Research by Schunk, Harrison and Cox indicates that modelling (one of the four main ways to encourage feelings of efficacy) is most effective when models are similar in terms of age, ability and gender. In Scotland, the chances of students having male teachers to model ability and behaviour for them are low. Scottish Executive figures from 2005 show that three-quarters of teachers in Scotland are women; the gender imbalance is likely to increase, given the rise in applications from females to university education faculties. It should be noted,however, that a study of eleven-year-olds in a national sample of English primary schools by the University of Durham in 2005 found that teachers’ gender was unrelated to children’s attainment. So it is likely that the problem of gender imbalance may be one for secondary, rather than primary schools.
ii. The need for more curriculum choice
Self-efficacy experts such as Bandura and Pajares recognise the importance of intrinsic motivation. This happens when we are doing something for its own sake or because it gives us a sense of satisfaction or stimulation. Extrinsic motivation comes from rewards (such as payment), punishments or from our desire to please others.
It is much easier for a teacher to nourish a young person’s feelings of efficacy around tasks that are in tune with their intrinsic motivation. One of the problems facing many teachers is that they are trying to involve young people in subjects that are just not of interest to them. Alan McLean, an expert on disengaged young people, highlights the problem when he writes: ‘Disengaged students need alternative learning contexts to start from, and build on, their interests and goals. Learning needs to be connected to students’ lives, involving real life
challenges and experiences’.
Fortunately, this need for varied and relevant education is being recognised by education policy makers and leaders in Scotland. The HMIE 2005 document Improving Scottish Education claims there is a need for ‘vocational education’ to become ‘integral to the education of all pupils’. The vision here is not ‘two separate types of education’ and a struggle to maintain ‘parity of esteem’ but to create a system which provides ‘an appropriate education for all’. This means more relevance in the curriculum, at least for some learners. This is a welcome
iii. Teacher efficacy
Research shows that teachers’ self-efficacy affects their students. A teacher with a high level is more likely to create mastery experiences for students, whereas a teacher who feels powerless, and lacks efficacy, is more likely to undermine his/her students’ belief that they can achieve.
There have been many welcome developments in Scottish education in the past twenty years. Teachers have had to absorb and cope with many changes but while teachers’ professionalism improves, their confidence and feelings of powerlessness appear to be an issue. This quickly emerges if you talk to probationary teachers about their experience in schools, to teachers
themselves and to education managers. So if teachers are to deliver the CfE’s commitment to create ‘confident individuals’, teachers themselves will need tobecome more confident. This may mean more exposure to ideas on how to increase their own efficacy and optimism but it will also require changes within the system which empower teachers rather than direct them.