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Evidence Matters | Teacher Retention: A Team Effort

Last updated February 22, 2024

By Kelly Gregory

February 22, 2024

In our last post, we highlighted the importance of self-efficacy among teachers and how it might be one weapon among many against the ever-growing teacher shortage. Indeed, several studies have suggested a link between a teacher’s belief in their abilities to perform their job well and the likelihood that they will stay over the long term.

But knowing that self-efficacy among a school’s teachers is important isn’t enough. As state and district leaders and policymakers look toward concrete solutions to address the dwindling number of teachers, it is crucial that on-the-ground administrators be given concrete actions they can take toward achieving collective efficacy (that is, the belief in self-efficacy across whole teaching teams) in their buildings.

Education researcher Jennifer Donohoo has identified six specific learning conditions that can help to facilitate increased collective efficacy among teachers:

  • Capitalizing on the influence of teacher leaders
  • Gaining consensus regarding goals among staff
  • Making it possible for teachers to gain knowledge about each other’s work
  • Building agreement on shared goals and building cohesion among the staff
  • Responding to the needs of stakeholders
  • Finding ways to differentiate supports for both student and staff needs

If these conditions can be achieved, research suggests that schools could be well on their way toward more positive outcomes among both students and teachers. And Donohoo’s work has highlighted that, following this shift in culture, the single most important input that can then emanate from school leaders is “evidence of impact.” If teachers’ efforts lead to a positive shift in student performance, it is essential that school leaders share that relevant learning data with teachers. As teachers become more aware of the evidence directly related to their efforts, their collective efficacy is continuously strengthened, and a kind of positive feedback loop can ensue.

It is important, however, for school leaders to be mindful about when and how teachers are able to process this data. Prior studies have shown that one of the most effective ways for teachers to learn is through collaborative professional learning groups. In other words, as Dohonoo has pointed out, it is essential that teachers are given the opportunity to learn from one another, not just from a supervisor or someone outside of their building. These opportunities to develop shared understandings of effective practices, as well as to share in the satisfaction of improved student outcomes, are shown in studies to lead to greater job satisfaction (or, put another way, less burnout) among teachers. And as you might imagine, greater job satisfaction increases the likelihood that teachers — especially new ones – will  stay in the profession.

But while school leaders may hold much of the responsibility for this shift in their hands, it is essential to remember that supporting teachers and students is also a collective responsibility. In our next post, we will examine some additional ways that not only schools, but also communities, may help to develop collective teacher efficacy. As educational leader Toni Faddis highlights, “Collective teacher efficacy is marked by a shift from ‘I’ to ‘we’”—and that “we” extends beyond the four walls of schools.

Kelly Gregory is the Riley Institute’s Director for Public Education Projects and Partnerships and previously taught for 11 years in South Carolina public schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Special Education. She also holds a National Board certification as an Exceptional Needs Specialist. She can be reached at