and observing their instruction in real time.

With new and experienced teachers, our main focus is on aspects of instruction that require strong self-efficacy and take time to develop. These include effective core instruction, instructional alignment, student engagement, and differentiation strategies. We aim to build capacity in these critical areas to help teachers become confident and skilled educators. source

Building Self-Efficacy for Daily Teaching

During our instructional rounds, we found instances where teachers relied too much on direct instruction and students were mostly completing worksheets during work time.

Dr. Serbernia Sims, superintendent of Surry County (Virginia) Schools, explained that the current teacher shortage has led to people entering teaching through nontraditional pathways. This has created a disconnect between research-informed teaching and instructional innovation. She emphasized the importance of building teachers’ confidence for daily instruction.

There’s no one perfect way to teach, but we all need to start somewhere. We’ve developed the following strategies to build teachers’ self-efficacy by providing them with structure and differentiation strategies during their teaching block. These strategies are modeled and practiced during common planning time, professional learning community meetings, and districtwide in-service days.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Direct Instruction

After starting with an engaging lesson hook, direct instruction in a mini-lesson can provide learners with the context they need for the rest of the learning block. Here are four steps teachers can take in 10-15 minutes:

1. Explain the daily learning goal(s): Teachers should help students understand the purpose of what they’ll be learning, including new vocabulary.

2. Clarify any misconceptions: Teachers should address any misunderstandings and answer students’ questions.

3. Practice teacher modeling: Teachers should demonstrate what students need to do before letting them work independently.

4. Clearly define work time: Teachers should explain the logistics, grouping, and important information before students start working.

Flexible and Individual Grouping: A Model for Differentiated Instruction

When students passively sit, do worksheets, or socialize during work time, it’s a missed opportunity for learning. Flexible grouping is a research-informed method that temporarily groups students of varying skill levels to achieve learning goals through collaboration and guided instruction. It encourages students to use academic language related to the learning goal taught during the mini-lesson.

Teachers can organize flexible groupings using the following format:

1. Work with the teacher

2. Work with peers

3. Individual work

Some of our partner schools use this strategy for Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions. Here is a list of strategies teachers can consider for their groups. (Note: The inaccurate material has been removed to the best of our ability.)

Teachers who are new to flexible grouping may find it challenging to implement this strategy at first. However, with consistent practice, both teachers and students can build their self-efficacy. It’s also important to give students a brain break during work time, particularly younger students.

Lesson Closeout and Debrief

How we end lessons is just as important as how we start them. Take the time to review the learning goal and listen to students’ reflections and takeaways. Other effective ways to end lessons include one-word shares, low-stakes quizzes, and quick reviews.

Exit tickets are another great way to end lessons and encourage students to think about their own learning and engagement. This type of feedback can also help build our self-efficacy for the strategies we’re using. Here are some examples of exit prompts:

– What three things did you learn from today’s lesson?

– Evaluate your participation and collaboration with others today. What are two things you did well, and what can you improve next time?

– What can I do better in future lessons to help you learn and be more engaged?

Here’s a downloadable plan for flexible and individual grouping in a lesson.

I want to express my sincere gratitude to Dr. Serbrenia Sims, Dr. Troy Whalen, Sara Leone, and Kenneth Nance for their valuable input and collaboration.

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