Research and Achievement Teams: The Science of Collective Teacher Efficacy


Achievement Teams is an experiential, collaborative protocol that focuses on collective teacher efficacy. All of the components of an Achievement Team are intentionally aligned to those teacher and leadership profiles that have the greatest impact on student achievement. 

The process provides a structure for teachers to specifically identify areas of student need and collaboratively decide on the best instructional approach in response to those needs. When schools and school systems break down the silos of individual practice, we can create truly professional teams of educators who continuously reflect on and improve their practice. 

Achievement Teams are focused on appropriating new knowledge about teaching and learning rather than simply maintaining existing knowledge. This means that teams follow protocols consistently while challenging current thinking and practice.

Collective Efficacy and Collaboration

Some researchers have taken the concept of teacher efficacy to another level and developed a complementary construct called collective teacher efficacy. Goddard, Hoy, and Hoy (2000) define this as “the perceptions of teachers in a school that the efforts of the faculty as a whole will have a positive effect on students,” with the faculty in general agreeing that “teachers in this school can get through to the most difficult students.” In the view of these researchers, “teachers’ shared beliefs shape the normative environment of schools ... [and] are an important aspect of the culture of the school.” 

The Collective Efficacy Scale

A starting point for teams is to assess the quality of efficacy in your setting by administering the Collective Efficacy Scale (CE-SCALE) developed by Wayne K. Hoy, Fawcett Professor Emeritus in Educational Administration, The Ohio State University.

After administering a short survey and scoring the responses, you can convert the collective efficacy score to a standardized score with a mean of 500 and a standard deviation of 100, which is called the SdS score. For example:

  • If the score is 200, it is lower than 99% of the schools.
  • If the score is 300, it is lower than 97% of the schools.
  • If the score is 400, it is lower than 84% of the schools.
  • If the score is 500, it is average.
  • If the score is 600, it is higher than 84% of the schools.
  • If the score is 700, it is higher than 97% of the schools.
  • If the score is 800, it is higher than 99% of the schools. 

Once your score is converted, you have standardized your school scores against the normative data provided in a representative Ohio sample. If your school score is 700, it is two standard deviations above the average score of all schools in the sample; that is, the school has stronger collective efficacy than 97% of the schools in the sample.

You may download complete directions for administration of the CE-SCALE by clicking here.

Achievement Teams incorporate 6 major findings from the Visible Learning research:

1. Goals (.68): Goals lead to better student self-assessment, self-evaluation, and self monitoring. When teachers regularly create and include challenging goals, they motivate students to exert effort in line with the difficulty of a task.

2. Formative Assessment and Evaluation (.48): A major argument throughout John Hattie’s Visible Learning is the power of feedback to teachers so that they can ascertain if they are achieving the learning intentions. The major message is for teachers to pay attention to the formative effects of their teaching, which include short-cycle formative assessments.

3. Teacher Clarity (.75): Teacher clarity is defined as organization, explanation, examples and guided practice. According to the findings, this can be accomplished when teachers create specific learning intentions, success criteria, and learning progressions.

4. Response to Intervention (1.07): Response to intervention (RTI) strategies are a powerful way to provide individualized and targeted instruction for students in some of the greatest need of this attention. Hattie identifies RTI as “an educational approach that provides early, systematic assistance to children who are struggling in one or many areas of their learning.”

5. Feedback (.70): When feedback is combined with effective instruction, it can be very powerful in enhancing learning. Achievement Teams incorporates task, process, and self-regulation feedback to students.

6. Collective Teacher Efficacy (1.57): Collective teacher efficacy refers to the teachers' beliefs about their collective ability, which can be realized through Achievement Teams.

Achievement Team Accelerators-Key Characteristics of Effective Teams

There are a number of reasons why a teacher team is dysfunctional rather than effective. A primary reason is that the process is hurried and rarely thought out (Venables, 2011). Teams of educators have been given the title “Data Team” or “PLC” by well intentioned principals or system level leaders. The expectation is that teams jump into the work of PLCs (examining student work, short cycle assessments, looking at data, etc.) with little or no focus. Authentic Achievement Teams are not something forced or mandated upon staff in a school.  However, many so called school PLC’s have been designed exactly that way.

Achievement Team Accelerator #1 - Focus: The single most important practice in creating Achievement Teams. By now, we should realize that the sole purpose of an Achievement Team is to focus on learning, not teaching! Focus where you need to focus, when you need to focus, to get the greatest leverage and improvement.

1. Have your PLCs/Achievement Teams lost the purpose of why teams are collaborating? Do teams believe that the definition of a PLC is when two or more people have a conversation?

2. One of the critical factors necessary for Achievement Teams to have a positive impact on student learning is to follow protocols consistently. Do your teams have specific protocols? How do you know they are being followed?

3. Do members of your collaborative teams focus on creating new knowledge about teaching, learning, and leadership, or do they simply maintain the status quo and appropriate existing knowledge?

4. Does your current collaboration method encourage teachers to challenge current thinking and practice?

Achievement Team Accelerator #2 - Clarity: Achievement Teams: Compelling Vision or Vague Concept?

Being clear is essential in leading. When we’re clear we feel aligned and energized, and our Achievement Teams feel motivated because they have explicitly stated expectations. Clarity means making your words, your vision, and your intentions explicit.

In a team with clarity of purpose:

  • There are clearly defined, transparent goals aligned with the mission and vision of the district.
  • All team members are committed to these goals and to a clearly articulated plan of action.
  • Goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (SMART).
  • There is shared clarity about how the work of the team will affect student achievement. 

So why is being clear sometimes hard? Because being truly clear means leaders and teachers need to take the time to discover what we need, to articulate it clearly, and to be sure Achievement Team members understand our communication. Clarity is not the number of initiatives a school can implement - it’s the degree of implementation that creates impact!

How direct and clear are you?

​1. ​Think of a scenario where you are not getting the results you want with a PLC or even with another person.

2. Now make two columns side by side. Label the first “Explicit” (i.e.,clear and direct) and the second “Implicit.”

3. List the explicit expectations you have of the team or that person-these are expectations you have clearly verbalized.
4. Next fill in the Implicit column - these are expectations that have not been verbalized, or things we expect someone to figure out with out clearly telling them what we need or expect.

5. Total up your explicit and implicit expectations. Do you have more implicit than explicit - or the opposite? Or equal?

Achievement Team Accelerator #3 - Accountability: Creating Clear Accountability Structures

What does accountability mean to you? That you’ll set expectations and ensure that you and Achievement Team members will honor them? Are some teams taking on too little or too much accountability? How can we, as leaders, be more accountable and inspire our teams to be so? Everyone likes to think they are accountable to their commitments. Are they?

A team focused on accountability:

• Is committed to decisions and plans of action.
• Holds one another accountable for delivering against the plans agreed to and feels a sense of obligation to the team for its progress.
• Focuses on the achievement of collective results for student learning.
• Reviews, studies, interprets, and acts on data.
• Willingly reviews its progress, can describe its work to others, and welcomes feedback and suggestions
• Identifies potential problems quickly by questioning one another’s approaches without hesitation.
• Engages in formal monitoring of progress on SMART goals. 

Remember, schools rise and fall based on the efficacy and teamwork that occurs within their walls. Well-functioning leadership and teaching teams are essential to the continuous improvement of teaching and learning. That is particularly true when schools have clearly articulated, stretching aspirations for the learning of all their students. Effective teams strengthen leadership, improve teaching and learning, nurture relationships, increase job satisfaction, and provide a means for mentoring and supporting new teachers and administrators. 


For additional information on Achievement Teams, or anything else about teaching, learning, and leadership, please feel free to contact me at