Understanding and Building Collective Efficacy

This post was written by Contributing Authors Tim Leonard and Leigh Somerville

The purpose of this blog post is to provide a brief overview of the concept of collective efficacy and share some practical examples of what it can look like in the classroom setting. As well, we provide several open-source documents that may be helpful in reflection and instructional planning. 

What is collective efficacy? In short, it is when a team of individuals share the belief that, through their combined efforts, they can overcome challenges and positively impact student achievement and success.

Collective Efficacy Overview:

Collective self-efficacy “represents a group’s shared belief in its joint capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to provide given levels of attainment” (Bandura, 1997, p. 477)

“Collective efficacy is not simply the sum of the efficacy beliefs of individuals. Rather, it is an emergent group-level attribute that is the product of coordinative and interactive dynamics.” (Bandura, 1997, p. 477)

Collective efficacy often focuses on groups of teachers building the belief that they can work together to impact student achievement despite the challenges students may face in their lives inside and outside of school.

Collective Efficacy at Work: 

In our classes, we believe that we are part of a team with all of our students to work towards success for all. This can take place through the development of a community that supports a foundation of efficacy both directly and indirectly. 

What does this look like in practice? It can be different for each educator. In Professor Somerville’s classes, it means consistent group work in which each member has a stake in collective learning. For example,  It means including students in the writing process through class-generated editing sheets. It means asking students to self-generate lists of questions about the course in individual sessions and then creating a FAQ for the entire class. 

Collective efficacy includes the use of roles and assignments, individual meetings with students throughout the semester, and recognizing, highlighting, and activating the knowledge and life experience that each student brings to the classroom throughout the semester as tools of engagement.

In Prof. Leonard’s class, the first two sessions are integral in making connections. Aside from typical introductions, students are asked to consider sharing their stories ie. where have they been, where they are now, and where they are going. As well, rooted in the work of Richard Elmore and inspired by the process of instructional rounds, individual meetings are scheduled, and using this  Student Intake Form as a guide, student information is collected to help guide future interaction, deepen connections, and allow the instructor to make connections to areas of student interest and need. Regular group work with flexible grouping options also helps to build and maintain this community and fosters a shared sense of obligation to one another in order to help everyone find success.

We build the foundation that supports efficacy both directly and indirectly. One way we do this is through direct instruction in Motivational Theory and Growth Mindset. Through the study of motivational theory, students are able to reflect and clarify motivation, this allows them to understand what drives them so that they can leverage this for success in coursework. As well, in understanding motivation, they are able to also find value in coursework as it relates to their goals which contribute to the expanded conception for growth mindset as presented above. 

While much of the research on this topic has been conducted at the K-12 level, we believe that collective efficacy has great potential for implementation in post-secondary work, specifically at the community college level.  Building a sense of shared responsibility in the classroom can help students to feel a genuine sense of purpose. The principles of collective efficacy help students to feel more connected to their coursework, professors, peers, and the college community as a whole.

Tim Leonard holds a doctoral degree in Education with a concentration in Instructional Leadership. He has taught reading to students of varying ages and has engaged teachers in experiences to examine their instructional methodology. As an instructor of courses in literacy, reading, and critical thinking, Professor Leonard is focused on student growth while providing individualized experiences that students can leverage for success in future coursework. He is particularly interested in: fostering dynamic, student-centered learning communities, conceptions of motivation, student reading motivation, developing student autonomy, and student perceptions of success in college and beyond.

Leigh Somerville has taught at the college level for nearly 15 years. She teaches English as a Second Language, Critical Thinking, and Co-requisite classes. Prior to joining the faculty at BMCC, she taught at Queens College and Columbia University. She is particularly interested in finding new approaches to the editing process in academic writing, helping students to develop better reading habits outside of the classroom, and the use of collective efficacy within a higher education learning environment.

Further Reading:

The Power of Collective Efficacy

What Drives Collective Efficacy?

Collective Teacher Efficacy


Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.

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