The phrase 'shared decision making' might conjure up different ideas by teachers based on their past experiences. Sometimes the image is one of excitement because the last opportunity to share in decision making was empowering, provided growth in thinking, and resulted in actionable steps that changed the learning environment for students and teachers.
And then sometimes...maybe most times...the image is not so exciting. Perhaps because teachers' voices didn't really count.
When formal leaders provide opportunities for shared leadership by affording others the power to make decisions, everyone benefits. Decisions are better understood and more readily accepted. Change is more likely to be effective and lasting when those who implement it feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for the process.
It helps to build collective efficacy. Tschannen-Moran & Barr (2004) define collective efficacy as, the collective self-perception that teachers in a given school make an educational difference to their students over and above the educational impact of their homes and communities. We want that, right?
How could we argue with the idea of collective efficacy, which John Hattie, someone we both work with as Visible Learning trainers, has research to show it has a 1.57 effect size. 1.57 is nearly quadruple the hinge point that equates to a year's worth of growth for a year's input. Unfortunately, sometimes leaders leave teachers out of the planning, which leads to a weakening of the collective efficacy of teachers.
Schechter and Qadach (2012) found that teachers' sense of collective efficacy weakened when they lacked information regarding factors related to school environments - including not knowing the outcomes of decisions in schools.
It is to everyone's benefit to ensure decision making processes are transparent and involve teachers in authentic, meaningful ways. Unfortunately, there is a moment in the process when teachers are authentically or compliantly engaged in the process, and leadership is at the heart of that moment (DeWitt. 2016). Why? Because there are varying degrees of involvement in school decision-making.
Simply inviting participation does not guarantee that teachers will feel empowered. Simply inviting participation does not increase the sense of collective efficacy. Instead, teachers will experience feelings of alienation or empowerment based on their perception of the scope of their influence. Teachers will feel less empowered (perhaps even disempowered) if they perceive their influence as low.
And we wonder why some teachers only want to be told what to do?
Raising Collective Efficacy
Leaders need to look at their practices and reflect on the actions they take that lead to collective efficacy and those actions that strip collective efficacy. We, as leaders, all take some actions that strip collective efficacy. There are times leaders mean to do it because they want to maintain control and get what they want, and there are leaders who do not mean to do it, and sometimes don't even know they are doing it.
Teachers will feel a greater sense of engagement and increased efficacy if they perceive their influence as high. The Ladder of Teacher Involvement in School Decision-Making outlines varying degrees of teacher involvement (Donohoo. 2017). The higher up one moves on the ladder of involvement, the greater the influence.
*Jenni Donohoo, “Why Can't Teachers Make Decisions on Their Own?” As originally published on jennidonohoo.com, March 12, 2017, https://www.jennidonohoo.com/post/why-can-t-teachers-make-decisions-on-their-own.