This mixed methods study examined elementary school teachers’ teaching efficacy and past experiences with their own teachers that they believed to have affected that efficacy. Fifty seven K-6 teachers took the Teacher’s Efficacy Scale (TES; Hoy & Woolfolk, 1992) and responded to a variant of Flanagan’s (1954) Critical Incident Technique. Using the latter, they were asked to reflect back on their experience as a student in K-12 and report an incident or event involving a teacher that has affected their beliefs in a (a) positive way, and (b) negative way. Teachers were then asked how these events affect them today.
Three raters discovered Bandura’s Sources of Efficacy (i.e., Physiological/Emotional State; Social Persuasion; Mastery Experience; Vicarious Experience) and categorized as a common theme. They also assigned the categories to one of two content areas: personal versus academic. Similar categories were used to describe participants’ reported outcomes of the incidents in terms of how they think of themselves today and beliefs as a teacher. These were a personal (self-reflection) and an academic (teacher and student relationship) category.
The primary sources of efficacy participants reported for both positive and negative incidents were the Physiological/Emotional State and Social Persuasion. For the positive reported experiences, academic content was far more prevalent than the personal category; the opposite was true of the negative experience.
Teachers reported these incidents still affect them today. The results are as follows: for positive experiences, M = 5.5 ( SD = 1.78); for negative experiences, M = 5.29 ( SD = 1.91). For both the positive and the negative experiences self confidence in self and others and compassion and building relationships were the more frequent reported outcomes.
Given the plasticity of memories (Henry et al., 1994), it had been assumed that current levels of teacher self-efficacy (measured by the Personal Teaching Efficacy scale of the TES) would relate to reported events. In general, this was not the case. However, a weak to moderate effect (Cohen’s d = .35) was found between current efficacy levels and the academic category.
The results of this study have important implications for teacher education. Educators should emphasize the benefits for teachers to question their beliefs about teaching. In shifting the way teachers are trained, we may enable our students to confront, shift, and refine the beliefs, knowledge, values, and assumptions that form their personal theories about teaching and learning.