JVER v27n3 - Novice Teachers' Perceptions of Support, Teacher Preparation Quality, and Student Teaching Experience Related to Teacher Efficacy

Volume 27, Number 3

Novice Teachers' Perceptions of Support, Teacher Preparation Quality, and Student Teaching Experience Related to Teacher Efficacy

Neil A. Knobloch M. Susie Whittington
University of Illinois The Ohio State University


This multiple regression study analyzed the percent of variance in teacher efficacy of 106 student teachers and novice teachers in agricultural education in Ohio explained by selected variables related to perceived support (utilizing a mentor, supportive principal behaviors, collective efficacy), teacher preparation quality, and student teaching experiences. Collective efficacy, perceived teacher preparation quality, and perceived student teaching experience explained 17% of the variance in teaching efficacy at the 10th week of the school year. Although utilizing a mentor and supportive principal behaviors were eliminated from the model, perhaps these variables were not perceived as being as important as collective efficacy, perceived teacher preparation quality, and perceived student teaching experience during the first 10 weeks of the school year.

The beginning years of teaching can be very challenging. Novice teachers who exhibit a higher sense of efficacy are more likely to persist and remain in the profession. Education, experience, and support can help novice teachers feel more efficacious and be more effective teachers. Teachers are the single most important variable related to student achievement ( Darling-Hammond, 1997 ) and their expertise and beliefs influence the success of an agricultural education program ( Anderson, 1977 ). Therefore, a teacher's beliefs, attitude, and disposition of being a confident, efficacious teacher needs further investigation in preparing teachers in agricultural, career, and technical education.

Nationally, there is a 75% attrition rate along the pipeline from the beginning of undergraduate teacher education through about the third year of teaching ( National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 1996 ) and 17% of new public school teachers leave the profession within the first three years ( U.S. Department of Education, 1997 ). Working conditions, including professional autonomy, poor student motivation, student discipline problems, and lack of recognition and support from administration, play an important role in determining who stays in teaching ( Darling-Hammond, 1997 ; U.S. Department of Education ). Mundt (1991) found that novice agriculture teachers lacked confidence and expressed feelings of loneliness, isolation, frustration, and stress.

Teacher efficacy is a belief concept of teacher motivation, which served as the theoretical base of the study. Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy, and Hoy (1998) defined teacher efficacy as "the teacher's belief in his or her capability to organize and execute courses of action required to successfully accomplish a specific teaching task in a particular context" (p. 233). Teacher beliefs play a critical role in the development of teachers ( Smylie, 1998 ) because they filter the perception and interpretation of new knowledge and phenomena, which influences how teachers learn to teach, plan to teach, make instructional decisions, and interact with students ( Borko & Putnam, 1996 ; Richardson & Placier, 2001 ).

Motivated and confident agriculture teachers were more effective teachers ( Miller, Kahler, & Rhealt, 1991 ) and are more likely to display a disposition that all students can learn ( Darling-Hammond, 1999 ; NCATE, 2001 ). Students achieved more, were more motivated, and had a greater sense of efficacy when their teachers had higher teacher efficacy ( Ashton & Webb, 1986 ; Guskey & Passaro, 1994 ). Moreover, teacher efficacy was related to teachers' behavior, effort, innovation, planning and organization, persistence, resilience, enthusiasm, willingness to work with difficult students, and commitment to teaching and their careers ( Tschannen-Moran et al., 1998 ).

The conceptual framework of this study is based on the premise that agricultural education teachers who are more confident and efficacious in their teaching, will be more motivated, be more effective in helping students learn, be more persistent in difficult situations, and remain longer in the teaching profession than their counterparts who lack confidence and exhibit low teacher efficacy. However, teacher educators need to know which factors influence teacher efficacy, especially during the early years of teachers' development ( Tschannen-Moran et al., 1998 ).

In a qualitative study of student teacher and novice teachers in agricultural education, Knobloch and Whittington (2002) concluded that ten factors influenced novice teachers' efficacy: (a) support and feedback; (b) knowledge and education; (c) teaching and student teaching experience; (d) positive interactions with students; (e) preparation, anticipation, and expectations; (f) resources and facilities; (g) personal background; (h) intrinsic motivation; (i) isolation, overwhelmed, and helplessness; and, (j) other factors such as school procedures, paperwork, workload, and unrealistic expectations. Novice teachers felt more efficacious and confident if they received positive feedback, support, guidance, and encouragement from students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members. Although there can be various means of support and feedback, selected variables of having a mentor, collective efficacy, and principal support appear to be related to teacher efficacy.

Novice career and technical education teachers expressed that personal support from other educational professional in the form of a mentor or peer support group was key to staying in the teaching profession ( Ruhland & Bremer, 2002 ). Many educational professionals suggest that mentoring has positive impacts on novice teachers ( Feiman-Nemser, 1996 ; Holloway, 2001 ; Joerger & Bremer, 2001 ). Mentors helped novice teachers face new challenges ( Danielson, 1999 ) and make situational adjustments to teaching ( Feiman-Nemser, 1992 ). Moreover, mentors may reduce attrition among first-year teachers (Ruhland & Bremer). However, research findings are mixed on whether mentors help novice teachers improve their performances (Feiman-Nemser). The presence of mentors does not in and of itself guarantee that novice teachers will become better teachers than if they did not have mentors ( NCRTL, n.d. ). More importantly, mentor and novice teacher relationships have mutual benefits because learning occurs collaboratively through experimentation within a professional community ( Awayaa, McEwana, Heylerb, Linskyc, Lumd, & Wakukawa, 2003 ; Feiman-Nemser, 1992 ).

Therefore, mentoring appears to depend on how supportive mentors are to novice teachers. Mentors provide two types of support: (a) emotional support for affect development; and, (b) professional support for cognitive development of teaching ( Little, 1990 ). Novice agriculture teachers needed principal support ( Mundt, 1991 ), perceived that principal support had impact on their success as a teacher ( Joerger & Boettcher, 2000 ), had no support from other teachers ( Talbert, Camp, & Heath-Camp, 1994 ), and perceived that building the support of faculty, counselors, and administrators within the school system as an important problem and challenge ( Mundt & Connors, 1999 ). The impact of collegial teacher and principal support on teacher efficacy is imperative. Collective efficacy and teachers helping other teachers influenced teacher efficacy ( Goddard & Goddard, 2001 ; Goddard, Hoy, & Woolfolk Hoy, 2000 ; Newmann, Rutter, & Smith, 1989 ; Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy, & Hoy, 1998 ). Principal and administrator behaviors influenced teacher efficacy (Hoy & Woolfolk, 1993; Newmann, Rutter, & Smith, 1989 ).

Novice teacher who had technical, professional, and pedagogical knowledge and were prepared to teach through technical agriculture and teacher education courses felt more efficacious ( Knobloch & Whittington, 2002 ). Darling-Hammond's (1999) identified that several variables that were indicative of teachers' competence among which were subject matter knowledge and knowledge of teaching and learning. Indeed, teacher education programs play a significant role in developing teachers ( American Council on Education, 1999 ; McGhee & Cheek, 1990 ).

Novice teachers also felt that teaching and student teaching experience made them feel more confident, whereas, the lack of teaching experience made them feel less confident ( Knobloch & Whittington, 2002 ). Commonly, the adage, "experience is the best teacher," seems to fit for novice teachers because it combines technical knowledge and practical judgment into application ( Field & Macintyre Latta, 2001 ). Experience may increase a person's automatic skill in a particular direction (Dewey, 1938). Bandura (1997) suggests that mastering a performance, such as teaching, through experience is one of the most powerful influencers of efficacy.

Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of this study was to explain the variance in teacher efficacy after the first 10 weeks of the student teaching, first-year teaching, second-year teaching, and third-year teaching experiences in agricultural education in Ohio using variables related to support, teacher preparation, and student teaching experience. The objectives of the study were to (1) describe the teachers in the population based on selected characteristics, and (2) determine the extent that the variability in teacher efficacy measured at the 10th week of the school year can be explained by variables related to perceived support, perceived teacher preparation quality, and perception of student teaching experience of student teachers and novice teachers in agricultural education in Ohio. To meet the k:n assumption of multiple regression, five variables were identified to represent the first three factors of support, knowledge and education, and student teaching that emerged from Knobloch and Whittington's (2002) study. The independent variables in this study were: utilized a mentor, perception of principal support, perception of collective efficacy, perceived quality of teacher preparation, and perceived quality of student teaching experience. The dependent variable of this study was teacher efficacy measured at the 10th week of the school year.

Research Methods and Procedures


This descriptive-associational study sought to explain the variance of teacher efficacy using variables related to perceptions of support, teacher preparation, and student teaching in the population. Our target population consisted of a census of student teachers and novice teachers in their first three years of teaching in agricultural education in Ohio. The teacher education program in the university's agricultural education department and the state department of education provided the frame of the accessible population. There were 116 student teachers and novice teachers in the accessible population. The data were collected using Dillman's (2000) tailored design method with five contacts at the beginning of the 2001-02 school year. The data sample consisted of 106 teachers (91.4% response rate) who responded to the questionnaire.


The instrument used for this study was a mailed questionnaire containing 24 teacher efficacy items, 7 principal support items, 12 collective efficacy items, 1 mentor item, 2 teacher preparation items, and 2 student teaching items. Existing reliable and valid instruments were used to measure teacher efficacy, principal support, and collective efficacy. The Ohio State Teacher Efficacy Scale ( Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2001 ) was used to measure teacher efficacy. Hoy, Tarter, and Kottkamp's (2000) Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire was used to measure supportive principal behaviors. Goddard, Hoy, and Woolfolk's (2000) short form was used to measure collective efficacy. The researchers created the mentor, teacher preparation, and student teaching items based on Bandura's (1997) self-efficacy theory and Darling-Hammond's (1999) review of effective teacher characteristics. A panel of teacher education experts in the agricultural education department established content validity. The instrument was pilot tested with preservice teachers enrolled in undergraduate courses yielding a Cronbach's alpha of 0.87 for the teacher efficacy scale. Perceived teacher preparation quality had a post hoc reliability coefficient of 0.85 and perceived student teaching experience had a post hoc reliability coefficient of 0.78.

Data Analysis,

Descriptive statistics were used to analyze data for Objective 1. Categorical data were reported as frequencies and metric data were reported as population means and standard deviations. Negatively worded items were reverse coded. Summated means and standard deviations were calculated for teacher efficacy, supportive principal behaviors, collective efficacy, teacher preparation, and student teaching experience. For Objective 2, a sequential search method using backward elimination multiple linear regression statistics were used to analyze the data. Effect sizes were computed using Cohen's (1988) d coefficient and index. The effect size decision criterion was established a priori ( R 2 = .09, medium). The alpha level was established a priori at .05.

Findings and Conclusions

Objective 1:

The following selected teacher characteristics were found. Twenty-two percent ( N =23) were student teachers, 28% (N=30) were first-year teachers, 24% ( N =25) were second-year teachers, and 26% ( N =28) were third-year teachers who participated. Sixty-one percent ( N =65) were male and 39% ( N =41) were female. The average age of teachers in the study was 25.9 years ( N =105, SD =6.37), ranging from 21 to 58 years. Sixty-one percent ( N =63) of the teachers had a mentor. The teachers had "quite a bit" of efficacy, were in slight agreement with collective efficacy, perceived supportive principal behaviors as "often occurs," were in slight agreement with the quality of their teacher preparation, and were in moderate agreement that they had an excellent student teaching experience (see Table 1). Two relationships had moderate effect sizes: collective efficacy and supportive principal behaviors; and, collective efficacy and teacher efficacy.

Regression of 10th Week Teacher Efficacy on Variables Related to Support, Teacher Preparation Quality, and Student Teaching Experience
Variables ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____
X 1 X 2 X 3 X 4 X 5 Y 1 M SD

Collective efficacy (X 1 ) a 1.00 .07 .39 .15 -.01 .39 4.27 .65
Utilizing a mentor (X 2 ) b 1.00 -.01 .20 .07 .04 .61 .49
Supportive principal behavior (X 3 ) c 1.00 .13 .13 .17 2.96 .63
Teacher preparation quality (X 4 ) c 1.00 .26 .20 4.36 1.12
Student teaching experience (X 5 ) c 1.00 .20 5.07 1.14
Teacher efficacy (Y 1 ) d 1.00 6.76 .88

Notes . a Scale: 0=No, 1=Yes; b Scale:1=Rarely occurs, 2=Sometimes occurs, 3=Often occurs, 4=Very frequently occurs; c Scale: 1=Strongly disagree, 2=Moderately disagree, 3=Slightly disagree, 4=Slightly agree, 5=Moderately agree, 6=Strongly agree; d Scale: 1=Nothing, 3=Very little, 5=Some influence, 7=Quite a bit, 9=A great deal.

Objective 2:

The five variables (utilized a mentor, perception of principal support, and perception of collective efficacy, perceived quality of teacher preparation, and perceived quality of student teaching experience) were entered into a backward elimination, multiple linear regression model (see Table 2). Two variables (utilizing a mentor and supportive principal behaviors) were eliminated from the full model yielding a significant model with three variables ( p =.001) explaining 17% of the variance in teacher efficacy at the tenth week of the school year. The full model had a medium effect size ( Cohen, 1988 ). Collective efficacy accounted for 10.8% unique variance, Perceived Teacher Preparation Quality accounted for 1.0% unique variance, and Perceived Student Teaching Experience accounted for 2.8% unique variance. An examination of the residuals showed the assumptions were not violated. Furthermore, there was no concern of multicollinearity (lowest tolerance factor=.910; Highest VIF=1.10).

Summary of Backward Elimination Regression Analysis for Variables Explaining Teacher Efficacy of Student Teacher and Novice Teachers
Full model
Variables B SE B B T p

Collective efficacy .46 .13 .33 3.43 <.01
Teacher preparation quality .01 .08 .11 1.06 .29
Student teaching experience .13 .08 .17 1.73 .09
(Constant) 3.80

Note . Full model: R 2 =.17, F =6.20, p =.001.

Implications and Recommendations

Collective efficacy was related to supportive principal behaviors and teacher efficacy. This finding was congruent with several researchers. Hoy and Woolfolk (1993) found that teacher efficacy was influenced by principal influence with superiors. Newmann, Rutter, and Smith (1989) found administrator responsiveness and teachers helping one another to be associated with teacher efficacy. Tschannen-Moran et al. (1998) asserted that collective efficacy might have an effect on novice teachers as they are socialized into the profession. Goddard and Goddard (2001) found that teacher efficacy was higher in schools where collective efficacy was higher.

Collective efficacy, student teaching experience, and teacher preparation quality were collectively associated with teacher efficacy of student teachers and novice teachers during the first 10 weeks of the school year. The rank-order of importance of variables in the model implies that there may be sequential building blocks of teacher development ( Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon, 2001 ). A quality teacher preparation program provides a foundation to develop teachers ( Darling-Hammond, 2000 ; NCATE, 2001 ). Positive student teaching experiences engage preservice teachers to apply the concepts they learned in their teacher preparation programs ( Borko & Putnam, 1996 ). However, during the first 10 weeks of the school year, collective efficacy was most closely associated with teacher efficacy of these three variables.

Collective efficacy is a group of teachers' shared belief in its collaborative capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to produce student success ( Bandura, 1997 ). Goddard and Goddard (2001) posited that teachers are aware of and influenced by the social processes and collective beliefs that make up a school. Based on his social cognitive theory, Bandura (1986) postulated that social influence shapes self-efficacy. Therefore, the social belief component of collective efficacy may indicate that student teachers and novice teachers may need to feel that they are part of an efficacious group of teachers. School organizational and contextual variables, especially the professional community of teachers, influence teachers' efficacy, motivation, and performances ( Richardson & Placier, 2001 ). Further investigation of the school organizational and contextual variables should conducted, perhaps at various points of teacher development and the school year.

Although teacher educators would agree that preservice teachers need to have a positive student teaching experience accompanied by a quality teacher preparation program ( Task Force on Field Experience Standards, 1999 ), teacher educators, cooperating teachers, and instructional leaders should focus on developing a sense of collective efficacy with novice teachers and their teaching colleagues during the first 10 weeks of the school year. This finding clearly implies that student teachers and novice teachers need to feel that they are part of a team of teachers who are supportive to each other in helping students learn ( Friedman, & Kass, 2002 ). Teacher educators should help preservice teachers understand and apply the concept of collective efficacy by helping them understand the normative school environment shaped by teachers' shared beliefs ( Goddard et al., 2000 ). University supervisors, cooperating teachers, and instructional leaders should instruct, support, and guide novice teachers to collaborate with other teachers and help them understand the organizational processes and informal structure of schools ( Friedman, & Kass, 2002 ).

The relationship between collective efficacy and teacher efficacy supports that these factors are theoretically related and have the same theoretical underpinnings ( Bandura, 1997 ; Goddard & Goddard, 2001 ; Goddard et al., 2000 ). However, perhaps collective efficacy overshadowed the influences of teacher preparation and student teaching on teacher efficacy because collective efficacy is conceptually and operationally aligned with teacher efficacy. Tenably, a limitation of this study could have been measuring the novice teachers' perceptions of teacher preparation and student teaching experience based on four items. Further investigation should focus on identifying indicators that comprehensively measure quality teacher preparation and student teaching experiences and help clarify this possibility.

The various types of support that novice teachers' need should be identified as their needs change throughout the school year. Although principal support and utilizing a mentor were excluded from the model, they may not have been perceived as important during the first 10 weeks of the school year. Yet, they may appear to be associated with teacher efficacy later in the school year. Another limitation of the study was measuring if novice teachers had a mentor with one item. The mentoring relationship should be investigated to determine the contribution mentors make to novice teachers' efficacy.

Additional environmental factors should be investigated and mixed research methods such as focus group interviews should be conducted with novice teachers in the quest for grounded theory of understanding the nature of variables that influence teacher efficacy that emerged from this study. Novice teachers are influenced by various contextual factors and knowing which environmental factors contribute to positive growth and performance would help instructional leaders nurture and facilitate novice teachers' development who become effective, contributing teachers in the career and technical education profession.


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NEIL A. KNOBLOCH is Assistant Professor, Department of Human and Community Development, University of Illinois, MC-180, 151 Bevier Hall, 905 S. Goodwin Ave. Urbana, IL 61801. e-mail: nknobloc@uiuc.edu

M. SUSIE WHITTINGTON is Associate Professor, Department of Human and Community Resource Development, The Ohio State University, 203 Agricultural Administration, 2120 Fyffe Road, Columbus, OH 43210. e-mail: whittington.1@osu.edu