British Journal of Educational Psychology (2012), 82, 270–288
C 2011 The British Psychological Society
Teacher beliefs, teacher characteristics,
and school contextual factors: What
are the relationships?
Christine M. Rubie-Davies∗, Annaline Flint and Lyn G. McDonald
School of Teaching Learning and Development, Faculty of Education, The University
of Auckland, New Zealand
Background. There is a plethora of research around student beliefs and their
contribution to student outcomes. However, there is less research in relation to teacher
beliefs. Teacher factors are important to consider since beliefs mould thoughts and
resultant instructional behaviours that, in turn, can contribute to student outcomes.
Aims. The purpose of this research was to explore relationships between the teacher
characteristics of gender and teaching experience, school contextual variables (socio-
economic level of school and class level), and three teacher socio-psychological variables:
class level teacher expectations, teacher efﬁcacy, and teacher goal orientation.
Sample. The participants were 68 male and female teachers with varying experience,
from schools in a variety of socio-economic areas and from rural and urban locations
within New Zealand.
Method. Teachers completed a questionnaire containing items related to teacher
efﬁcacy and goal orientation in reading. They also completed a teacher expectation
survey. Reading achievement data were collected on students. Interrelationships were
explored between teacher socio-psychological beliefs and the teacher and school factors
included in the study.
Results. Mastery-oriented beliefs predicted teacher efﬁcacy for student engagement
and classroom management. The socio-economic level of the school and teacher
gender predicted teacher efﬁcacy for engagement, classroom management, instructional
strategies, and a mastery goal orientation. Being male predicted a performance goal
Conclusions. Teacher beliefs, teacher characteristics, and school contextual variables
can result in differences in teacher instructional practices and differing classroom
climates. Further investigation of these variables is important since differences in
teachers contribute to differences in student outcomes.
The beliefs that teachers hold inﬂuence their thoughts and their instructional decisions
(Woolfolk Hoy, Hoy, & Davis, 2009). In turn, instructional decisions that teachers make
∗Correspondence should be addressed to Christine Rubie-Davies, School of Teaching Learning and Development, Faculty of
Education, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92601, Auckland 1150, New Zealand (e-mail: email@example.com).
Teacher efﬁcacy, expectations, and goal orientation 271
inﬂuence the learning experiences they plan for students and hence student opportunity
to learn. Furthermore, some studies have shown that teachers may make differential
instructional decisions depending on their gender and their teaching experience (e.g.,
Ross, 1998). Finally, it has been suggested that teachers alter their instructional practices
depending on school contextual variables such as the socio-economic level of the
school (Solomon, Battistich, & Hom, 1996). Because teacher beliefs, characteristics, and
contextual factors have all been shown to potentially inﬂuence the learning outcomes
of students, it is important that relationships between these variables are more fully
explored. If some of these beliefs and characteristics are related to each other then
this may result in even greater effects on instructional practices and therefore student
learning opportunities. For example, if teachers have low teaching efﬁcacy and they
are more structured in their approach to teaching students in low socio-economic areas
and they lack experience, the combination of these teacher factors may have greater
implications for student learning than if, for example, the teacher simply lacks teaching
experience. Hence, it is important to study beliefs from a wider perspective, to look
for relationships that could be important in terms of student learning. While there is a
substantial body of literature related to particular teacher beliefs (e.g., teacher efﬁcacy),
these tend to have been studied in isolation. There are fewer studies that have explored
various teacher beliefs and characteristics in combination (see Deemer, 2004, as an
exception). This study proposes that teacher beliefs are not likely to exist in isolation
but that there are particular kinds of beliefs teachers hold that are likely to be related and
that these may be moderated by contextual school and personal characteristics. Hence,
the purpose of the current study was threefold: ﬁrst, we explored relationships between
teacher efﬁcacy, teachers’ class level expectations, and teacher goal orientation; second,
we examined relationships between the social psychological variables teacher efﬁcacy,
teachers’ class level expectations, teacher goal orientation, and teacher characteristics
(gender and teaching experience); and third, we investigated whether contextual factors
(school socio-economic level and class level) could predict any of the teacher social
psychological variables being explored.
Bandura (1977) ﬁrst proposed the concept of self-efﬁcacy. Tschannen-Moran,
Woolfolk Hoy, and Hoy (1998) applied this concept to teachers and 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), whereas Wheatley (2002) linked teacher efﬁcacy more directly to a
teacher’s belief in his or her ability to inﬂuence student outcomes. So, teacher efﬁcacy
relates to a context-speciﬁc assessment of one’s ability to instruct students in a particular
curriculum area or in a particular manner. Hence, teacher efﬁcacy is a ‘future oriented,
task-speciﬁc judgement’ (Woolfolk Hoy et al., 2009, p. 628).
Teacher academic expectations are also future-oriented judgements and may be
curriculum speciﬁc. Teacher expectations may be deﬁned as the judgements teachers
make about the amount of academic progress they believe students will make by the
end of a speciﬁc time frame (often by the end of a year in empirical studies). When
researchers are investigating teacher expectations, these are often also related to a
speciﬁc curriculum area such as reading (Rubie-Davies, 2007) or mathematics (Schullo
& Alperson, 1998). Teacher expectations can be viewed as a dyadic relationship whereby
teachers have differing expectations for each individual child in the classroom (often
related to characteristics of the child, e.g., ethnicity, social class, gender, ability). This
is the traditional view. However, expectations can also be viewed at the whole class
level. From this perspective, some teachers have high expectations for all their students
272 Christine M. Rubie-Davies et al.
(high expectation teachers), while other teachers have low expectations for all students
(low expectation teachers). This is not to say, the expectations are equally high (or
low) for all students, but rather, controlling for student achievement at the beginning
of the year, high expectation teachers expect all students to make substantial academic
gains by the end of the year, while low expectation teachers do not anticipate that
their students will make many gains (again controlling for prior achievement). Brophy
(1985) ﬁrst suggested that whole class expectations were likely to have more import
for student outcomes than expectations at the individual level and, indeed, Brophy and
Good (1974) proposed types of teachers whose expectations would be likely to result in
students making greater or lesser gains depending on the teacher characteristics, rather
than on the student characteristics. Meta-analyses of naturalistic teacher expectation
studies whereby expectations for individual students are considered generally yield low
effect sizes (r < .20) (Jussim, Robustelli, & Cain, 2009). On the other hand, a study that
investigated whole class teacher expectation effects on student achievement in reading
found very large effects for high expectation teachers (d = 1.01) but low effects for low
expectation teachers (d = .05) (Rubie-Davies, 2010). Hence, it would appear to be of
some consequence to consider expectations at the class level, rather than the individual
level, an approach taken in the current paper.
Teacher goal orientation is a further variable that has been shown to inﬂuence
the ways in which teachers structure their classrooms, motivate, and interact with
students. Two main types of goal orientation, namely mastery and performance, have
been identiﬁed (Kaplan & Maehr, 2007). Teachers with a performance goal orientation
are more focused on formally assessing their students’ ability to achieve. Teachers who
have a mastery goal orientation, on the other hand, consider learning to be an active
process in which students are totally involved in their learning and focused on acquiring
skills, understandings, and insights (Patrick, Anderman, Ryan, Edelin, & Midgley, 2001).
From a teacher perspective, then, teacher expectations relate to where the teacher
believes the students in her/his class will get to, teacher efﬁcacy relates to what s/he
believes s/he can do to get the students there, and teacher goal orientation relates to how
s/he believes lessons and assessments should be structured in order for students to reach
their goals. Hence, these teacher beliefs (expectations, efﬁcacy, and goal orientation)
could be thought of as being interrelated. A teacher, who has high expectations for all
students, may have the conﬁdence that s/he can make a large difference to their learning
(teacher efﬁcacy) and use a mastery approach to teaching, since this approach appears to
result in larger student gains (Roeser, Marachi, & Gehlbach, 2002). The interrelatedness
of these teacher beliefs is one aspect examined in this paper.
While the instructional practices of teachers were not examined in the current study,
it is the ways in which particular teacher beliefs can inﬂuence teacher instruction
that make the beliefs important to consider since the resultant practices can lead to
differential outcomes for students. Hence, the next section of the paper will brieﬂy
summarize the research ﬁndings related to the inﬂuence of teacher beliefs on teacher
instructional practices in literacy (since this is the curriculum focus of the current paper).
In a study by Graham, Harris, Fink, and MacArthur (2001), it was found that there
was a direct link between variables in efﬁcacy scores and teachers’ beliefs about how
to teach writing. The researchers posited that teacher efﬁcacy was linked to their
beliefs about how to teach the subject and was an important element in understand-
ing effective instruction in writing. Similarly, research by Chacon (2005) revealed a
positive correlation between teachers’ sense of efﬁcacy and language proﬁciency. The
way teachers perceived their capabilities to teach seemed to directly inﬂuence their
Teacher efﬁcacy, expectations, and goal orientation 273
instructional practices. Teachers who felt conﬁdent about their abilities and who enjoyed
teaching seemed to willingly implement new and innovative practices. Furthermore,
the judgements teachers made about the tasks used to effect student learning were
inﬂuenced by their perceived efﬁcacy. Results from the study also showed that teachers’
efﬁcacy for instructional strategies was higher than efﬁcacy for management and
Within the teacher expectation literature, Rubie-Davies (2008a) found that the beliefs
of high and low expectation teachers were quite different. High expectation teachers
believed that students should work in mixed and ﬂexible ability groupings for reading,
be given choices about the activities they completed, be exposed to challenging learning
experiences, and have clear learning goals. On the other hand, low expectation teachers
believed that students learnt best in reading when they were grouped by ability and
when the teacher planned quite distinct activities for high and low ability students. The
low expectation teachers believed they should make the decisions about what students
should learn, how, and with whom. These contrasting beliefs resulted in very different
instructional environments for students (Rubie-Davies, 2007).
Within the goal orientation literature, as well, associations have been found between
teachers’ beliefs and the observed practices of teachers. In one study by Anderman and
colleagues (Anderman, Patrick, Hruda, & Linnenbrink, 2002), teachers with low mastery
beliefs were found to consider learning to be an individual process, best achieved
by listening to the teacher, and following instructions. Student interaction was not
considered helpful for learning and students were not encouraged to collaborate or
share answers. Students received recognition if they followed procedures and obeyed
the teacher rather than through achieving success on tasks. In contrast, teachers high in
mastery beliefs focused on understanding and improvement because mistakes were
considered informative for learning. Conversations with students were supportive,
constructive, and focused on the next steps in learning. Students were encouraged to
actively participate in class and to work together. Students received feedback in relation
to the task rather than in relation to procedures. Thus, it can be seen that teacher beliefs
appear to inﬂuence teacher practice.
The research cited above indicates that teachers alter their instructional practices
in line with their beliefs but particular characteristics of teachers also appear to be
associated with distinct beliefs. For example, gender and teaching experience have
been associated with differential teacher beliefs. In a study by Ross (1998), it was found
that the more teaching experience the teacher had, the greater his or her teacher efﬁcacy
tended to be. Similar studies in other parts of the world, in Singapore, (Wilson & Tan,
2004), in Spain (de la Torre Cruz & Arias, 2007), and in Hong Kong (Cheung, 2008),
have all shown that higher levels of teacher efﬁcacy may well be attributed to teaching
experience (Yeo, Ang, Chong, Huan, & Quek, 2008). Similarly, one study suggested that
high expectation teachers tended to have more teaching experience than did teachers
with lower expectations (Rubie-Davies, 2006). However, whether goal orientation is
related to teaching experience does not appear to have been examined in the literature.
Ross (1998) also found that teacher efﬁcacy was higher in females than in males,
although more recent studies have reported no differences in teacher efﬁcacy by
gender (Tejeda-Delgado, 2009; Yeo et al., 2008). We were unable to locate any
studies, however, that had examined gender in relation to teacher expectations or goal
The school context has also been shown to inﬂuence teachers’ beliefs (e.g., Solomon
et al., 1996). For example, the socio-economic status of the school and the year level
274 Christine M. Rubie-Davies et al.
of the classes teachers work in have been shown to relate to speciﬁc teacher beliefs
and practices. Ross (1998) found that teachers in the elementary sector consistently
had higher teacher efﬁcacy than their high school counterparts. Furthermore, Solomon
et al. (1996) found that, controlling for achievement, teachers working in low socio-
economic schools had lower expectations for their students than teachers working in
middle-class schools. Another study showed that teachers in the earlier years of primary
school appeared to have higher expectations of their students than did teachers of older
primary school students (Rubie-Davies, 2006).
Finally, in a study conducted by Deemer (2004) in secondary classrooms, it was found
that the instructional practices of teachers were strongly determined by the culture of the
school, as were students’ mastery goals. A perceived supportive school culture allowed
teachers to focus their instructional practices, and for students to focus their goals, on
mastery learning. In schools with a perceived competitive culture, teachers’ instructional
practices in the classroom were focused on demonstrating ability and thus students’ goals
were more performance oriented. Furthermore, it was found that teachers who were
conﬁdent in their teaching abilities, and thus had high levels of personal efﬁcacy, created
classroom environments focused on mastery practices and student learning. However,
the same link was not found between teachers’ personal efﬁcacy and performance
The current study was conducted in New Zealand primary schools and hence, it may
be useful for the reader to understand contextual variables that are of relevance to the
paper, since it is likely that some of these could potentially confound the results. One that
is of relevance to the current paper is the socio-economic level of the school. In some
countries (e.g., the United States), there is status associated with teaching in middle-class
schools rather than in poorer communities (McCaslin & Good, 2008). This is not the case
in New Zealand. Teacher salaries are controlled by a central government body, and while
it is true that it can be more difﬁcult to recruit teachers to low socio-economic areas, the
Ministry of Education have at times provided ﬁnancial incentives for teachers to work
in low socio-economic schools. Furthermore, schools in low socio-economic areas are
funded at a higher rate by the government than schools in high socio-economic areas
meaning that all schools are well resourced. This results in many experienced and high-
quality teachers (particularly those with more teaching experience) choosing to teach
in low socio-economic areas where they believe they can make a difference for their
students. Rubie-Davies (2006) has shown that more teachers with high expectations
for all students can be found in low socio-economic than in middle-class schools in
New Zealand (and the converse) and the students of such teachers make large academic
gains over 1 year.
The gender balance and years of teaching experience of participants in the current
study also reﬂects the New Zealand primary school context. There is a gender imbalance
in primary schools in New Zealand with around 20% of teachers being male (Harker &
Chapman, 2006). The age of teachers in primary schools is also increasing (age is used
here as a proxy for teaching experience) with only 51% being aged less than 45 (Harker
& Chapman, 2006).
In the current study, the authors investigated relationships between teacher efﬁcacy,
class level expectations, and teacher goal orientation. Relationships between those social
psychological variables, teacher characteristics (e.g., gender, teaching experience), and
school contextual factors (socio-economic level of the school and year level of class
being taught) were also explored. Based on the research evidence presented above and
the New Zealand context, it was predicted that a relationship would be found between:
Teacher efﬁcacy, expectations, and goal orientation 275
(1) teacher efﬁcacy, class level expectation, and a mastery goal orientation;
(2) gender and the three beliefs variables of interest in the study;
(3) teaching experience and the three teacher beliefs variables being investigated;
(4) class level being taught and the three teacher beliefs variables included in the current
(5) the socio-economic level of the school and the three teacher beliefs variables
(although this relationship was expected to be in a negative direction).
The participants in this study were 68 New Zealand teachers from 18 schools randomly
selected from across the country to be part of the study. Some schools initially invited
to participate were not eligible to be part of the study. Of the original 50 schools, 20
had three or fewer teachers at Year 4–8. Because year level being taught was a variable
of interest, only teachers teaching no more than two consecutive year levels were
eligible. (A large number of New Zealand schools are small rural schools.) However,
despite excluding these schools, the urban/rural proportions were still representative
of the New Zealand proportions. In this study, six schools were rural and 12 were
urban; in New Zealand, one third of schools are rural (Brooking, 2007). Only schools
using Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning (asTTle) were eligible to be part of
the study (asTTle is a standardized measure of achievement used in New Zealand and
is described below), since asTTle was used in the study as the student achievement
measure; ﬁve schools were not using asTTle. Finally, of the original group of schools,
seven decided not to participate.
Of the 68 teachers who agreed to be part of the study, 52 were in primary
schools, teaching Years 4–6 students (approximately 8–10 years of age) and 16 were
in intermediate schools (approximately 11–12 years of age). In New Zealand, schools
are given a decile ranking ranging from 1 to 10 that is an indicator of socio-economic
level, with ‘1’ being schools in the poorer areas and ‘10’ being those in wealthier areas.
In this particular sample, more teachers were from high-decile schools (6–10) (n = 46)
than from low-decile schools (1–5) (n = 22), so teachers in middle-class schools were
over-represented. The imbalance of female to male teachers in New Zealand primary
and intermediate schools was reﬂected in the participants: 57 were female while 11
were male. Teaching experience ranged from 1 to 47 years with a mean of 12.59 years
and a standard deviation (SD) of 10.24 years showing a wide dispersion. However, most
teachers had 10 years or less experience (39 teachers) and hence, there was an over-
representation of less experienced teachers in this sample compared to the general
primary school teaching population in New Zealand.
Procedure and design
Teachers were invited to become part of the study in February (beginning of the
academic year in New Zealand) and those who agreed were sent questionnaires at
the beginning of March. Teachers were sent a questionnaire to complete and return
to the researchers. This questionnaire was comprised of items designed to measure
personal teacher efﬁcacy beliefs and teachers’ mastery and performance goal orientation.
Schools supplied standardized reading achievement data for each student in the classes
of participating teachers. Teachers also completed a survey in which they indicated how
276 Christine M. Rubie-Davies et al.
much progress they predicted each student in their classes would make in reading across
the year. This survey was used to indicate teacher expectations for their students. The
curriculum focus for the questionnaires, the expectation survey, and the achievement
data related to reading. All student data were anonymized by teachers who provided a
code for every student on the survey they completed along with a matched code for the
student reading achievement data. Data were available for 1,739 students.
Three measures were used in this study: the teacher beliefs questionnaire (comprised
of teacher efﬁcacy and teacher goal orientation items), the teacher expectation survey,
and the measure of student achievement. These measures will be described below.
The teacher beliefs questionnaire used in the current study was the Teachers’ Sense of
Efﬁcacy Scale (TSES) (Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2001) and the two subscales
from the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales (PALS) (Midgley et al., 2000) designed to
measure mastery and performance approaches to instruction.
The TSES was used to measure teachers’ personal teaching efﬁcacy in reading. It
includes items that describe tasks in which teachers commonly engage (Woolfolk Hoy
et al., 2009). The long 24-item form was used to measure teacher efﬁcacy in engagement
of students, efﬁcacy in instructional strategies, and efﬁcacy in classroom management.
An example of items from each of these three subscales, respectively, is ‘How much can
you do to get through to the most difﬁcult students?’, ‘How much can you do to adjust
your lessons to the proper level for individual students?’, and ‘How much can you do
to control disruptive behaviour in the classroom?’. Some items were altered so that the
stem for each item became ‘How much can you do to . . . ?’. For example, ‘To what extent
can you make your expectations clear about student behaviour?’ became ‘How much
can you do to make your expectations clear about student behaviour?’. Teachers rated
their perceived self-efﬁcacy on a 9-point Likert scale from 1 = ‘Nothing’ to 9 = ‘A Great
Deal’. Tschannen-Moran and Woolfolk Hoy (2001) reported an overall alpha coefﬁcient
for the TSES of .94, of .87 for the student engagement subscale, of .91 for instructional
strategies, and .90 for classroom management. In the current study, the overall alpha
coefﬁcient for the TSES was .93, .85 for the student engagement subscale, .86 for the
instructional strategies subscale, and .85 for the classroom management subscale.
Teacher goal orientation
Teachers’ goal orientation was measured using the mastery approaches to instruction
and the performance approaches to instruction subscales of the PALS (Midgley et al.,
2000). The two subscales are designed to measure teachers’ goal-oriented approaches
to teaching and have been used successfully in the United States with teachers at the
primary, middle, and secondary school levels (Midgley et al., 2000). In the original scale,
teachers rate statements about their mastery and performance goal orientation on a
5-point Likert scale but in the current administration a 9-point Likert scale was used
ranging from 1 = ‘Never’ to 9 = ‘All the time’ so that the PALS subscales were on the
same Likert scale as the TSES. An example of a mastery goal item is ‘To what extent
do you provide several different activities so that students can choose among them?’
and of a performance goal orientation: ‘To what extent do you display the work of
the highest achieving students as an example?’ Midgley et al. (2000) report an alpha
Teacher efﬁcacy, expectations, and goal orientation 277
coefﬁcient of .69 for each scale. However, in the current study, the alpha coefﬁcient
for the mastery goal orientation was .57 and for the performance goal orientation .75.
It should be pointed out that alterations were made to wording for some items in the
mastery goal orientation scale to meet New Zealand conditions. For example, ‘I consider
how much students have improved when I give them report card grades’ was changed
to: ‘To what extent do you consider how much students have improved when you are
writing their reports?’ Changes such as this were made since it is very uncommon for
schools in New Zealand to assign students achievement grades in primary school since
at present there is no required compulsory standardized testing in the country. It may
be that the combination of using a 1–9 Likert scale and small wording changes resulted
in the low alpha coefﬁcient for the mastery performance orientation scale. Furthermore,
researchers in the ﬁeld have begun to question the reliability of the PALS measure (L.H.
Anderman, personal communication, May 3, 2010), but it is currently the only widely
used measure available designed to test teachers’ mastery goal orientation. Furthermore,
an examination of the item-total correlations showed that all items correlated well with
the total scale (range r = .41 − r = .75) and hence, despite its limitations, the measure
was still used in the current study.
Overall, all teacher beliefs variables were normally distributed. The skewness value
for the mastery goal orientation scale was −.74, while the values for the other
scales ranged from −.29 (performance goal orientation) to .16 (the total TSES scale).
The kurtosis value for the mastery goal orientation scale was .78, while all other
distributions had slight negative kurtosis ranging from −.68 (instructional strategies) to
−.31 (performance goal orientation), indicating a slightly ﬂatter than normal distribution.
Thus, the scores for all variables represented a reasonable approximation to the normal
The teacher beliefs questionnaire was piloted with a small group of teachers (seven)
not otherwise engaged in the study in order to determine readability and for teachers to
provide feedback on the measure. No difﬁculties were reported.
asTTle reading comprehension
The asTTle resource is an assessment tool developed and used in New Zealand to assess
students’ reading comprehension, mathematics, and writing. There is an English and te
reo M¯aori (New Zealand indigenous language) version for the three curriculum areas.
It can be used with students from Year 4–12 to track the progress and achievement of
both individual students and groups of students against national norms. Using asTTle,
teachers can create 40-min paper and pencil or on-line tests that they are able to design
for their particular students’ learning needs. Once the tests have been scored, the
asTTle tool produces graphic reports that allow teachers to analyse student achievement
against curriculum levels, curriculum objectives, and population norms (Ministry of
Education, 2010) (For more information regarding asTTle go to www.asttle.com). For
the purposes of the current study, data for each student from a reading comprehension
test were used. The asTTle scores range from 100 to 1,500 across the year levels
so student progress can be tracked from Year 4 to 12. The student reports give
teachers a score for each student and also an equivalent curriculum level. An average
student in New Zealand will complete one curriculum level in any curriculum area
every 2 years and asTTle further divides each curriculum level into three (basic,
proﬁcient, advanced) sublevels as an indication of how much of each level a student has
278 Christine M. Rubie-Davies et al.
Teacher expectation survey
In order to gain a measure of teachers’ expectations, the teachers ﬁrst made a class
list of students and estimated the asTTle level each student would reach by the end of
the year. The expectations for achievement were then compared with actual beginning
of year asTTle levels to determine expected progress over 1 year. Hence, the scale
provided a measure of each teacher’s expectation for student progress. A difference
measure was calculated to indicate overall teachers’ expectations for students in their
respective classes. First, the differences between beginning of year reading levels and
teacher expectations for end of year achievement were calculated for each student. The
total of these differences was calculated for each class and a mean difference ﬁgure
calculated for each teacher. The scores were collapsed in order to provide a measure
of the teachers’ overall expectations for the class. Clearly expectations for individuals
will vary but asking teachers to predict student progress (rather than achievement) has
been shown in previous studies (Rubie-Davies, 2007) to indicate teacher expectation
beliefs, that is, teachers who predict large gains for their students do so for all students
in the class (high expectation teachers) relative to beginning year achievement, while
the opposite has been found for low expectation teachers. The mean difference ﬁgure
provided an indication of the teachers’ expectations for their whole class, that is, larger
means indicated greater expectations of progress for all students. The mean difference
scores ranged from −.23 to 2.5 meaning the teacher whose mean difference score
was lowest was not expecting his/her students to make any overall gains in achievement
during the year (and arguably some decrease in achievement), while the one whose mean
difference score was greatest was expecting his/her students to increase on average 2.5
levels within asTTle across the year. This is a very high expectation as it indicates progress
of almost an entire curriculum level. The mean difference score for teachers was 1.22
levels of progress for the year (SD = 0.49).
Because the sample size was small, power statistics were computed to determine the
minimum correlation coefﬁcient that is signiﬁcant for a sample size of 68. The minimum
r signiﬁcant at a p value of .05 was 0.24; for a p value of .01, the minimum r was .31;
and for a signiﬁcance value of .001, the minimum correlation coefﬁcient was .39.
Table 1 presents the means and SDs for the measures as well as the correlations
between measures, teacher characteristics, and school context variables. The means for
Table 1. Means and standard deviations for teacher beliefs variables and correlations between teacher
belief and school context and teacher characteristics variables
Socio-economic Class Teaching
Variable M SD level level Gender experience
Teacher expectation 1.22 0.49 −0.11 −0.17 −0.01 0.06
Instructional strategies 7.67 0.69 −0.37∗∗∗
Classroom management 7.80 0.69 −0.35∗∗
Student engagement 7.11 0.84 −0.33∗∗
Performance goals 5.07 1.35 −0.01 −0.10 −0.23∗
Mastery goals 7.56 0.72 −0.28∗∗
p Ͻ .05; ∗∗
p Ͻ .01; ∗∗∗
p Ͻ .001.
Teacher efﬁcacy, expectations, and goal orientation 279
the subscales of the TSES in the current study are similar to those reported in the original
reliability and validity testing (Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2001) for student
engagement (M = 7.3, SD = 1.1 in the original sample) and for instructional strategies
(M = 7.3, SD = 1.1 in the original sample). However, the mean for efﬁcacy in classroom
management appears higher than that from the original sample (M = 6.7, SD = 1.1 in
the original sample). The SDs reﬂect a range of teacher beliefs among the sample. The
means for the PALS scale are not directly comparable since the measure employs a 1–5
scale usually and a 1–9 scale was used in the current study. However, while the mean for
performance goal orientation appears similar to that presented by the authors of PALS
(Midgley et al., 2000) in that both means are close to the mid-point (M = 2.21, SD =
.85 in the original sample), the mean indicating a mastery goal orientation appears to be
greater in the current study (M = 3.44, SD = .76 in the original sample) but again the
SDs indicate a dispersion of views.
Correlations between the two school context variables included in this study (socio-
economic level and class level) and the teacher beliefs variables are also shown in
Table 1. As can be seen, the statistically signiﬁcant correlations between teaching efﬁcacy
in instructional strategies, classroom management, and student engagement and socio-
economic level of the school and between a mastery goal orientation and socio-economic
level of the school are negative, indicating that teachers in low socio-economic schools
had higher teaching efﬁcacy and were more likely to have a mastery goal orientation than
were teachers in high socio-economic areas (and the converse). The reader is reminded
of the atypical situation in New Zealand, whereby there is a strong commitment to
ensuring equitable access to educational resources for all students and a professional
ethos among teachers that means that teaching in low socio-economic areas is valued.
The statistically signiﬁcant correlations between class level taught and the various
teacher beliefs were also negative, indicating that teachers with younger students had
greater teacher efﬁcacy for classroom management and student engagement than did
teachers with older students (and vice versa). No statistically signiﬁcant relationships
were found between level of expectation for the class and either of the school context
Gender of teacher was also signiﬁcantly related to the three teacher efﬁcacy subscales.
In all cases, the positive correlations indicate that female teachers had higher teaching
efﬁcacy for each subscale than males. Goal orientation provides a different picture. The
statistically signiﬁcant negative correlation for performance goals indicates that male
teachers were more performance orientated than females. In contrast, the statistically
signiﬁcant correlation for mastery goal orientation indicates that female teachers were
more mastery orientated than males. However, it must be remembered that the small
numbers of male participants in the current study does limit the generalizability of the
results. No statistically signiﬁcant correlations were found between teaching experience
and any of the teacher beliefs variables. Furthermore, there were no statistically
signiﬁcant relationships between class level teacher expectation and gender.
Relationships between types of teacher beliefs
To determine if there was any relationship between teacher expectations, teacher
efﬁcacy, and teacher goal orientation, a series of simultaneous linear regressions were
calculated in which the teacher beliefs were entered to predict teacher expectations,
teacher efﬁcacy (efﬁcacy for instructional strategies, classroom management, and student
engagement), and goal orientation (performance and mastery), in turn. The ﬁrst
280 Christine M. Rubie-Davies et al.
simultaneous regression included teacher efﬁcacy in reading for instructional strategies,
classroom management, and student engagement predicting a mastery goal orientation.
This resulted in an adjusted R2
of .29 (F(3, 64) = 10.21, p < .001) that is a moderate
effect size according to Cohen (1988) (r = .32). This indicates that 29% of the variance
in mastery goal orientation was explained by the model. Both efﬁcacy for student
engagement (␤ = .71, p < .001) and classroom management (␤ = −.41, p < .01) were
signiﬁcant predictors of a mastery goal orientation (see Table 2). However, the negative
beta weight for classroom management suggests that the more efﬁcacious teachers were
about their classroom management strategies, the less likely they were to be mastery
The second simultaneous regression included teacher efﬁcacy in reading for in-
structional strategies, classroom management, and student engagement predicting a
performance goal orientation. This resulted in an adjusted R2
of .02 (F(3, 64) = 1.47,
p > .05), a small effect size (r = .06). This means that only 2% of the variance in
performance goal orientation could be explained by the model. Efﬁcacy for instructional
strategies marginally predicted a performance orientation but in a negative direction
(␤ = −.34, p = .07) meaning that there was a trend for teachers who were more
performance oriented to be less efﬁcacious about their instructional strategies (and vice
versa). Efﬁcacy for classroom management and student engagement did not predict a
performance goal orientation (see Table 2).
The third in this series of simultaneous regressions included teacher efﬁcacy in
reading for instructional strategies, classroom management, and student engagement
predicting class level teacher expectations. No statistically signiﬁcant relationships were
found (see Table 2). Similarly, having a mastery (␤ = .04, p = .75) or a performance goal
orientation (␤ = .05, p = .70) did not predict teacher expectation.
School context and teacher characteristics variables predicting teacher beliefs
Following the preliminary calculation of correlations presented in Table 1, a series of
simultaneous regressions were calculated to further explore whether school context
variables (school socio-economic level and class level), and teacher characteristics
(gender and teaching experience) predicted teacher beliefs (teacher efﬁcacy in reading
for student engagement, instructional strategies and classroom management and teacher
mastery and performance goal orientation) (see Table 3). Because there were no
Table 2. Simultaneous multiple regression analysis summary for teacher efﬁcacy in student engagement,
instructional strategies, and classroom management predicting teacher goal orientation and class
Predicting mastery Predicting performance Predicting teacher class
goal orientation goal orientation level expectation
Teacher efﬁcacy B SEB ␤ B SEB ␤ B SEB ␤
Engagement 0.61 0.14 .71∗∗∗
0.23 0.31 .14 −0.01 0.11 −.02
Instruction 0.13 0.16 .13 −0.66 0.36 −.34†
0.08 0.13 .11
Management −0.43 0.16 −.41∗∗
0.02 0.36 .01 0.13 0.13 .19
Constant 5.58 0.92 8.38 2.03 −0.33 0.74
p Ͻ .10; ∗
p Ͻ .05; ∗∗
p Ͻ .01; ∗∗∗
p Ͻ .001.
282 Christine M. Rubie-Davies et al.
relationships between teacher expectation and either the school context or teacher
characteristics variables, a simultaneous regression was not performed to predict teacher
The ﬁrst simultaneous regression included school socio-economic level (1–10),
class level, gender, and teaching experience (in years) predicting efﬁcacy in student
engagement. This resulted in an adjusted R2
of .25 (F(4, 63) = 5.19, p < .001), which
was a large effect size (r = .50). This means that 25% of the variance in efﬁcacy for student
engagement could be explained by the model. Both school socio-economic level (␤ =
−.31, p < .009) and gender (␤ = .35, p < .002) predicted efﬁcacy in student engagement.
The negative beta weight for school socio-economic level indicates that the lower the
socio-economic level of the school the more likely were teachers to feel efﬁcacious about
student engagement (and vice versa). Furthermore, being female predicted efﬁcacy in
student engagement (see Table 3) (Male: M = 6.44, SD = 0.60; Female: M = 7.24, SD =
0.82). But, again, it must be remembered that the number of male participants was small.
The second simultaneous regression included school socio-economic level, class
level, gender, and teaching experience predicting efﬁcacy in instructional strategies.
This resulted in an adjusted R2
of .29 (F(4, 63) = 7.67, p < .001), which was a large
effect size (r = .57). This means that 29% of the variance in efﬁcacy for instructional
strategies could be explained by the model. Both school socio-economic level (␤ = −.41,
p < .001) and gender (␤ = .43, p < .001) predicted efﬁcacy in instructional strategies.
The negative beta weight for school socio-economic level indicates that the higher the
socio-economic level of the school the less likely were teachers to feel efﬁcacious about
instructional strategies (and vice versa). Furthermore, being female predicted efﬁcacy in
instructional strategies more so than being male (see Table 3). (Male: M = 7.02, SD =
0.54; Female: M = 7.34, SD = 0.66).
The third simultaneous regression included school socio-economic level, class level,
gender, and teaching experience predicting efﬁcacy in classroom management. This
resulted in an adjusted R2
of .26 (F(4, 63) = 5.61, p < .001), which was a large effect
size (r = .51). This means that 26% of the variance in efﬁcacy for classroom management
could be explained by the model. School socio-economic level (␤ = −.41, p < .001) and
gender (␤ = .43, p < .001) predicted efﬁcacy in classroom management. Furthermore,
years of teaching experience marginally predicted efﬁcacy in classroom management
(␤ = .20, p < .08). The negative beta weight for school socio-economic level indicates
that the higher the socio-economic level of the school the less likely were teachers to
feel efﬁcacious about classroom management (and the converse). Furthermore, being
female predicted efﬁcacy in classroom management more so than being male (Male: M =
7.34, SD = 0.66; Female: M = 7.89, SD = 0.67) and there was a trend for more teaching
experience to be associated with more efﬁcacy towards classroom management (see
The fourth simultaneous regression in the series included school socio-economic
level, class level, gender, and teaching experience predicting a mastery goal orientation.
This resulted in an adjusted R2
of .13 (F(4, 63) = 3.57, p < .01), which was a medium
effect size (r = .43). This means that 13% of the variance in mastery goal orientation
could be explained by the model. School socio-economic level (␤ = −.28, p = .02) and
gender (␤ = .32, p = .008) predicted a mastery goal orientation. Hence, being female
predicted a mastery goal orientation more so than being male (Male: M = 7.05, SD =
0.62; Female: M = 7.65, SD = 0.70) and again the negative beta weight for school socio-
economic level suggests that the higher the socio-economic level of the school the less
likely were teachers to have a mastery goal orientation and vice versa (see Table 3).
Teacher efﬁcacy, expectations, and goal orientation 283
The ﬁnal simultaneous regression included school socio-economic level, class level,
gender, and teaching experience predicting a performance goal orientation. This resulted
in an adjusted R2
of .07 (F(4, 63) = 1.18, p = .33). Only gender marginally predicted a
performance goal orientation (␤ = −.24, p = .05), the negative beta indicating a trend
for being male to predict a performance goal orientation (see Table 3) (Male: M = 5.78,
SD = 0.71; Female: M = 4.93, SD = 1.40).
There is a paucity of research that explores the interrelatedness of teacher beliefs’
variables. It seems unlikely, for example, that teachers with beliefs about their efﬁcacy
for teaching will not also have beliefs about how their instruction should be delivered,
and so, it seems opportune to explore types of teacher beliefs as potential moderators
of the instruction ultimately delivered to students. In combination, speciﬁc instructional
beliefs can impact on the instructional decisions that teachers make and therefore on
student opportunity to learn. Furthermore, it seems possible that particular combinations
of beliefs could lead to greater or lesser effects on the ways in which teachers structure
their classrooms and teach lessons. There are already several studies showing that certain
beliefs can lead to greater or lesser effects on student outcomes (e.g., Chacon, 2005;
McKown & Weinstein, 2008). Since teacher expectations may be considered to relate
to where teachers believe their students will get to, teacher efﬁcacy to what teachers
believe they can do to get students there, and goal orientation to how they believe lessons
should be structured, it was predicted that a relationship would be found between these
types of teacher beliefs.
Indeed, a relationship was found between teacher efﬁcacy and teacher goal orienta-
tion (as in the study by Deemer, 2004) and the effect size was moderate. Higher teacher
efﬁcacy for engagement of students predicted a mastery goal orientation. Conversely,
however, there was a negative relationship between efﬁcacy for class management and a
mastery goal orientation. This means that teachers high on efﬁcacy for class management
were less likely to have mastery goal beliefs and those low on class management efﬁcacy
were more likely to have mastery goal beliefs. It may be that teachers who have strong
beliefs in their ability to manage students’ disruptive behaviour have a more planned
approach to management that they are conﬁdent works but which on the other hand
allows teachers to feel able to engage students and provide a range of instructional
strategies with them. On the other hand, Woolfolk, Rosoff, and Hoy (1990) suggest that
less experienced teachers take a more structured approach to management, and the
sample in this study was less experienced than the general teaching population in
New Zealand. So, this may be another explanation for the inverse relationship found
between efﬁcacy in class management and a mastery goal orientation. Interestingly,
though, the means in the current study for efﬁcacy in class management were higher
than those in the sample on which reliability ﬁgures were based, meaning that overall
teachers in this study were conﬁdent in their ability to manage disruptive students.
Although the effect size was small, teacher efﬁcacy for instructional strategies
negatively predicted a performance goal orientation, so teachers who were conﬁdent in
their abilities to cater for student needs were less likely to adhere to performance goals.
Conversely, teachers who were less conﬁdent that they could cater for student needs
were more likely to be performance oriented. This may be expected since teachers who
are high in efﬁcacy for meeting the instructional needs of their students report using a
variety of pedagogical approaches such as experimenting with instructional methods to
284 Christine M. Rubie-Davies et al.
better cater for student needs and using inquiry learning and small group approaches to
teaching (Chacon, 2005; Cousins & Walker, 2000). These approaches do not align well
with the practices of high performance-oriented teachers who have been found to adopt
a strong focus on individual test performance and formal assessments and to use more
class-based approaches to teaching (Anderman et al., 2002).
No relationship was found between teacher class level expectation and teacher
efﬁcacy factors or goal orientation. This was an unexpected ﬁnding since the beliefs and
practices of high expectation teachers (e.g., using ﬂexible grouping, providing students
with choice and autonomy in their learning, managing student behaviour positively,
and using effective teaching practices) (Rubie-Davies, 2007, 2008a) seem to align with
high teacher conﬁdence in teachers’ ability to engage students, manage their behaviour
and use a variety of instructional strategies (teacher efﬁcacy) (Woolfolk Hoy et al.,
2009), and with a mastery approach to teaching (Anderman et al., 2002). However,
to our knowledge, this is the ﬁrst study to explore the interrelatedness of these social
psychological variables and hence is an area that warrants further investigation.
Relationships between teacher characteristics (gender and teaching experience) and
school context variables (class level taught and socio-economic level of the school) and
teacher beliefs (teacher efﬁcacy, goal orientation and class level expectations) were also
explored in this study. Gender (being female) predicted teacher efﬁcacy in all three
areas (instructional strategies, student engagement, and classroom management), and
the effect size was large, although it must be remembered that in the current study
numbers of males was small. Other studies of teacher efﬁcacy have reported a similar
ﬁnding, however (Lee, Buck, & Midgley, 1992; Ross, 1998). One suggestion could be
that teaching (particularly in the primary school levels) is considered by some to be a
predominantly female occupation and that as a result of this, female teachers may reﬂect
more closely the dominant ideology of the school they teach in (Kalaian & Freeman,
1994) and hence may be more comfortable and efﬁcacious in a female environment.
There was a trend for teachers with more teaching experience to have higher efﬁcacy
for classroom management. A ﬁnding of a relationship between overall teaching efﬁcacy
and teaching experience has been reported in other studies (de la Torre Cruz & Arias,
2007; Ross, 1998). However, some studies have found no relationship (Plourde, 2002).
When efﬁcacy for class management is examined rather than overall efﬁcacy, it may
be expected that a relationship would be found since it is would seem reasonable that
teachers with more teaching experience would have more conﬁdence in their ability
to manage their students. Those who were unable to manage students would possibly
leave the profession. Indeed, the ability to manage student behaviour is often reported
by teachers early in their careers as their greatest concern (Veenman, 1984).
The socio-economic level of the school in which teachers was located negatively
predicted efﬁcacy in all three areas (student engagement, instructional strategies, and
class management) and the effect size was large. This is contrary to existing research
that suggests that teachers in low socio-economic areas have lower efﬁcacy than those
in middle-class schools (Bandura, 1993). The result in the current study is thought to
relate to the New Zealand context where, as explained above, many highly experienced
teachers choose to teach in low socio-economic areas. Schools in such areas are well
resourced and there is no status (or lack of it) attached to teaching in poorer communities;
instead, the reverse may be found were it to be investigated. Conversely, teachers in
high socio-economic areas are often under considerable pressure from parents to ensure
successful outcomes for their children and this may affect teachers’ beliefs about their
efﬁcacy. Evidence has also been found in New Zealand of more high expectation teachers
Teacher efﬁcacy, expectations, and goal orientation 285
being found in low socio-economic schools and the opposite (Rubie-Davies, 2006).
Hence, it is acknowledged that the ﬁndings in the current study related to teacher
efﬁcacy, and socio-economic level of the school may not be generalizable to other
Relationships between school contextual variables and teacher factors were also
examined in relation to goal orientation. A similar trend to that reported above was
found in that, again, being female predicted a mastery goal orientation and there was a
negative relationship between the socio-economic level of the school and a mastery goal
orientation. The effect size in this case was moderate. On the other hand, being male
predicted having a performance goal orientation, although the effect size was small.
No studies were located that had examined gender or socio-economic levels in relation
to goal orientation and hence, this study provides a basis on which the evidence into
such relationships can be extended in future studies. Based on the literature related to
teacher efﬁcacy, it would be predicted that the ﬁnding of females having mastery and
males having performance goal orientation would be conﬁrmed. Male students have
been shown to be more performance oriented and females more mastery (Anderman &
The ﬁnding of no relationship between level of teacher expectation and either the
school context variables or the teacher factors is interesting in itself. Previous research
has suggested that teachers in junior classes perhaps have higher expectations for their
students than those in higher levels of schooling (Rubie-Davies, 2006) but this was not
found in the current study. However, the study of Rubie Davies had a much smaller
sample size and so that may have inﬂuenced the results. But in other work by Rubie-
Davies (2007, 2008b), no relationship was shown between school socio-economic level
and teachers’ expectations, a ﬁnding conﬁrmed in the current study. Again, this is
contradictory to the US evidence that suggests teachers have lower expectations for
students in low socio-economic areas (see, e.g., Gill & Reynolds, 1999; McCarty, Abbott-
Shim, & Lambert, 2001; Solomon et al., 1996; Talbert, 1990).
Some limitations to the current study need noting. Firstly, the sample of teachers
involved in the study was quite small and especially the numbers of male teachers. A
consequence of the small number of participants was that this precluded more powerful
analyses such as structural equation modelling. Secondly, the sample was not truly
representative in that more teachers from high socio-economic areas participated and
the proportion of teachers with less experience was greater than the national average.
Thirdly, the criteria set by the authors for schools to be included in the study, meant
that quite a large proportion then became ineligible to participate. Fourthly, despite the
low alpha level found for the mastery goal orientation subscale, it was still used in
the current study mainly because it was the only measure that could be located that
tests teachers’ mastery goal orientation. A ﬁnal limitation in the current study was that
because the small numbers precluded path modelling, the relationships of the teacher
beliefs variables were examined separately as both a cause and an effect rather than
simultaneously. It is acknowledged that these various limitations may have inﬂuenced
the results and limit generalizability.
Nevertheless, several interesting ﬁndings pave the way for future research to further
explore teacher psychosocial variables and their relationships with other school and
teacher factors. Because of the acknowledged inﬂuence of teacher beliefs on teacher
practice, a future study could incorporate larger numbers of teachers to further examine
the interrelationship between teacher beliefs, particularly those investigated in the
current study since as argued above they can theoretically be considered to relate.
286 Christine M. Rubie-Davies et al.
Such research could then also examine the collection of teacher beliefs that were
most beneﬁcial in terms of student outcomes and learning. This could result in a
teacher beliefs proﬁle similar to the teacher instructional proﬁles proffered to align
with effective teaching. Instructional practices do not just happen. They are predicated
on beliefs and hence further exploration in this area could result in understandings
about teachers of which we are not currently cognisant. Such studies could lead to a
theoretical understanding of the combinations of teacher beliefs that are important for
student outcomes. Overall, this preliminary study has uncovered some important and
interesting relationships between various teacher and school variables and between some
teacher psychosocial variables. Constructs such as teacher efﬁcacy, teacher class level
expectations, and teacher goal orientation all recognize the individuality of teachers and
point to a need to consider teacher difference when exploring student learning outcomes
and social development. It may be argued that at times student outcomes vary because
teachers vary in their instructional practices, in their beliefs, in their expectations, in their
efﬁcacy for teaching, in their goal orientation, and in the ways in which they construct
the socio-emotional climate of the classroom, rather than that student outcomes always
vary because students differ. While the authors are not proclaiming that all students are
the same, they are arguing that not all teachers are the same. Hattie (2009) has shown
over a number of years the signiﬁcance of the teacher for student learning. All education
systems have at their core the desire for all students to achieve to their potential and to
become well rounded, socially competent citizens of society. If such ambitions are to
be realized, there is a need for research to consider more closely teacher variables that
potentially inﬂuence student learning. We know much about the instructional practices
that enhance student learning but the core of teaching relates not just to the instructional
environment of the classroom but also to the socio-emotional climate that teachers create
(Babad, 2009; Ennis, 1998). These social relationships depend on teacher attributes and
hence, there is a need for research to explore more closely the inherent qualities of
teachers that facilitate student learning and social outcomes. ‘It is the differences in the
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