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Moments of clarity in higher education teachers' professional learning

A woman teaching a class

Until now, higher education self-efficacy research has failed to pinpoint how moments of clarity during a teacher’s learning journey can contribute to their confidence in bringing newfound knowledge to the classroom.

Dr Percy undertook a qualitative longitudinal study for her PhD research, seeking to understand the ‘aha’ moments experienced during the professional development of a group of early career higher education teachers working in New Zealand, and the role those moments played in the transformational process of their teacher self-efficacy. 

Self-efficacy theory (optimistic self-belief in one’s competence) was foreground throughout the study, whilst transformation theory provided an established framework to understand the process of any related changes in perspective. The notion of threshold concepts was used to conceptualise the ‘aha’ moments and to name specific teacher knowledge.

The research found that personal learning realisations that contribute to change in teacher self-efficacy contain four distinct phases, contribute to enhanced awareness of teaching capability, and mastery experiences (successful and unsuccessful) were the most common source of change.

New Zealand specific teacher self-efficacy studies are important because studies in other contexts have shown self-efficacy is a predictor of pedagogical behaviour linked to teacher motivation, resilience and persistence in the face of difficulties and to successful student achievement and outcomes.

In understanding the process of self-efficacy development, there is the potential to create professional learning opportunities that support academic staff and self-efficacy promotion. 

Research staff