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Competency and Self-Efficacy Important Motivational Factors for Educators

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

I have neglected this blog for some time now. I got busy with teaching during a pandemic and then being selected as Teacher of the Year at my school and then District Teacher of the Year. I have spent some time feeling overwhelmed and at times, feeling inadequate. Recently, I spent some time at a conference with the current SC Teacher of the Year, former State Teachers of the Year and all the current Districts TOYs and the sense of community and belonging inspired me to write again.

It brings me back to my passion of motivation- for both students and teachers (and employees in general). The Self-determination theory of motivation postulates that people will feel motivated into action or growth when they experience competence, relatedness and autonomy. This conference filled my emptying vessel of relatedness and competence, and in turn, I hope to fill up the vessels of those around me. Teaching during a pandemic has been hard for educators and we have seen some leave the field of education. We need to take action to build up educators to slow the departure rates. If we want to maximize student success and learning, we need to support the teachers who are in constant contact with students.

To provide motivating factors in the lives of teachers, we must consider the self-determination theory and these teacher’s feelings of competency, relatedness, and autonomy. One of the easiest ways to install competency in teachers is providing professional development that fosters a sense of competency. Quality professional development and on-going support can increase a teacher’s feeling of competency. One of the most important features of motivation for teachers is the sense of self-efficacy (Durksen, Klassen & Daniels, 2017). Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s own ability and competency. Teachers with higher self-efficacy are more likely to be emotionally engaged in their work, more satisfied with their job and higher student achievement (Frenzel, Goetz, Ludtke, Pekron & Sutton, 2009). What is even more effective than a teacher’s self-efficacy is a whole school’s collective efficacy, which has been found to increase student achievement and the academic climate. In order to increase collective efficacy in teachers, school leaders must unify all involved in their school with clear, attainable and developmental goals that focus on the organization’s purpose (Durksen, Klassen & Daniels, 2017). With these shared goals, teachers work together collaboratively to grow and to achieve their goals.

Not surprisingly, as teachers gain experience, they report higher levels of self-efficacy, while new teacher’s report the lowest levels. Naturally and importantly, much work is focused on building a feeling of competency among new teachers. Professional learning opportunities and support help these teachers develop feelings of self-efficacy over time. Oftentimes, many neglect the development of self-efficacy in mid-career teachers. Durksen, Klassen and Daniels (2017) found that these teachers experience the highest levels of efficacy when purposefully and willfully working with and receiving professional development from their colleagues. Most importantly, the teachers in their research reported “time and space to think” as the single most important factor in the development of their own self-efficacy. To maximize teacher potential and satisfaction, we must create an environment that fosters collaborative growth, provides time and reflection and builds a sense of community.

By no means, am I asserting that self-efficacy and better professional learning opportunities are the only ways to increase teacher retention. It is a small piece of the overall pie, but I do believe that building teacher’s competency and self-efficacy is one of the steps in improving motivation for many teachers. Next time, we will explore other ways to increase teacher motivation.

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