By Dr. Nancy Cloud
During the pandemic, as teachers, we’ve been learning a lot about our own strength and resourcefulness
and what we can accomplish when committed to achieving the goals we set for ourselves, despite the obstacles. But have you ever focused on what two (or more) professionals working together can achieve as compared to what you can accomplish when working alone? This power is known as “collective efficacy” (Badura, 1997; Donohoo, Hattie and Eells, 2018); a term that captures the well-researched finding that when we share a similar philosophical orientation about our work, truly appreciate one another’s knowledge and skills, set important goals together, combine our talents and share resources, we achieve much more than we ever could alone.
Collective efficacy is built upon what are known as “developmental relationships” (Pekel, 2019); relationships that draw on the cultural, linguistic, personal, professional and social capital that each of us bring to any worthwhile task. The concept of a “developmental relationship” has largely been applied to the relationships teachers work to create in their students to help them thrive (Search Institute, 2018), but these types of relationships equally apply to us. Developmental relationships help us actualize our potential as professionals and truly fulfilled people. So what are “developmental relationships” as opposed to relationships in general?
A developmental relationship is made up of five essential elements (Search Institute, 2018): 1) expressing care—really listening to one another, believing in one another’s abilities, encouraging one another to do more; go further together than we might alone; 2) challenging each other’s growth—pushing each other forward and holding each other accountable for what we intend to do or make happen; 3) providing support and empowering one another to achieve targets we’ve set together; 4) sharing the lead and truly collaborating (which depends on knowing and respecting each other’s strengths, abilities and accomplishments); and 5) expanding and broadening our individual possibilities by drawing on each other’s social networks (friends, mentors, professional contacts) for resources that help us advance our goals. For this type of relationship to be established, I have to know your work and you have to know mine; we need to see all the capital each of us can offer. We also have to be confident about what we can accomplish together. In a developmental relationship, in addition to realizing our goals, we both grow and change in highly satisfying ways.
Diversity of experience and background is important for collective efficacy to be achieved.
It’s essential to not be carbon copies of one another; to have different profiles and perspectives, so that together we have more power and effectiveness than we ever could alone. Yes, it’s true that school structures and, more broadly all the contexts in which we work, do enable or hinder our success, but finding partners with whom we can establish empowering relationships can still allow us to accomplish our aims. These relationships help us persist even when the conditions around us are less than perfect, keep us investing fully and give us the staying power we need to achieve our targets.
As an ex-middle-school teacher and later as a teacher educator, I’ve had the privilege of working with teams of teachers and administrators to create curricula; one an interdisciplinary ELL curriculum for middle level students; the other a ramp-up curriculum for students with interrupted schooling. The products were much richer and better developed because of everyone’s contributions and I’m convinced that none of us would have attempted to produce the curricula alone. As a volunteer in a variety of TESOL-oriented organizations, I’ve also had the chance to create events, publications and resources with other professionals that I never could have produced and wouldn’t have even considered alone.
Have you experienced a developmental relationship that led to collective accomplishments? Was it with a colleague, mentor, co-teacher? What have you been able to accomplish together that you never would have accomplished alone? What knowledge, skills, abilities, resources and perspectives did each of you bring that directly contributed to the end result? How did it feel to achieve something important together? How did you grow and change as a professional as a result of the relationship?
If you haven’t yet, how could you seek out this type of relationship to experience the enrichment and empowerment it engenders?
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.
Donohoo, J., Hattie, J. and Eells, R. (2018, March). The Power of Collective Efficacy. Educational Leadership, 75 (6), p. 40-44.
Pekel, K. (2019). Moving Beyond Relationships Matter: An Overview of One Organization’s Work in Progress. Journal of Youth Development. 14(4)
Search Institute. (2018)P. The Developmental Relationships Framework. Available at: https://www.search-institute.org/developmental-relationships/developmental-relationships-framework/