Collective Efficacy in Communities

Collective Efficacy in Communities

I recently sat down with Brian Torrance, the Director of Ever Active Schools. In case you have not heard of Ever Active, they are a provincial initiative designed to create and support healthy school communities. Brian, as always, was articulate and shared his great perspective on different health initiatives that are under way around Alberta. We talked a lot about health and how schools can be a positive influence on the health of students, but the subject that I am thinking the most about from our conversation is the importance of community.

A quote that is still resonating in my head is “We are one piece of the puzzle. So as much as we can drive some very good things, it doesn’t happen without good partnerships.” This has me evaluating how we are building community with the different people and organizations that help our students. Do we all know each other’s roles and are we pulling in the same direction in a coordinated way? What would happen if we worked together more?

I relate this community building thought to the collective efficacy conversation that some schools are having. Collective efficacy was the most important factor related to student achievement in Dr. John Hattie’s 2018 meta-analysis on learning. Collective Efficacy “refers to a staff’s shared belief that through their collective action, they can positively influence student outcomes, including those who are disengaged and/or disadvantaged.” (Donohoo, 2017) Imagine if we were able to build this same shared belief in a larger community.

It has me thinking about learning, but even more about the overall goal of helping students achieve their potential. When students and their families run into problems, whether it be around academics, poverty, physical health, etc, do we each believe that we are a part of a solution and that by working together we can have a positive influence on the situation of those effected? I believe the answer is usually yes, but often times our response is uncoordinated or underfunded.

Take the example of after-school programs in physical activity (Ex. a school basketball team). What happens when a student wants to join, but cannot (for financial, time, transportation reasons) or is not allowed (because of a lack of space or lack of developed skill). What happens to this child? What do they lose? Can we as a community work collaboratively to find the resources to allow this child to play? If so, what would be the benefits?

I don’t have answers, but I am committed to having more conversations around this topic. It is time to bring the collective efficacy conversation to communities.

If you would like to hear my entire conversation with Brian, here are the links:




Janelle Allen – Engaging Adult Learning Online

Photography by Maggie Rife |

I recently spoke with Janelle Allen, an Instructional Designer who specializes in custom online courses. She started out working with a design agency, but left that line of work to serve entrepreneurs and mid-size businesses. This pivot created her company Zen Courses.

Janelle works in the adult learning field and is focused on helping others create actionable, learner-focused online courses that change lives. She has a lot to teach anyone who works in the education field about engagement, developing understanding, creating community, and online education delivery.

You can reach Janelle on her website or on Twitter @janelleallen.

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#40 – Tal Thompson – Building Character and Academics

Tal Thompson

This episode features Tal Thompson. Tal is a teacher from Columbia, South Carolina. Over his 17 years of teaching he has developed a style and reputation for both high achievement and character development. In 2015, he was a top 4 finalist for the “America’s Top Teacher” award on Live with Kelly and Michael. He followed that up by winning the South Carolina Citizen Education Elementary Teacher of the Year award in 2016.
Tal attributes this success to: his ability to connect, push and cultivate confidence within his students; how he translates lessons in a way that will inspire positive and productive change; and his focus on real world skills like collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking and communication. These skills are not given, but earned.

You can connect with Tal on his website or on most social media, where he has the same handle @TallTalTeaches.

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Show Notes

App Recommendations:

Instagram – Follow Tal

Book Recommendations:

Move Your Bus by Ron Clark

The End of Molasses Classes by Ron Clark

Kids Deserve It by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome

Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess

Health Habits:

Morning workout, usually a spin class.

Start the class with a song. Watch this in action.

Reflection through journalling. 2 highlights, 1 improvement.

Be Well and Healthy – For Teachers

be well and healthy

I received some good feedback from the last post about being kind to yourself. One aspect that people focused on was the physical health part. I ask every guest I have about things that they do to keep the well and healthy and I have noticed some trends.

Physical Health

I have noticed that many people I have spoken with struggle with finding time and motivation to be physically active. Some strategies they use are having a dog that needs to get out and getting a group together to engage in physical activity together.

Another way people engage in physical activity is by using technology. George Couros recommended the app Aaptiv that he uses. Dr. Suzanne Squires uses the app 7 Minute Workout by Wahoo. Although he didn’t mention it in the interview, Dr. Dean Krielaars spoke about his use of Garmin watches (specifically the Fenix 5X) to track physical movement. When I spoke with Andrew Milne from #slowchathealth we pretty much stayed on this topic and how it relates to students and teachers then entire conversation.

Personally, I am find using apps and programs effective in keeping me motivated and expanding my bank of workouts. Some of the physical activity apps I use are:

Mental Health

Anther aspect the people often talk about is their mental health. Again there have been many different strategies shared with me by my guests. A few ensure that they have time with their family everyday with technology. Other meditate or practice mindfulness. Still others make sure they have a social visit or gathering each week.

I am very conscious of family time without tech and feel like this has a strong impact on the relationships I have with family. I also use the app Headspace. It is one of the few apps that I subscribe to yearly. I feel like when I go a while without using it, I am easily distracted and excitable.

Take Care of Yourself

I think taking care of ourselves as educators is really important. Our students depend on us and if we are not there, the relations isn’t either. It is also important to remember that we treat other as we treat ourselves, so take care of yourself. You are worth it.

Want to listen to some of the interviews I have done with others about education and teaching? Visit the Intersection Education website for all episodes. You can also subscribe on the device of your choice here.

Be Kind to Yourself

be kind to yourself

We treat others as we treat ourselves.

I have seen this over and over again as a truth.

You are beating yourself up about something you did? Others feel it.

You are down today? Others will know.

They know because it changes how you treat them.

This becomes particularly important when you work with kids as they don’t necessarily understand why you are treating them less well.

What do we do? Well, don’t beat yourself up more… Be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself. Do one small thing that makes you feel good about yourself.

This might mean buying yourself something nice, but I have found that this is not always the best approach. Instead, make a decision or do something that make you proud to be you. Make a positive choice that reflects the person you want to be or person you aspire to be.

What might this look like?

  • Getting in some fitness.
  • Practicing mindfulness.
  • Putting down your phone and taking time to talk to an important person in your life.
  • Not buying something that don’t need.
  • Creating something to share with others.

Be kind to yourself, because we treat others as we treat ourselves.

The Importance of Technology

the importance of technology is not the thing, but what it helps us do. (1)

If you are like me, you can sometimes get caught up in a debate with others around what is the “best” tech tool. Depending on the person and the setting, these conversations can go on for a long time. I was engaged in a similar conversation the other day and stopped myself. What I has suddenly remembered is that the tool really doesn’t matter, what is important is what the tool helps us or students do.

At times in education, we forget the the things we do support the development of our students. Whether is be technology, strategies, relationships, extra-curricular involvement, or food programs these things exist in school for the purpose of the betterment of the student so that they can be come well-rounded adults who have knowledge and skills. How we get there can matter, but usually the small differences don’t… Like whether you are writing an essay on a PC or a Mac.

Let’s take that example to show you what I mean. Whether you are writing an essay on a PC, a Mac, or a Chromebook is unimportant. Why? Because chances are these pieces of technology will be obsolete in the next few years. The programs will look radically different to that point that the particular knowledge of that system is useless. On the other hand, the act of writing and the being able to clearly communicate our thoughts in the written form, that will endure. This is why the tech is less important than what is can help us experience.

If we take this a step further, what might be powerful for developing the skill of writing is leveraging a system that allows for more meaningful feedback, that allows a student to track their progress in a piece of writing over time and to share this writing with others so that they can contribute to a larger debate. These are all system neutral, meaning we can do them on almost all platforms.

In short, I think we need to focus more on what a piece of technology contributes to the overall skill development and the student/teacher experience, and less on the brand name on the side.

Sharing Learning for Better Schools

sharing learning for better schools

I am convinced that if we share more of the good things that are happening in our schools and the learning that we believe will make our schools better, that others can learn from us. When the people I follow have made themselves vulnerable by sharing the professional development that they have been engaging in, when they share the “ah-ha” moment that they think will make their school a better place for learning, when they share the article that has made them think, I am grateful and I learn too.

This is why I have ventured down the path of sharing my learning and seeking out new learning with others through a podcast over the past 6 months. I have been fortunate and privileged to speak with some amazing educators and non-educators who have shared insights into how we might make teaching and learning better for all.

I call this project Intersection Education and will get into why I called it this in another post. For now, please check it out. Listen, visit the website I have created for the episodes and let me know what you think by sending me a message on Twitter.

The more we share, the better we will all get at meeting the complex needs of our students.

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