Teachers’ Efficacy Beliefs: Narrative Systematic Review


Teachers’ beliefs represent an important element in teaching and classroom management. Teachers’ efficacy represent a base concept in beliefs domain researches, because of its correspondence with teachers’ availability to apply innovative methods, and to remain in educational system. This paper presents a systematic narrative review of articles, which approach teachers’ beliefs, indexed in PsycInfo, ERIC, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, and Google Scholar. There were analysed 22 articles (N=3572) which used as a research instrument, different scales to measure teachers’ efficacy. This concept was introduced fourth decades ago, as a highly predictor of pupils’ motivation and learning being a measure of perceived capability. The results of this review reflected the decisive role of teachers’ beliefs about efficacy in pupil and subjects to teach approach, pupil control, on pupil motivation, achievement and learning, their beliefs acting as a filters, frames, or guides. Teachers’ beliefs exist as a complex system, and one of the main challenges is to change those beliefs, which are dysfunctional. The complexity on this concept generated three other concepts: self-efficacy, general efficacy, and collective efficacy.

Keywords: Teacherbeliefsteachers’ beliefsself-efficacy beliefspupil control


Teachers of all times have wanted to be able to confront classroom problems while maintaining a

dignified attitude in front of their students. What differs nowadays is the way they need to treat their

students, which supposes much more tact from both administration and teachers since violence is no

longer tolerated by democratic states. Discipline in the classroom is one of the challenges teachers need

to face. Unfortunately, many teachers are not aware of the major differences between punishments and

discipline (Rich, 1984). Guiding teachers from the perspective of controlling students directs their

behaviour in front of their students and school administration; teachers of humanities are much more

efficient in the classroom (Shahid & Thompson, 2001).

Maintaining discipline in the classroom has represented a sensitive issue for teachers, no matter the

subject, the country or the time. Changes at macro-social level have brought about changes at micro-

social level (school environment), since people need to be treated with dignity and respect. Children

that copy the models seen in their families or in society are no longer submissive and obedient, but they

want to be treated respectfully though their behaviour in the classroom is inappropriate. Changes in the

discipline philosophy have been repelled by the teachers because of their beliefs regarding education

and the implementation of changes. Information from external sources, when accepted, is “filtered” by

beliefs, which influences the teachers’ thinking.

Disciplinary methods are chosen and applied depending on the way a teacher believes he/she should

treat students: he/she decides when and how to apply them to get the desired results (Appleton &

Stanwick, 1996). Thus, the teachers’ systems of beliefs regarding modern methods of teaching such as

constructivism (Barkatsas & Malone, 2005) influence them and help them manage the current issues

they need to face (Nespor, 1987). In many schools, both teachers and managers believe it is important

to maintain an educational environment that favours learning. In their opinion, proper discipline is the

main perquisite for good learning (Silberman, 1970).

1.1.Problem statement

Individuals’ beliefs in their efficacy influence the type of anticipative scenarios they build up and

repeat. Thus, people with a high sense of personal efficacy visualise successful scenes, which provides

them with information that will help them getting the expected results. In exchange, individuals that do

not see themselves as efficient unfortunately visualise failure scenes insisting on aspects and things that

will not go well (Bandura, 1993).

Beliefs about education differ a lot from teacher to teacher; according to Rideout & Windle (2010, p.

12) are “the foundation for one’s actions for what one intends to do and how, in relation to teaching and

learning”. Teachers’ contribution is decisive not only from the perspective of the teaching-learning-

evaluation process but also from that of school evaluation, since “schools can be no better than the

teachers and administrators who work within them” (Guskey, 2002, p. 381). This supposes special

attention for teachers’ preparation in faculties of education sciences or for departments of teaching staff

training, for professional development through attendance of courses for the adaptation to the changing

students’ demand, which will help the former to mutually understand each other and themselves and get

able to understand and relate with the other members of the school organisation.

During the pre-teaching period, students mould a very wide range of strong beliefs, mainly

uncontrolled ones that will influence both the way they will approach the teaching-learning process and

the knowledge they will acquire while experiencing events (Fives & Buehl, 2008).

At school, teachers’ efficacy largely depends on everybody’s ability to contribute to the common

effort, to put together their abilities or to promote students’ achievements. As for the morality and image

of the school, teachers’ feelings of satisfaction contribute to a positive environment of teaching-learning

(Caprara et al., 2006).

Definitions of teachers’ beliefs include a few features such as (a) an explicit and implicit nature, (b)

time stability, (c) situational or generalised nature, (d) knowledge-related, (e) have the shape of

individual sentences or of wider systems (Fives & Buehl, 2012).

1.2.Research questions:

1. How do we approach and define the concept “teacher’s efficacy”?

To answer this research question, we have identified studies approaching, analysing and defining

teacher’s efficacy (narrative reviews and empirical studies).

2. How does “control ideology” influence teachers’ efficacy?

To answer this research question, we have analysed the articles approaching the relationship

between these two concepts or with other close concepts.


The purpose of this systematic review is to examine and to clarify the concept of teacher efficacy

beliefs and to explore the relationship between teachers’ beliefs of efficacy and their control ideology

to better understand and explain it.


This study relies on the systematic research of studies indexed in the following databases:

PsycINFO, ERIC and Proquest Dissertation and Theses. We selected only studies in English, both

experimental and empirical. For this research, we used the following search phrases: “teacher beliefs”

OR “efficacy beliefs” OR “teacher efficacy beliefs” AND “control ideology”. We have found 135 titles

and abstracts. To avoid missing articles dealing with teachers’ efficacy beliefs or control ideology, we

also used Google Scholar that supplied other 17 records. After removing those abstracts irrelevant for

this research, we considered eligible only 32 abstracts. We managed to find 22 full-text articles that

represent the ground for our narrative systematic research. This search approach was carried out in

August 2015.


Teachers’ efficacy is a construct underlying research in teachers’ beliefs; it is a field of interest for

researchers: they study, besides the relation with students’ achievements, teachers’ efficacy relation

with (a) the teachers’ wish to implement innovation, (b) the teachers’ stress level, and (c) the teachers’

wish to keep being teachers (Tschannen-Moran et al., 1998). According to Woolfolk & Hoy (1990),

“teacher’s efficacy” first appeared in Barfield & Burlingame (1974, p. 10, in Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990),

who defined it as “a personality trait that enables one to deal effectively with the world.”

The concept “teacher’s efficacy” derives from two research directions different from the one

regarding Rotter’s Locus of Control (1966) and Bandura’s socio-cognitive theory (1977).

3.1.Locus of Control and RAND Research

The first research direction, the Locus of Control, is a concept that refers to the degree in which an

individual believes that the cause(s) of intended results are inside or outside it; this leads to two

concepts – Inner Locus and Outer Locus (Rotter, 1966). The two locations of the Locus of Control

reflect the degree in which a person believes certain events of life situations are caused by personal

actions (Parkay et al., 1988).

Personal efficacy has been conceptualised in such terms as Locus of Control: this is why teachers’

efficacy is seen as the degree in which they believe that the factors they can control have a greater

influence on learning situations and experiences than the beliefs according to which the environment

influences results in a decisive manner (Tschannen-Moran et al., 1998).

Ever since 1979, Fenstermacher anticipated that research in beliefs would play an important part in

teachers’ efficacy (Appleton & Stanwick, 1996). When teachers are confronted with issues in the

classroom, they solve them based on their personal beliefs and experiences (Hoy, 1969, in Appleton &

Stanwick, 1996).

The first evaluation in the field of teacher’s efficacy was in the study of the RAND Organisation

(Armor et al., 1976) that added to a rather complex questionnaire two more questions:

1. “A teacher cannot do too much because most of the students’ motivation and achievements

depend on their home environment.”

2. “If I try hard, I can overcome problems even with my most unmotivated and difficult students.”

(Berman et al ., 1977, p. 137, in Fives, 2003)

RAND researchers considered the two aspects (Locus of Control and its place in teachers’ learning

experiences), introduced the two questions and got relevant data for the building-up of the concept

“teacher’s efficacy” based on the analysis of the responses (Tschannen-Moran et al., 1998). The two

items correlate strongly with a few aspects essential for the teaching-learning process: accepting

change demands/suggestions and increase of the probability that teachers successfully implement

innovative methods (Berman et al., 1977).

The interest in teachers’ efficacy was emphasised by research and scales evaluating this concept.

Thus, Rose & Medway (1981) developed and advanced the Teacher Locus of Control Scale (TLC) to

identify teachers’ responsibility in students’ success and failure when the two results are under or

outside the teachers’ control. Another study was that of Guskey (1981), who developed the

Responsibility for Student Achievement Scale (RSA) with 30 items as a result of the combination of

elements specific to Weiner’s theory of attribution (1979) and Fives’ locus of control (2003). The

interest is fully justified because it influences students’ results, attitude and affective development

(Shahid & Thompson, 2001).

Studies reflect, in general, teachers’ acceptance and good will of acting depending on the control

level they believe they have on students’ achievements. Thus, they can counteract, through their

actions, the negative influence of external sources such as family, media and TV violence (Fives,


3.2.Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory

The second research direction derives from Bandura’s (1977) research on the concept of personal

efficacy (Fives, 2003), considered as the main motivational force behind an individual’s actions. There

are three forms of cognitive motivators supported by their related theories: causal attributions

(supported by attribution theory), outcome expectancies (supported by expectancy-value theory) and

cognized goals (supported by goal theory) (Bandura, 1998).

Individuals’ beliefs of personal efficacy influence cognitive processes in different ways. Thus,

establishing personal goals can be done after self-evaluating one’s capacities and abilities necessary to

reach them. Thus, the greater self-confidence is, the more challenging the goals and the more involved

the individual will be (Bandura, 1991).

Bandura (1977, p. 193) defined the concept personal efficacy as “the conviction that one can

successfully execute the behaviour required to produce the outcomes.” According to Bandura (1986,

1997), it has four sources: mastery experiences, physiological and emotional arousal, vicarious

experience, and social persuasion. These sources play an important role in analysing the tasks related to

teaching and in self-perception of these competencies (Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy & Hoy,


Mastery experience is the most important source regarding efficacy, an individual’s perception that

he/she can successfully accomplish a task thus generating beliefs about efficacy. The more difficult the

task accomplished, the stronger the beliefs about efficacy (Bandura, 1986, 1997).

Physiological and emotional arousal is the second source in importance. Thus, depending on

emotional and physiological stimulus level, self-perception regarding one’s teaching competencies also

is influenced. Positive emotions of a teacher during teaching make him/her feel confident and

successful (Bandura, 1996, in Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy & Hoy, 1998). In exchange, if a

teachers’ hand tremble, if he/she sweats or if he/she has “butterflies in the stomach”, these can be both

positive and negative signs (Bandura, 1986, 1997).

Vicarious experiences are the source that values teachers while teaching. Here, we need to

emphasise the role of observative teaching practice during the pre-teaching period. From reading

literature to the talks from the teachers’ hall, everything is informative. Observing “models” of teachers

during teaching activities makes debutants self-analyse to identify the competencies necessary to teach

(both true ones and those that need to be developed). Comparison allows them to see what they should

do in similar situations (Bandura, 1986).

Verbal persuasion is an important source of information regarding the nature of teaching, providing

encouragements and strategies to overcome problem situations. Teachers are recommended to

participate in courses of professional development to learn as much as possible about teaching. This

source has no real impact on self-perception until it is successfully used in students’ learning

improvement (Schunk, 1989).

Teachers’ efficacy is a ”future-oriented motivational construct that reflects teachers’ competence

beliefs for teaching tasks” (Fives, 2003, p. 2). It is worth mentioning that efficient teachers promote not

only learning, but also personal development, responsibility and enthusiasm, behaviours that can be

models of good practices or sources of success in one’s teaching career (Caprara et al., 2006).

Teachers’ beliefs of personal efficacy are not enough from the perspective of their expectations:

they are completed by their beliefs regarding a group’s or a school’s efficacy and abilities of applying

what is necessary to be successful as a student (Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2010). This type of beliefs is

called collective teacher efficacy (Bandura, 1997; Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk Hoy, 2000, 2004).

There is a particular interest in teachers’ efficacy and in building a scale to measure efficacy, such as

the eight scales in the study by Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy & Hoy (1998). They studied the

relationship between the efficacy of teachers with different variables, for instance, teacher’s behaviour

in classroom, openness to new ideas and attitude towards teaching (Shahid & Thompson, 2001), but

few attention was paid to the relationship between teachers’ efficacy and their control ideology.

Information about and definitions of the concept “teacher’s efficacy” answered the first research

question: “How do we approach and define the concept ‘teacher’s efficacy’?”

3.3.Teacher’s Control Ideology

The interest in the field of control ideology started with Gilbert & Levinson’s (1957) study

regarding control in psychiatric hospitals and penitentiaries. Thus, control ideology is a continuum

between humanism and authoritarianism. This concept was later extended to the educational system

due to certain common elements: the asymmetrical relationships between suppliers and beneficiaries of

services as well as the impossibility of deciding on the joining of these organisations. Willower et al .’s

(1967) study is the basis of research in pupil control ideology (Hoy, 2001; Mandache-Samfira, 2015).

They advanced measuring pupils’ control ideology with the Pupil Control Ideology (PCI) scale.

Control is one of the main concerns for debutant teachers – both teachers’ control of students and

school’s control of students (Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990). Perception of control is only one aspect of self-

efficacy. Individuals can consider the idea that they can control the use of learning strategies, effort and

persistence, and yet have a low sense of self-efficacy in learning because they believe it is not

important to learn (Schunk & Pajares, 2002).

One of the eloquent studies on the relationship between teacher’s efficacy and pupils’ control

ideology belongs to Woolfolk & Hoy (1990): it was carried out on a sample of 182 prospective

teachers. They evaluated teachers’ efficacy using a version of the Teaching Efficacy Scale (Gibson &

Dembo, 1984), the control ideology with a PCI & scale and motivational orientation with a Problems in

School Inventory scale (Deci et al., 1981). Results pointed out the existence of a correlation between

Teaching Efficacy and Pupil Control Ideology of r = -.50, p<.01. Thus, the more teachers believe in the

school’s power of overcoming and managing home or background issues, the more humanistic their

orientation in pupil control. In exchange, Personal Efficacy did not correlate significantly with control

ideology r = -.04). Bureaucratic orientation correlates with Personal efficacy, so that teachers who

believe in their personal abilities of influencing pupils have a more bureaucratic vision. To get

conclusive results in each study, authors recommend considering the definition of the concept of

efficacy with maximum attention.

Zimmerman’s research (2000) focused on the evaluation of the relationship between self-efficacy

and outcome expectancies, self-concept and locus of control. We present these results to focus on the

relationship self-efficacy and control, despite the fact that it does not concern teachers. Rotter’s scale

(1966) for the evaluation of the locus of control has not items specific to a certain field, but it refers to

general beliefs related to inner or outer causality. The author cites Bandura’s study (1986) supporting

the importance of general beliefs for control, arguing the differences between students from the

perspective of the presence or absence of anxiety related to performances or knowledge in a certain

field. For certain students, it is rather difficult to solve certain exercises within a limited time. Smith’s

results (1989) support that the locus of control does not predict an improvement of students’

performances, nor does it reduce the level of anxiety in anxious students even if they attended a coping

training programme, but the scales evaluating self-efficacy can predict the improvement of academic


Guskey’s study (1987) approaches this topic but with different results depending on the perception

of efficacy and certain results obtained by a single student or group of students. The research was

carried out on a sample of 114 teachers, with a revised Responsibility for Student Achievement scale.

This perception differs significantly only in the case of negative results of students. Thus, when

performances are low, teachers claim personal responsibility and lower efficacy in the case of a single

student than in the case of an entire group of students or class. Thus, poor results in a single student are

attributed to situational factors external to the teacher’s control.

Likewise, Guskey & Pasaro’s study (1994) analysed results on a research carried out on a sample of

283 teachers and 59 teacher-students and identified two dimensions of efficacy that follow the line of

internal-external control orientation and less along the line of general efficacy-personal efficacy.

Friedman & Kass’ research (2002) was carried out on a sample of 555 teachers applying the

factorial analysis and getting a factor structure made up of self-efficacy in the classroom and in the

school-organizational domain. The model presents the two social systems in which a teacher functions

(class and organisation) and the persons with whom he/she needs to relate within the two systems

(students, colleagues and managers).

Caprara et al . (2006) citing Cousins & Walker (1995) and Guskey (1988) according to which

teachers with a high level of self-efficacy beliefs use proper approaches in class management and

reduce authoritarian control.

Enochs, Scharmann & Riggs’s study (1995) on a sample of 75 teachers evaluated teachers’ sense of

self-efficacy in relation to the teaching of sciences, and analysed the concept pupil control. They

identified a significant correlation between teaching self-efficacy & pupil control ideology but no

correlation with outcome expectancy.

Teachers’ sense of self-efficacy, separately for the two sub-scales, general and personal teaching

efficacy, motivation and pupil control ideology, were evaluated on a sample of 55 religious

schoolteachers. Results show that the higher the level of personal efficacy in teachers, the more

humanistic in pupil control ideology they are. Likewise, the stronger the teachers’ beliefs in successful

teaching, no matter how unmotivated and difficult the students (general teaching efficacy), the more

humanistic the teacher is in teachers’ pupil control orientation and the more he/she will support

autonomy in solving homework.

Chambers & Hardy (2005) carried out a study in which one of the research questions was whether

the relationship between class control and teaching experience can predict teachers’ efficacy. Using the

Attitudes and Beliefs on Classroom Control Inventory Scale to measure classroom control and the

Teacher Efficacy Scale to measure personal and general teaching efficacy, the authors of the study

concluded, after hierarchical multiple regression, that all the factors explain 19.4% of the variance in

teacher efficacy. As unique factor, only instructional management predicts teacher efficacy (16.1% of

the variance).

Henson’s study (2001) on a sample of 126 preservice teachers concluded that the more efficient the

teacher students are, the least interventionist their attitude regarding class management is. The subjects

filled in such questionnaires as the revised Teacher Efficacy Scale, the short form of the Attitudes and

Beliefs on Classroom Control Inventory, and the Mean-End Teaching Task Analysis. The article also

found out that an increase in self-efficacy could make failure idea less scaring and decrease the need

for classroom control.


The results presented in this study point out the complexity of the concept “self-efficacy”, a concept

that has generated numerous evaluation scales. What all studies recommend it the need for researchers

to identify relevant definitions of the concept, to establish what they wish to measure in order to choose

a scale properly. This is necessary if we wish to avoid erroneous results and conclusions.

The analysis of these studies shows that teacher self-efficacy relates with pupil control. Be it about

pupil control ideology measured with the Pupil Control Ideology Scale, or about pupil locus of control

measured with different scales, teachers expected to be more efficient in the classroom tend to be more

humanistic in pupil control ideology and have a place of internal control. Likewise, the manner in

which teachers with a high level of self-efficacy interact is much more personal and humanistic. It is

important to emphasize that efficient teachers have negative feelings about pupil control in the


The limits of our study consist in the limited number of articles on the teacher self-efficacy & pupil

control ideology relationship, which makes conclusions different in a large number of articles on this



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Samfira (Mandache), E. -. M. (2016). Teachers’ Efficacy Beliefs: Narrative Systematic Review. In A. Sandu, T. Ciulei, & A. Frunza (Eds.), Logos Universality Mentality Education Novelty, vol 15. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 845-854). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2016.09.106