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Since the late 1970s, researchers have considered teacher efficacy which has been defined as teachers' beliefs in their ability to affect student outcomes to be a crucial factor for improving teacher education and promoting educational reform (Ashton 1984; Berman et al 1977; Goddard 1992; Ross 1998; Scharmann and Hampton 1995, and Wheatley 2002). Some scholars have even concluded that reforms that do not address teacher efficacy may be doomed (DeMesquita and Drake 1994). In all such discussions of the role of teacher efficacy in educational improvement, teacher efficacy (i.e., confidence in one's teaching efficacy) has been viewed as the appropriate goal (Ross, 1995, and Soodak and Podell, 1996). Hence, the concept of teacher efficacy has become a pillar in the research on teacher beliefs (Fives, 2003).
Teacher efficacy has been found to be one of the important variables consistently related to positive teaching behavior and student outcomes (Woolfolk and Hoy 1990; Henson 2001, and Ross 1994). Research on the efficacy of the teachers suggests that behaviors such as persistence at a task, risk taking, and the use of innovations are related to degrees of efficacy (Ashton and Webb 1986).
High teacher efficacy has also been linked with overall school effectiveness (Ross 1998), the use of fewer control tactics (Ashton and Webb 1986), greater parent support (Herman 2000), and higher levels of use of cooperative learning (Edward 1996). Teachers holding high personal efficacy beliefs were more likely to emphasize the role of the teacher and the instructional program when explaining why students were successful. Greater efficacy also helps teachers foster stronger collegial ties (Friedman and Kass 2002), use their class time as best as they can (Gibson and Dembo 1984), set high standards for themselves and persist in the face of obstacles (Ross and Bruce 2007), and enhance students' achievement (Tournaki and Podell 2005, and Wallik 2002). It is apparent that self-efficacy beliefs directly affect capabilities of teachers.
1.2. Statement of the problem
While teachers` sense of efficacy has been studied and discussed extensively in western countries, little (almost no) research has been carried out concerning teachers` self-efficacy beliefs in Iran.
No research has been done comparing public school teachers' efficacy beliefs to their peers in private institutes. This effort may reveal possible differences and similarities between English language teachers of these two contexts with respect to efficacy beliefs. When we see that the outcome of private institutes is different to that of public schools, many reasons such as teachers` beliefs of self-efficacy can be among the factors. Understanding teachers' efficacy beliefs in different contexts would be useful to generate further insights into this important concept. Teacher`s experience and gender are also the two demographic variables which can affect teacher`s beliefs of self-efficacy. It is important to investigate how these factors influence teacher`s beliefs of self-efficacy. Teachers' perception about their professional responsibility should be considered deeply to increase our understanding of how teacher efficacy affects teaching especially in different contexts and settings.
1.3. Research questions & hypothesis
The following research questions were posed to be answered in this study:
Is there any significant difference between self-efficacy beliefs of male and female Iranian EFL teachers?
Is there any significant difference between self-efficacy beliefs of more experienced and less experienced Iranian EFL teachers?
Is there any significant difference between self-efficacy beliefs of Iranian EFL school language teachers and institute language teachers?
Accordingly, the null hypotheses of the study are as follows:
There is no significant difference between self-efficacy beliefs of male and female Iranian EFL teachers.
There is no significant difference between self-efficacy beliefs of more experienced and less experienced Iranian EFL teachers.
There is no significant difference between self-efficacy beliefs of Iranian EFL school language teachers and institute language teachers.
1.4. Significance of the study
Researchers are beginning to recognize the need to extend efficacy research in order to both broaden and deepen our understanding of the construct of teacher efficacy. Studies evaluating teacher efficacy suggest that teachers in different work environments may vary in degree to which they believe themselves to be efficacious in their teaching (Campbell 1996 and Cakiroglu 2005). Teacher`s gender, experience, and work environment are among the important criteria that can affect teacher`s beliefs of self-efficacy. It is important to investigate how these factors influence teacher`s beliefs of self-efficacy.
The present study tried to determine the differences in teacher efficacy beliefs between English language teachers with different genders, work experiences, and different work environments.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
2.1. Theoretical Influences of Self-Efficacy
The theoretical foundation of self-efficacy is found in social cognitive theory, developed by former APA president and current Stanford professor Albert Bandura (1977, 1997). Social cognitive theory assumes that people are capable of human agency, or intentional pursuit of courses of action, and that such agency operates in a process called triadic reciprocal causation. Reciprocal causation is a multi-directional model suggesting that our agency results in future behavior as a function of three interrelated forces: environmental influences, our behavior, and internal personal factors such as cognitive, affective, and biological processes.
This trinity mutually impacts its members, determines what we come to believe about ourselves, and affects the choices we make and actions we take. We are not products of our environment. We are not products of our biology. Instead, we are products of the dynamic interplay between the external, the internal, and our current and past behavior. In reaction to more reductionist theories, Bandura (1986) noted: "Dualistic doctrines that regard mind and body as separate entities do not provide much enlightenment on the nature of the disembodied mental state or on how an immaterial mind and bodily events act on each other" (p. 17).
Central to Bandura's (1997) framework is his concept of self-efficacy. Bandura's aspirations about self-efficacy were grand, as reflected in the title of his 1977 article "Self- Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change." In this seminal work, Bandura defined self-efficacy as "beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments" (p. 3). Self-efficacy beliefs were characterized as the major mediators for our behavior, and importantly, behavioral change. Over the last quarter century, Bandura's other works continued to develop and defend the idea that our beliefs in our abilities powerfully affect our behavior, motivation, and ultimately our success or failure (Bandura, 1997, 1998, 2000).
Importantly, efficacy beliefs help dictate motivation (Pintrich and Schunk 1996). Bandura (1986) observed: "People regulate their level and distribution of effort in accordance with the effects they expect their actions to haveâ€¦. as a result, their behavior is better predicted from their beliefs than from the actual consequences of their actions" (p. 129). From the social cognitive theory perspective, because human agency is mediated by our efficaciousness, self-efficacy beliefs influence our choices, our efforts, our persistence when facing adversity, and our emotions (Pajares 1997).
In short, self-efficacy theory is a common theme in current views of motivation (Graham and Weiner 1996), primarily because of its predictive power and application for practically of any behavioral task.
2.2. Research Done on Self-Efficacy
When it comes to the academic setting, teacher self-efficacy refers to teachers' judgment on their abilities to motivate students and improve their achievement (Campbell 1996; Cruz and Arias 2007; Milner and Hoy 2003; Ross and Bruce 2007; Ross et al. 1996, and Weately 2005). There are so many factors which may influence this psychological construct, but they can be classified under two broad categories; contextual and demographic factors.
As for the first category, it is said that teacher self-efficacy is a kind of context-specific construct (Dellinger et al. 2008) and is shaped within a particular environment (Friedman and Kass 2002). It is supposed to be affected by such factors as the principal leadership and school climate (Tschannen-Moran and Hoy 2007). More precisely, if teachers have access to more resources in the school and enjoy the principal's support, they are more likely to have stronger self-efficacy beliefs (Deemer 2004, and Hoy and Woolfolk 1993). In addition, teachers who receive guidance from their colleagues feel more efficacious, regardless of whether it is in the form of supervision (Chester and Beudin 1996, and Coladarci & Breton 1997), mentoring, or interdisciplinary teams (Warren and Pyne 1997). Also, the class size can affect teachers' sense of efficacy in that they possess stronger efficacy beliefs if they teach larger classes (Lee et al. 1991). Students' characteristics might affect teacher efficacy as another contextual factor. For instance, Bejarano (2000) found that students' gender has no effect on teachers' perceived efficacy (i.e., teachers are equally efficacious in teaching both males and females). Evans and Tribble (1986) and, Herman (2000) discovered that teachers are more likely to be efficacious when they teach younger students. Moreover, focusing on students' social class, Lee et al. (1991) came to the conclusion that more efficacious teachers are those that teach students who come from the high socioeconomic levels of the society. To sum up, it might be inferred that the context in which teachers work, including the principal, the colleagues, and the students' characteristics, can affect their self-efficacy beliefs to a great extent.
The second category (i.e., demographic factors) includes variables such as gender, age, experience, and academic degree. Considering gender, for example, available research indicates that male and female teachers do not differ in their perception of self-efficacy (Gencer and Cakiroglu 2007; Herman 2000; Hoy and Woolfolk 1993; Lee et al. 1991; Tschannen-Moran and Hoy 2007). The only reviewed study in which a difference was found between male and female teachers' self-efficacy was that conducted by Raudenbush et al. (1992). Although in their study female teachers had significantly higher level of efficacy than males, this difference was not that much great.
Several studies have been conducted investigating the effect of experience on teacher efficacy. Dembo and Gibson (1985) found that preservice teachers had the highest teaching efficacy. (teachers can make difference), teaching efficacy declined slightly with experience. In a study by Woolfolk and Hoy (1993) teachers declined slightly in teaching efficacy as they became more experienced. On the other hand, teachers increased in personal teaching efficacy (I can get through to even the most difficult students) with experience. Campbell (1996) reported that experience proved to be related to the development of teacher efficacy. Higher teacher efficacy scores also linked with higher age, although the fact that teachers who changed schools or experienced disruptive events tended to decrease efficacy emphasizes the role of the teacher (Huguenard 1992).
3.1. Research Design
The design of the study is explanatory descriptive. It is descriptive because it seeks to describe if the self-efficacy beliefs of Iranian English teachers with different genders, work experience, and in different work environments is different or not (the what question). Also it is explanatory because it tries to explain why teachers` self-efficacy beliefs are different and what factors are behind this phenomenon.
The sample of this study consisted of forty English language teachers in the city of Isfahan. They were chosen from a public high school (twenty) and a private language institute (twenty). These participants were chosen because the co-researcher had access to them. Institute language teachers taught courses at elementary, intermediate, and advanced levels. Public school teachers taught the textbooks assigned by the ministry of education; while the private school teachers taught Interchange Courses. They were consisted of twenty male and twenty female teachers. Their teaching experience ranged from 2 to 20 years. Following Chan (2008) I chose five years of teaching as the cut-off point between experienced and inexperienced teachers. Again twenty of the sample had teaching experience of five years and above, twenty other had teaching experience of less than five years.
For answering to the open ended question four volunteer teachers were chosen. Two from public school and the other two form the institute. These teachers were different in work experience (two experienced, two inexperienced) and gender (two males, two females).
Teacher Self-efficacy scale (TSES) developed by Tschannen-Moran and Hoy (2001) was used to assess teachers` self-efficacy beliefs since its validity has been proved in different contexts. This questionnaire consists of 24 questions answered on a 5 likert scale ranging from 1-nothing to 5-a great deal.
An open-ended question consisting of three parts was also distributed among four volunteer teachers. The researcher devised the question. The three parts of the question were related to three main parts of practice of language teaching that is lesson planning, dealing with students` disruptive behavior, and instructional practices.
The questionnaire was distributed among the institute and public school teachers. Teachers took the questionnaire either before or after class time and marked the response that best described their beliefs. As for the open-ended question, the four volunteer teachers took the sheet home and returned it on their next appearance.
3.5. Data analysis
SPSS software was used in analyzing the data. T-test was used to determine if the differences between the groups were significant. The groups are male and female teachers, more experienced and less experienced teachers, and school teachers and institute teachers. To compare the means independent T-test will be used for each group.
For the open ended question qualitative analysis was used.
The questionnaire is a well-known one which was devised by Tschannen-Moran and Hoy (2001). The validity and reliability of this questionnaire has been tested and proved to be quite satisfying. For the open-ended question, the researcher devised it but its validity and reliability was confirmed by two experienced colleagues.
The researcher was not present in the site; because of this a confidant was chosen who is also a graduate student in applied linguistics field. The researcher knew this person for the last eight years. He received the questionnaire and the open ended question via Email. He distributed the instruments, analyzed the questionnaires and also typed the answers of the volunteer teachers and sent them via Email back to the researcher. The research assistant did his best, since he was promised that in case of publishing the study it would be a collaborative work.
3.7. Limitations and delimitations
The studies that use survey usually have a large number of participants, but in this study we had a rather small group that is forty teachers. It was so because the researcher was not present there and also due to lack of time. For the open ended question unfortunately the teachers were not cooperative and after so much negotiation we could come to terms with only four teachers.
Although the study used both quantitative and qualitative tools, it could be more valid if in addition to having teachers` beliefs we could have interviews and even observation to see if what they contended as their beliefs reflects their classroom conduct or not. But again lack of time, being away from the site, and limitations in resources prevented the researcher on embarking this process.
The study attempts to examine the effect of gender, experience, and work environment on Iranian English language teachers` self-efficacy beliefs.
4.2. Gender and self-efficacy beliefs
The first comparison was on male and female English language teachers to see if they have different views. Table 1 shows that the difference between the means of these two group was significant (t = .009).
Table 1- Mean, Standard deviation, and t value for male and female teachers
4.3. Experience and self-efficacy beliefs
The second comparison was on experienced and inexperienced language teachers to see their beliefs are different. Table 2 shows that the difference between the means of the two groups was significant (t = .008)
Table 2- Mean, Standard deviation, and t value for experienced and inexperienced teachers.
4.4. Work environment and self-efficacy beliefs
The third comparison was between teachers who taught at public schools and those at institutes. Table 3 shows that the difference between the means of these two groups was significant (t = .000).
Table 3- Mean, standard deviation, and t value for public school and private institutes.
In sum, the results of the three comparisons of the self-efficacy beliefs indicated that the difference between the groups were significant.
5.1. Gender differences and self efficacy beliefs
As it was shown in the previous chapter the differences between male and female language teachers when it comes to self-efficacy beliefs was significant. In EFL context in Iran there are obvious differences between male and female teachers. In Iran teaching is not a job that males choose voluntarily. Usually when they cannot find any other profession they come to be teachers. Even sometimes this profession is seen as a temporary job until they can find better professions. The reasons can be the low payment and social degradation of teachers. As a profession teaching is not seen as prestigious job. Mostly this is true for males who are bread winners of their families. As for females this is not the case since teaching for them is one of the few jobs available and also socially speaking they usually are not seen as bread winners of their families. Because of the mentioned reasons males are not that interested in teaching, they have negative beliefs towards teaching, these beliefs affect their attitudes and as a result their behavior in the classroom.
In answering to the open-ended question one of the male teachers contended that 'When it comes to lesson planning what I do is to see the objective of the lesson from the teacher guide and this objective would be my lesson plan'. They seem to teach on the basis of these objectives and not care even if they have completed the whole content or not. In my view, lesson planning can be considered as a skill; now if teachers are not interested in teaching and see it as a temporary profession they would not be careful in dealing with these skills, they cannot develop these skills because they are not interested in teaching. On the other hand a female teacher wrote 'I am successful on the way I plan my lesson as I elaborate on the lesson objectives'. So it seems because they are interested in what they are doing they are concerned about students understanding and involvement. It is obvious that lesson planning is something interactive, teachers should not have a product oriented approach in the lesson plan. It is based on the needs of students.
In answering another part of the question a female teacher contended 'I believe that I am successful in instructional practices because I use varying teaching techniques to teach a topic, it is helpful in getting students` understanding. Some students may not understand thorough using explanation and if other techniques were used such as audio lingual methods, or images they can learn better'. Females seem to be doing this job whole-heartedly. It seems that due to sociological reasons mentioned above females are better-informed and are more concerned with teaching skills. It has been said that variety is the spice of life, when it comes to teaching, teachers must use these instructional strategies and teaching methods as weapons in their arsenal. Maybe in teaching one single content or subject different strategies must be used. It all seems to happen for female teachers. Males stick to one instructional strategy or technique but as we all know it would not be sufficient. Of course when males are not interested in teaching they will be careless in all these matters and capturing these goals.
5.2. Gender differences and experienced and inexperienced teachers
The results showed that the difference between self-efficacy beliefs of experienced and inexperienced teachers are in fact significant. Inexperienced language teachers are more concerned with 'textbook knowledge delivery'. It seems that they have the syllabus from a well-known publication, also the content, objective, as well as instructional practices and follow the line of that publication. They believe it is something from their masters; those who printed the book or designed the syllabus. They stick to that as they believe that is good teaching. But this is not the case with experienced teachers. They do not stick to what is being put in the syllabus. They focus on the content but as one said they see success in language teaching as 'having informal knowledge or their own variety of techniques'. Inexperienced teachers see success as 'classroom management and class control'; while focus of more experienced teachers seem to be on students` learning. 'I arrange the class based on the activity that is done, based on student needs I choose whether to have groups, pair work, or tasks' one experienced teacher contended. Another teacher believed 'I see myself competent since I go to supplementary materials to reinforce what has been taught to ensure student learning'. On the other hand, naÃ¯ve teachers are not that much concerned with student learning. These naives see success in controlling the classroom and classroom management; they are concerned with 'who they are as teachers'.
When it comes to students` disruptive behavior, inexperienced teachers see 'disruptive behavior as a major problem' they are 'concerned' with it. They see 'misbehavior as something inherited genetically that not much can be done about it'. On the other hand, experienced teachers 'do not see disruptive behavior as a problem' they see it as 'something educational not genetically inherited'. More experienced teachers have an indirect approach when it comes to misbehavior. They see success in dealing with these students as raising their interest, naughty students must feel that the teacher has a positive attitude towards them. As an example on teacher said 'If I am doing pair work or group work I will give disruptive students some activities to make them leader of their groups, I will give feeling of responsibility of accomplishing the work'.
Experienced teachers see themselves successful in lesson planning when they see the lesson plan as a 'cognitive process' 'a mental process' 'how a teacher is mentally prepared to handle the classroom in different ways'. They are focused on choosing what is appropriate based on student needs, levels, and leaning styles. One experienced teacher gave an example 'I had planned a group work activity but during the class I came to the understanding that it does not go well because of the number of students and the way of teaching (teacher-centered methods) that the students were accustomed to. So I changed the activity to pair work'. So success in accomplishing lesson planning is dependent upon how the teacher is prepared and based on understanding of the environment and student needs. As one contended lesson planning is an 'interactive decision' not like what some naÃ¯ve teachers thought as 'something fixed and predetermined'.
5.3. Public school teachers and private institute teachers and self-efficacy beliefs
In public schools teachers are not interested in teaching, acquiring of knowledge, and self-developing. Teachers` role here is that of knowledge transmitters from the textbook to the student; students are passive recipients. An institute teacher said 'I see myself successful because in private schools resources are available that make me interested in selection of supplementary materials, how to plan for a lesson, and to discover the new techniques that are to be used'. Teachers in public schools do not have the aid system such as library or computer system, as a result teaching will not be reinforced. Teachers are demotivated and confined to the teaching practice. Some institute teachers stated 'I love teaching in the private sector because I see myself successful since everything I need is there from activity books to dictionaries', 'my techniques of lesson planning is more effective due to availability of resources', 'we can prepare supplementary material to reinforce the learning process.
Classes are less crowded in private institutes and students seem to be more interested in private institutes. One private institute teacher believed 'she is successful because she finds students more interested and motivated'. Another teacher believed 'disruptive behavior is much less when it comes to private institutes'. The reason is that students are there voluntarily and are paying for being there.
One public school teacher did not think he is successful because 'the focus of the textbook in public schools is just the matter of knowledge to be transmitted to students without much consideration of how to deal or teach textbooks or how to develop teachers` skills of how to teach the topic'. Teachers seem to be demotivated in the public sector. On the other hand, a private teacher believed 'I understand that I am teaching with a different style and on a different textbook'. Private teachers are more concerned with interaction with students. They are more concerned with students` learning styles, problems, classroom management, and teaching strategies.
Cooperation between teachers in private and public schools is different, in public sector teachers are heavy loaded with different practices and different classroom hours. One public teacher believes 'I do not have interaction with my colleagues at school; I do not see my colleagues so much'. In the public sector teachers do not reflect or ask about what went wrong or right due to time limitedness. But in private sectors this is not the case, as one teacher said 'we are concerned about our colleagues. Even we have good constructive relation with the institute principle.' They can ask their colleagues to help them; even private institutes hold training sessions in which teachers can report problematic situations in a way that can be solved in the future.
The study examined whether variables such as teachers` gender, experience, and work environment affect English teachers` self-efficacy beliefs. The findings revealed that the three mentioned variables make a difference in affecting teachers` self-efficacy beliefs. Considering the first variable; gender, the study showed that female teachers had higher self-efficacy beliefs. This is attributed to males not being interested in this profession due to socioeconomic factors.
When it comes to second variable which is experience, the findings showed that it makes a significant difference in teachers` self-efficacy beliefs. The reason can be the fact that for experienced teachers what is important is knowledge and mental preparation not a pre-determined lesson plan, experienced teachers` focus on students` learning styles, and techniques that suit their students. While inexperienced teachers are more concerned about knowledge delivery, classroom management, and classroom control. As a result experienced teachers righteously feel they are more successful language teachers.
The third variable also played a significant role in teachers` self-efficacy beliefs. Teachers contend that students in private institutes are more interested in the lesson and the fact that they are of higher social class compared to public school students can be affective factors. Also the air of private institutes is different to that of public schools. There teachers are more cooperative. Another important factor is different textbooks. While in public schools textbooks are prepared by the science ministry, in private institutes courses like Interchange are taught that have a stronger regard for communicative skills which make students much more interested. Another factor that increases private institutes` self-efficacy beliefs is availability of resources by which teachers can reinforce the subjects taught and provide students with supplementary material.
Teacher self-efficacy refers to teachers` judgments on their abilities to motivate their students and improve their achievement Wheatley (2005). Two categories of demographic (in this study gender and experience) and contextual (work environment in this study) affect this psychological construct. For the context variable the results of the study are in parallel with previous research; context has a huge effect on teachers` self-efficacy beliefs. (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2007). Role of collegial support and school climate are key in teachers` beliefs.
Also for the experience factor which is a demographic factor we see that the findings of the study are in line with previous research. Experience has a significant effect on teacher`s efficacy beliefs. (Campbel 1996). But when it comes to the gender variable we see that the results of this study are different to previous ones. While in almost all previous research gender had no effect on teachers` self-efficacy beliefs (Gencer & Cakiroglu, 2007; Herman, 2000) in this study its impact was significant. The reasons might be the low income of Iranian teachers and the fact that sadly males are not oriented to getting a job in the teaching profession. Maybe this is something that happens only in Iran and this can be why the results are in contradiction to previous studies.
5.5. Pedagogical implications
The findings have some implications for teachers' education and useful applications for L2 teacher educators to develop an understanding of EFL teachers' beliefs and help student teachers develop their existing knowledge more effectively. The results add to build up a knowledge base needed for any teachers' education program. The findings suggest the possibility of changing teachers' beliefs about self-efficacy. The results suggests that program developers and teacher educators who are planning teacher development programs should include theories, models, techniques, procedures, and skills that are well supported by theoreticians and research findings.
In the light of the findings, educational bodies are encouraged to include teacher development programs to improve their teachers' education either by in-service programs or more professional education in colleges and universities. Such programs can provide an opportunity for teachers to reflect on their conceptualization of their work and bring about professional development. The results also indicate that teachers' beliefs are affected by restrictions and pressure from work environment. Teachers are not free to have their best choices. The choices are made on the basis of several personal variables and organizational constraints. If there is going to be any innovation and creativity involved in teaching, there are requirements involved. Teachers should be educated and to do so institutes and organizations should provide the means for implementing what teachers know about their profession. A teacher being restricted by the requirements of the public school where he is working may not make use of all his potential or the most appropriate techniques, tasks, and activities. Both teachers and educational bodies are responsible for enriching these resources.
As the results showed, a more experienced teacher has a whole different set of devices and resources available to him. A less experienced teacher may not have much in her repertoire to use. Any dialogue and exchange of information between more experienced and less experienced teachers may alleviate the differences and help less experienced teachers develop a thorough and better understanding of their work.
The findings also suggest the necessity of continuous in-service training and education. Teacher education is an ongoing process that allows teachers familiarize themselves with new trends and reflect on their beliefs and practices. This also allows teachers discuss their views and ideas about different aspect of language teaching and get feedback about their teaching. This enables teachers correct themselves and improve their understanding of their profession.
In this study there was lack of observation of teachers' actual activities in the classroom. The study can be enhanced by observing teachers in the classroom to see how all these factors play out in their classes. Such a study may provide further qualitative evidence for the findings of the present study. It is quite possible that more information can better illuminate the area. In this case, the results may enjoy more validity. Also it seems appropriate to conduct studies in teachers of other courses such as scientific streams. It can help us understand how teacher efficacy affects teaching in different contexts and settings.