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).
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. 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
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 &
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.”
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:
(supported by attribution theory),
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,
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).
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).
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).
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
(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).
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
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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