Exploring the Links between Psychological Capital, Professional Learning Communities, and Teacher Wellbeing: An Examination of the Literature
Sam Cleary, Mia O’Brien*, Donna Pendergast**
*School of Education, University of Southern Queensland, Australia
**School of Education and Professional Studies, Griffith University, Australia
Education Thinking, ISSN 2778-777X – Volume 3, Issue 1 – 2023, pp. 41–60. Date of publication: 23 September 2023.
Cite: Cleary, S., O’Brien, M., & Pendergast, D. (2023). Exploring the links between psychological capital, professional learning communities, and teacher wellbeing: An examination of the literature. Education Thinking, 3(1), 41–60.
Declaration of interests: The authors have no interests to declare.
Authors’ notes: Sam Cleary is a PhD candidate. His research is examining the relationship between psychological capital, collective teacher efficacy, and teacher wellbeing. Sam is a practicing secondary school teacher and senior leader in the independent education sector in Queensland. Professor Donna Pendergast is the Director of Engagement in the Arts, Education and Law Group at Griffith University. Donna has an international profile in the field of teacher education, particularly in the Junior Secondary years of schooling, which focuses on the unique challenges of teaching and learning in the early adolescent years. Associate Professor Mia O’Brien is Associate Head of the School of Education at University of Southern Queensland. Mia has strengths in leadership and research within initial teacher education, and in the application of creativity, positive psychology, and wellbeing to teacher professional learning.
Copyright notice: The authors of this article retain all their rights as protected by copyright laws. However, sharing this article – although not in adapted form – is permitted under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives BY-ND 4.0 International license, provided that the article’s reference (including authors’ names and Education Thinking) is cited.
Journal’s areas of research addressed by the article: 20-Educational Administration and Management, 42-Mixed Research Methods, 48-Primary Education, 49-Qualitative Research Methods, 51-Quantitative Research Methods, 54-School Effectiveness & Improvement, 58-Secondary Education, 63-Teacher Education & Development, 67-Methodology of Literature Reviews.
Recent research points to the significant role that Psychological Capital (PsyCap) plays in predicting teacher wellbeing (Luthans, Youssef, & Avolio, 2006; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), and in preventing burnout (Chang, 2009; Dussault & Deaudelin, 1999; Fullan, 2001; Hakanen et al., 2006; Maslach et al., 2001). PsyCap, the complex and malleable, “state-like” constructs of hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism, is influential in increasing motivation in work and educational settings. Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE) (Goddard et al., 2015; Ramos et al., 2014; Sandoval et al., 2011) has also been found to positively impact teacher’s experiences through the enhancement of persistence, job satisfaction and professional commitment, expectations for students and effective implementation of change. What is not evident is how these two constructs interact, and to what extent they inform teacher wellbeing. Intriguingly, the implementation of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) could serve as a crucial interface between PsyCap and CTE, facilitating a symbiotic relationship that magnifies their individual impacts on teacher wellbeing. PLCs not only provide a structured environment for collective problem-solving and shared expertise (Stoll et al., 2006), but also cultivate a sense of community that could potentially elevate these psychological constructs. This study investigates the literature to consider the potential relationship between PsyCap and CTE and the implications for supporting teacher wellbeing within the implementation of a Community of Practice (CoP) approach to professional learning.
A Systematic Qualitative Literature Review (SQLR) methodology (Pickering & Byrne, 2013) explores the intersections of psychological capital, collective teacher efficacy, and teacher wellbeing in the context of PLCs. The SQLR methodology applies specific inclusion and exclusion criteria, with 26 studies identified for review. The analysis identified connectedness between the PsyCap components of hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism with teacher wellbeing, in particular to elements shown to mitigate teacher burnout, and which can be considered indicators in the assessment of wellness. The CTE and CoP literature highlights the importance of shared vision, structured collaboration, regular reflection, supportive leadership, celebration of successes, and fostering trust, as factors that facilitate positive teacher experiences within the processes of professional learning and navigating change. This analysis offers insights into how PsyCap and CTE may interact with and inform teacher wellbeing in the PLC professional learning context.
Professional Learning Communities (PLC), Professional learning, Teacher teams, Teacher Efficacy, Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE), Enabling Conditions – Collective Teacher Efficacy Scale (EC-CTES), Positive Psychology, Psychological Capital (PsyCap), Systematic Qualitative Literature Review (SQLR).
Establishing a Definition
Amidst a growing body of literature that underscores the profound effects of Psychological Capital (PsyCap) and Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE) on teacher wellbeing, a critical gap remains in the analysis of the potential of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to act as a catalyst in this intricate dynamic. This study aims to address this void by investigating the potential connections in the literature between PsyCap and CTE within the framework of PLCs, with a focus on their collective potential to enhance teacher wellbeing. This is imperative given the potentially negative impact the post-pandemic world has on teacher wellbeing (Hill et al., 2020; Pendergast & O’Brien, 2023).
Professional Learning Communities
Professional Learning Communities garner attention in educational research as a cornerstone for fostering school improvement and collaborative teacher development (Vescio et al., 2008). However, PLCs represent a complex and evolving practice conceptualized as a group of educators who critically interrogate shared practice in an ongoing, reflective, collaborative, inclusive, learning-oriented, and growth-promoting way to enhance teacher and student learning (Stoll et al., 2006). As schools become increasingly complex environments, PLCs serve to enhance teacher capacity, improve instructional strategies, and ultimately, student outcomes (DuFour et al., 2006).
PLCs play a significant role in fostering teacher professional growth, as teaching is both an intellectual and a relational profession (Hord, 1997). Teaching necessitates continual learning and adaptation to be responsive to changing student needs, societal expectations, curriculum revisions, and emerging technologies. PLCs, characterized by shared values and vision, collective responsibility, reflective professional inquiry, and collaboration, provide the platform for fostering ongoing learning (Stoll et al., 2006). They encourage teachers to actively engage in learning and professional growth, offering an environment that supports risk-taking, exchange of ideas, and collective problem-solving (DuFour et al., 2006).
Research has considered the relationship between PLCs and student achievement. There is some research to suggest that schools with strong implementation of PLCs also achieve positive outcomes in student learning and academic achievement (Hattie, 2009; Vescio et al., 2008). Research shows that PLCs can contribute to increased teacher efficacy, morale, and retention, which in turn has the potential to indirectly affect student outcomes (Hipp & Huffman, 2010; Hord, 1997). For instance, Goddard et al. (2007) found that teachers in PLCs reported higher levels of collective efficacy in the teaching of mathematics, which, in turn, has had a positive impact on students’ mathematical skills.
PLCs can improve teachers’ instructional practices. Through collaborative inquiry, teachers in a PLC explore new pedagogical approaches, scrutinize student data, and engage in shared decision-making to enhance practice (Nelson et al., 2008). Vescio et al. (2008) highlight the importance of PLCs in fostering collaborative learning amongst teachers and in facilitating the use of research-based instructional strategies.
The structure of PLCs impacts their effectiveness. High-functioning PLCs exhibit shared leadership, open communication, trust, and a focus on student learning (DuFour et al., 2006). Louis and Marks (1998) stress the importance of authentic collegial relationships and professional respect within PLCs. Their research showed that in effective PLCs, teachers feel a sense of belonging and mutual trust, and are encouraged to take risks and innovate in instructional practice.
Finally, PLCs are critical in fostering a positive school culture (Kruse & Louis, 2009). They facilitate a sense of shared responsibility among teachers, promote a culture of continuous learning, and foster a collective commitment to improving student achievement. As PLCs become increasingly prevalent in schools worldwide, their potential to transform teaching practices and student learning outcomes continues to be a crucial area of research.
Psychological Capital is an impactful area of study in organisational behaviour and human resource development literature and is shown to play a pivotal role in employee performance, motivation, and overall job satisfaction (Luthans et al., 2007). PsyCap represents a positive psychological state of development, characterised by four elements: self-efficacy (confidence), optimism, hope, and resilience (Luthans & Youssef, 2004). These elements collectively contribute to an individual’s ability to perform effectively in the workplace, handle challenging situations, and adapt to change.
Self-efficacy refers to the confidence an individual has in his or her abilities to successfully execute tasks and handle workplace challenges. Optimism involves maintaining a positive attribution style about present and future events. Hope is characterized by setting and pursuing goals, while resilience describes the ability to manage adversity, failure, or increased stress.
The implications of PsyCap are especially significant in contemporary work environments, as there is a strong correlation between PsyCap and performance. Employees with high PsyCap are more likely to exhibit positive behavioural outcomes, including job performance, job satisfaction, and organisational commitment (Luthans et al., 2008). High levels of PsyCap can buffer against workplace stress, reducing burnout and enhancing overall well-being (Avey et al., 2011).
Importantly, PsyCap is a state-like resource in that it can be developed and managed with intention. Unlike many other psychological constructs that are relatively fixed, PsyCap is open to development and can be improved through training interventions (Luthans, Avey, Avolio, Norman, & Combs, 2006). Such programs can foster the four components of PsyCap, and lead to improved job performance and satisfaction.
In the context of teams and leadership, PsyCap is shown to foster a positive work environment that promotes employee engagement, motivation, and performance (Walumbwa et al., 2010). Similarly, teams with high collective PsyCap have been found to outperform those with lower PsyCap, due to enhanced collaboration, persistence, and overall productivity (Dawkins et al., 2013).
Overall, PsyCap is a potentially powerful factor for influencing employee performance and organisational success. The ability to deliberately develop and harness PsyCap presents an exciting prospect for organisations striving to maximize human capital and foster a positive, high-performing work environment.
Collective Teacher Efficacy
Collective teacher efficacy represents the shared belief among teachers in their collective capability to positively influence student outcomes (Bandura, 1993), and is notable for its impact on student achievement (Donohoo, 2018). This collective belief stems from a conviction that the faculty, as a whole, can organize and execute courses of action necessary to improve student learning.
In a comprehensive meta-analysis conducted by Eells (2011), CTE was found to have a significant and positive effect on student achievement. Goddard et al. (2000) underscored the role of CTE in promoting student motivation, improving classroom management, and reducing student disruptive behaviour.
The collective orientation towards shared goals, mutual support, and collaboration that characterises CTE, supports teachers in developing an intrinsic belief in their joint abilities to overcome challenges and improve outcomes. Schools that have high CTE tend to exhibit a strong sense of community, shared purpose, and collaboration (Donohoo et al., 2018). The benefits of CTE extend to the broader school environment. Studies have linked high levels of CTE to positive school culture, reduced teacher turnover, and increased job satisfaction (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2008). CTE has been associated with a successful implementation of school reform initiatives, owing to the shared commitment and resilience of the faculty (Goddard et al., 2004).
The malleability of CTE implies it can be fostered and developed over time. Various factors contribute to the cultivation of CTE, including supportive leadership, collaborative decision-making, structured opportunities for collaboration, and consistent evidence of student success (Donohoo, 2017). Importantly, there is statistical evidence that Collective Teacher Efficacy has an impactful outcome on student achievement. In Hattie’s (2009) investigation of various education interventions on student learning, Collective Teacher Efficacy was found to have an effect size of 1.57. Where an intervention with an effect size greater than 0.40 is equivalent to a year’s growth in learning, the potential impact of CTE to positively affect student learning is profound.
A review of contemporary literature was undertaken using a Systematic Quantitative Literature Review (SQLR) (Pickering & Byrne, 2014). The benefit of this method of literature review over that of a narrative method is that “this type of review is systematic because the methods used to survey the literature, and then select papers to include, are explicit and reproducible” (Pickering & Byrne, 2014, p. 10). This method was chosen due to its capacity to facilitate a rigorous, systematic, and replicable approach to surveying the literature and discerning trends (Bradford et al., 2021; Nix et al., 2022). The potential of an SQLR to map the interconnectedness of PLCs, PsyCap, and CTE, and to identify gaps in the literature, will contribute to the field.
The method is best applied in concert with a Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis – PRISMA statement (Moher et al., 2009) which summarises the search categorisation as the literature is captured and filtered for inclusion. The SQLR (Pickering & Byrne, 2013) involves the following steps:
The research papers in the literature review were sourced from several databases, including Griffith University Library, Mendeley, Sage, Taylor & Francis, and ProQuest. An initial search of the three combined phenomena yielded no usable research papers using the terms: “professional learning community*” OR “PLC*” OR “professional teams” OR “professional learning” OR “teacher teams” AND “teacher efficacy” OR “individual teacher efficacy” OR “collective teacher efficacy” OR “collective efficacy” AND “positive psychology” OR “pos psych” OR “flourishing” OR “PsyCap”. This search highlighted the fact that the gap in the seminal literature was still evident in the contemporary research literature. Two separate searches, one focussing on PsyCap and staff in schools, and the other on PLCs and CTE, were carried out on the same databases. The searches were carried out in November 2021 and the date range of 1 January 2016 to November 2021 was specified to ensure that the most recent and relevant studies were identified. Table 1 presents the criteria for inclusion/exclusion.
Of the 11 studies documented for PsyCap and School Staff, and 15 studies for PLC and CTE, there were definite trends in geographical location, scale of participants, and methodology and measures used. Trends within recent literature in this area are clear; Turkey features prominently in the PsyCap studies within the educational context (n=6), with North America and China also contributing research into PLCs and CTE (n=5 and n=4 respectively). Given the inclusion and exclusion criteria, all studies included teachers as participants. There was a trend towards smaller scale, qualitative or mixed-method, studies for PLCs and CTE (Table 3), and larger, overwhelmingly quantitative, studies for PsyCap in education (Table 2). There were a limited number of studies that utilised recognised standardised instruments in PsyCap and CTE literature across both areas (n=4).
The studies selected have been categorised into two main subsections, ‘PsyCap and School Staff Studies’ and ‘PLC and CTE Studies,’ based on the distinct themes and findings within them. The process aimed to provide a streamlined discussion and facilitate understanding of the interconnections and differences across these domains.
The ‘PsyCap and School Staff Studies’ subsection encompassed research concerned with the impact of PsyCap on staff wellbeing, job satisfaction, and prevention of burnout. The influence of specific leadership practices on teachers’ PsyCap was also highlighted. This group of studies leaned towards examining internal factors, such as cognitions and attitudes, and their effects on teaching practice and the broader school environment.
In contrast, the ‘PLC and CTE Studies’ subsection explored the relationship between PLCs and CTE, and their impact on different aspects of teaching and learning. These studies examined both the individual and organisational characteristics of PLCs and their influence on teacher self-efficacy and job satisfaction. A significant focus was the role of leadership, collaborative practices, and the organisational structure within PLCs. They provided a more external view, examining the broader structural and cultural factors that can influence teaching practice.
In this way, the unique features of each study have been preserved, while their collective insights have been logically grouped to present a comprehensive overview of the complex interplay between PsyCap, PLCs, and CTE. This approach contributes to a holistic understanding of the literature, fostering more nuanced interpretations and insights.
The studies (n=11) reported varied findings in relation to PsyCap within schools. Generally, it was found that increasing PsyCap was beneficial to teachers in myriad ways, though there were some specific themes that emerged.
Overwhelmingly, these studies explored how PsyCap can mitigate the well-documented issue of teacher burnout (Chen et al. 2019; Freire et al., 2020; Karakus et al., 2019; Kurt & Demirbolat, 2019), and bolster job satisfaction and wellbeing (Karakus et al., 2019; Kurt & Demirbolat, 2019). Further, Neek and Zadeh (2016) correlated the PsyCap construct of Resiliency with clearly predicting teacher burnout. Efilti and Çoklar (2019) found that technostress within schools moderately and inversely informed PsyCap. Kalman and Summak (2017) found that a specific PsyCap training program could improve teachers’ cognitions and attitudes towards students and the teaching profession itself. Two studies dealt with how specific practices in senior leadership could empower teachers’ PsyCap (Feng, 2016) in conjunction with improved organisation citizenship behaviour, with staff going beyond what is ordinarily expected of them, including demonstrating altruistic behaviours such as helping colleagues or taking on optional tasks (Van der Hoven et al., 2021). Recent research literature in this area is unanimous in the significant and important role that PsyCap can play in predicting teacher wellbeing, as well as in preventing burnout.
One indicative study that sought to explore the cognitive and affective factors that predict PsyCap was Chen et al.’s (2019) research in China. It covered 34 primary schools and 1384 teachers. Using structural equation modelling, it found that both cognitive construct (i.e., growth mindset) and affective construct (i.e., well-being) were positively and significantly related to PsyCap. In addition, this study found a significant influence of both growth mindset and well-being on all the variables of PsyCap. This study also utilised the standardised Psychological Capital Questionnaire and PERMA Profiler Measure for gauging PsyCap and wellbeing respectively and will give a valuable comparison to data gathered in this study.
These studies within the education sector align with what has been discovered more widely in industry in regard to PsyCap, namely that investing in PsyCap can result in substantial returns for employers (Luthans et al., 2007). This substantial return was reinforced by Avey’s (2011) meta-analysis of PsyCap, that found strong evidence-based justification for the use of PsyCap across industries in the United States.
There was more variance in the findings of studies in this area, though there are still some prevalent themes that are apparent.
Some studies focused on individual aspects of CTE or PLCs and how they related to each other over time. Zheng, Yin and Liu’s (2021) study indicated that reflective dialogue significantly predicted self-efficacy, and that shared purpose, collective focus on student learning, and reflective dialogue were positively associated with teacher commitment to students, whilst collaborative activity had a negative influence. Their related study, however, found that it was more leadership style that had significant effects on the five professional learning community components, four of which, collaborative activity, collective focus on student learning, de-privatized practice, and reflective dialogue, positively predicted teacher self-efficacy (Zheng, Yin, & Li, 2019). Their analysis showed that collaborative activity, de-privatized practice, and reflective dialogue significantly mediated the effects of instructional leadership on teacher self-efficacy. Joo (2020) in his large-scale study (n=2655), purported that distributed leadership negatively influenced teacher professionalism, and that distributed leadership indirectly and significantly influenced teacher professionalism mediated by CTE, PLC, and teacher job satisfaction. His use of the Korea Educational Longitudinal study of 2007 also indicated that the effects of three mediators also indicated significant relationships among study variables.
Zhang et al.’s (2020) study found that two teacher-centric characteristics of PLCs, namely, collective inquiry and sharing and shared purpose and responsibility, significantly and positively affected teachers’ self-efficacy and job satisfaction. For the organisation-centric characteristics of PLCs, supportive leadership significantly and positively predicted teachers’ self-efficacy and job satisfaction; organisational structure significantly and positively predicted teachers’ job satisfaction; and cultural barriers significantly and negatively predicted teachers’ self-efficacy. The benefits of the collaborative nature of PLCs in this quantitative study were corroborated by the qualitative Sherwood et al. (2021) study that found PLCs were overwhelmingly positive experiences for teachers in terms of empowering them to learn to work collaboratively, hear all voices equally during collaboration, and collect and analyse student and teacher data.
This value in collaboration was demonstrated with Loughland and Nguyen’s (2020) study that examined how participation in a collaborative professional learning model for primary science impacted teachers’ sense of collective efficacy in Australia. Data from interviews, professional learning sessions, written reflections, and classroom observations of a group of 12 primary teachers were analysed using the construct of teacher collective efficacy. Findings showed CTE could be a useful design heuristic that might enhance the quality of a teacher’s professional learning experience. Other studies focused on the leadership overarching PLCs. For example, Johnson and Voelkel (2021) considered the need for school leaders to focus on effective PLC programs aimed at conscious communication, active listening, and authentic engagement. Friesen and Brown, (2020) found that teachers with leadership responsibilities outside of the classroom with a deliberate focus on creating coherence between professionals, concurrently develop collective responsibility for student success.
Tichnor-Wagner et al. (2016) found that effective high schools had stronger cultures of learning with distinct structures and practices that distinguished them from the less effective schools. These included frequent opportunities for formal collaboration, shared goals centred on universal high expectations, structured opportunities for participatory leadership, and deliberate supports to help students engage and achieve in academics. Some structures, though not sufficient, prove necessary for fostering effective cultures of learning, the active role of school leaders in reinforcing a culture of learning, and high-leverage practices that address multiple elements of a culture of learning. Other studies suggest that involving teachers more in self-reporting learning and practice is key to incorporating PLCs as a professional development tool effectively, and to address the theory-practice divide (Patterson & O’Brien, 2021).
Finally, Voelkel and Chrispeels (2017) emphasise the relationship between CTE and PLCs, noting that higher-functioning PLCs predict higher levels of collective teacher efficacy. This suggests that engaging and supporting teachers in PLC work can lead to enhanced collective efficacy, which in turn can contribute to improved student achievement.
Professional Learning Communities
PLCs are defined as, “small groups of teachers who come together as a team to help one another improve student learning… [they] share and reflect on their practice” (Sather & Barton, 2006). PLCs are generally regarded as explicitly or implicitly focused on shared values and vision, hinged on student learning, being inquiry-focused, de-privatising teaching, sharing expertise and experiences, engaging in experimentation with alternative strategies, and reflection (Owen, 2014). Given the complexity of PLCs, many researchers note additional characteristics such as leadership (Huffman & Jacobson, 2003; Katz et al., 2008), structured and guided activities with relation to practice (Voogt et al., 2011), and trust (Bolam et al., 2005; Katz et al., 2008; Stoll et al., 2006). These elements are intrinsically linked; a change in any of these variables invites a change in the others. This means that the various characteristics of PLCs are intertwined and do not operate independently (Bolam et al., 2005; Sutherland & Katz, 2005).
Beyond student learning, PLCs are considered a highly effective mechanism to develop teacher professional learning through iterative collaboration in school settings. DuFour’s (2008) model of PLCs emphasises action research as a core part of successful PLCs, and other researchers’ views align with this focus on professional development through collaboration (Grossman et al., 2000; Hargreaves, 1992; Head, 2003; Jarzabkowski, 2001).
Whilst the current literature suggests that mature PLCs can be valuable in terms of bolstering student outcomes (Vescio et al., 2008), improving professional practice (Wilson, 2016), and teacher wellbeing within a school context (Liang et al., 2022), there is limited discussion of the practicality of developing a PLC program towards the mature level in specific socio-economic and curriculum contexts.
Teacher Wellbeing and PsyCap
PsyCap represents the potential strength of teachers’ hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism, and is shown to increase motivational propensity to accomplish goals and succeed (Luthans, Youssef, & Avolio, 2006). PsyCap and its resources are linked to employee productivity and outcomes. Furthermore, PsyCap predicts desired employee outcomes such as performance and job satisfaction more accurately than the individual resources independently (Luthans et al., 2007).
The PsyCap resources of hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism are fundamentally cognitive in nature. Hope is defined as a “positive motivational state based on an interactively derived sense of successful agency and pathways” (Snyder et al., 1991, p. 287). Efficacy is defined as “one’s conviction (or confidence) about his or her ability to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources or courses to action needed to successfully execute a specific task within a given context” (Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998, p. 66). Resilience is the ability to bounce back when faced with a disappointing outcome or failure (Luthans, 2002). Optimism is defined as the attributions that are made and the explanatory style one uses in response to events (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), and essentially how one evaluates the past, as opposed to only being focused on the future. Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) noted that an optimist usually attributes positive events to internal, stable efforts, whereas negative events are deemed to be caused by external, unstable, events.
There have been conclusive studies conducted that prove the link between PsyCap and teacher burnout (Cheung et al., 2011; Demir, 2018; Ferradas et al. 2019), which suggests that a focus on PsyCap could be an effective personal resource for the reduction of these psychopathological states in teachers. This solid evidence is in contrast, however, to the limited research about the contribution of PsyCap to teacher flourishing, which is consistent with the relatively young research tradition about aspects linked to well-being in this occupational group (Gruber et al., 2020; Mankin et al., 2018). Within this fresh approach, attention has been mainly paid to more hedonic aspects (Adil & Kamal, 2020), demonstrating that PsyCap encourages the experience of high levels of satisfaction and positive emotions in teaching (Soykan et al., 2019; Tosten & Toprak, 2017), in both tertiary and secondary sectors of education.
In summary, the four resources that makeup PsyCap can be considered cognitive evaluations of the availability of resources as indicators in one’s global assessment of wellness (Nwanzu & Babalola, 2019).
Teacher Collective Efficacy
CTE is the perception that teachers in a school setting can make a positive difference for their students over and above that of their homes and communities and has been linked to many positive outcomes in schools (Tschannen-Moran & Barr, 2004). These outcomes have been found to include improved student outcomes (Bandura, 1993; Goddard, Hoy, & Hoy, 2000; Goddard, Goddard, Kim, & Miller, 2015; Tschannen-Moran & Barr, 2004), and improved teacher consequences such as persistence, job satisfaction and professional commitment, expectations for students and effective implantation of change (Donohoo, 2018).
There is widespread acknowledgement in the literature that CTE is valuable in school contexts. DeWitt (2017) proposes CTE to be one of the six influences that matter most for educational leadership. Consistent findings in various studies have shown that the link between CTE and student outcomes was stronger than the link between socioeconomic status and student achievement (Goddard et al., 2015; Ramos et al., 2014; Sandoval et al., 2011). CTE has been recognised as an area of interest for educational leadership for school improvement as it predicts a willingness to invest the time and energy required to attain educational goals and results in greater effort from teachers (Donohoo et al., 2020).
Much of the research in this area hinges on the remote sources of CTE, i.e., the resources that teachers bring with them externally into the school context, such as mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and affective states (Bandura, 1977). This implication has meant that measuring CTE was important for leadership, but there was no way to actively improve it. Donohoo et al. (2020) argue that there are five enabling conditions for CTE i.e., empowered teachers, embedded reflective practices, cohesive teacher knowledge, goal consensus, and supportive leadership.
Analysis of empowered teachers focused on collecting evidence of teacher leadership and influence within a school. Previous research has identified a positive correlation between teacher influence (Goddard, 2002; Ross et al., 2004), teacher leadership (Derrington & Angelle, 2013), and CTE.
Analysing embedded reflective practices focused on the processes by which teams work together to examine sources of student evidence to help inform their work; “When instructional improvement efforts result in improved student outcomes that are validated through sources of student learning data, educators’ collective efficacy is strengthened. Evidence of collective impact, in turn, reinforces proactive collective behaviours, feelings, thoughts, and motivations” (Donohoo et al., 2018, p. 42).
Work on cohesive teacher knowledge hinged on teachers’ knowledge about each other’s practice and the extent to which teachers agree about what constitutes sound pedagogy (Donohoo et al., 2020). Goal consensus revolves around knowledge of shared goals and the processes in place for establishing goals. This was considered important as studies have demonstrated a link between perceived uncertainty and a lack of CTE (Schechter & Qadach, 2012). Teachers who felt uncertain, or unclear, about processes within their schools regarding decisions and outcomes were found to have less collective efficacy, and by association, less ability to persevere through challenges within the schooling context.
Understanding supportive leadership is articulated upon ideas such as school leadership’s approach to shielding teachers from disruptions and the recognition of individual and team accomplishments. Further, supportive leadership means leaders that enable teachers to more consistently focus on reflective practice and collaboration (Donohoo et al., 2020).
This SQLR aimed to investigate the potential connections between Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), teacher wellbeing, psychological capital (PsyCap), and collective teacher efficacy (CTE) as a basis for considering professional learning for teachers. The study reveals that each of these constructs demonstrates efficacy for supporting teacher wellbeing, but there has been limited consideration of how the integration of PsyCap with CTE might mutually inform and strengthen teacher professional learning through PLCs. The SQLR highlights several areas of potential integration, including shared vision, structured collaboration, regular reflection, supportive leadership, celebration of successes, and fostering trust, which can be employed within PLCs to enhance collective efficacy and in turn, teacher wellbeing. Additionally, the study underscores the importance of incorporating strategies that foster PsyCap resources (hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism) as an effective means of supporting teacher wellbeing and mitigating burnout. Ultimately, these outcomes address the potential interplay between PLCs, PsyCap, and CTE in promoting teacher wellbeing in professional learning initiatives.
The Malleable Nature of PsyCap and CTE
Collective teacher efficacy (CTE) was considered a static resource that teachers brought to their school contexts. However, recent research by Donohoo et al. (2020) challenges this perspective presenting CTE as a malleable construct with enabling conditions that can potentially bolster CTE over time. These conditions include empowered teachers, embedded reflective practices, cohesive teacher knowledge, goal consensus, and supportive leadership. This shift in understanding implies that targeted interventions aimed at enhancing CTE in educational settings have a potential impact.
In contrast, psychological capital (PsyCap) has long been recognized as a malleable construct that can be managed and developed with an intention to foster motivation and goal achievement. Research shows that PsyCap contributes to improved employee performance, job satisfaction, and overall well-being (Luthans et al., 2007).
Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are widely acknowledged in the educational literature as effective vehicles for building trust, improving practice, and encouraging reflection among educators. Where the conceptualisation of PLCs is extended to include characteristics such as leadership, structured activities, and trust, the potential impact of their dynamic and interconnected nature has greater relevance for collective teacher efficacy and student achievement.
Despite the extensive literature on CTE, PsyCap, and PLCs, there is a notable absence of studies examining the interplay of these concepts globally or in the unique Australian educational context. This suggests a significant gap in the research that could offer valuable insights into how these constructs can be integrated and harnessed collectively to promote teacher wellbeing, enhance professional practice, and ultimately improve student outcomes in educational settings.
This Systematic Quantitative Literature Review provides a foundation for further study and has foregrounded the importance of the potential interrelatedness of CTE, PLCs, and PsyCap. While there is consistent research to affirm that PLCs are a valuable tool for improving professional collegiality and student outcomes, there is an absence of research on the links between PLCs, staff wellbeing, and the potentially influential factors of collective teacher efficacy and PsyCap. Further research to document these interrelations has the potential to inform education policy and practice, in particular as the profession continues to seek an empirical basis for the design, delivery, and evaluation of impactful professional learning practices that have positive outcomes for student learning.
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