Exploring Language Teacher Efficacy in Japan

Book Writer & Publisher: 
Gene Thompson. (2020). Multilingual Matters
Peter Ferguson, Kindai University

[Gene Thompson. (2020). Multilingual Matters. pp. xv + 183. ¥4,644. ISBN: 1788925386.]

Exploring Language Teacher Efficacy in Japan is an indispensable book that combines a comprehensive review of the theoretical framework of language teacher efficacy (LTE) with up-to-date research in one volume. The book is one of nine in the series Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching by Multilingual Matters, and constitutes an essential volume which provides a clear and concise investigation into the complexities of measuring LTE in an English as a foreign language context.

Self-efficacy refers to the belief a person has towards their ability to successfully complete certain tasks, both individually and collectively in groups. This self-assessment is influenced by both experience and environmental factors, along with perceptions of failure, anxiety, and self-doubt. In terms of education, “teachers’ beliefs in their efficacy affects their general orientation toward the educational process as well as their specific instructional activities” (Bandura, 1997, p. 241). With the increasing demand for communicative language teaching and the use of English as a medium of instruction, there is an expanding interest in teacher efficacy in the fields of applied linguistics and teacher education. Nevertheless, teacher efficacy and collective efficacy remain complex constructs to measure (e.g., Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2007; Walter & Sponseller, 2020), which is why Exploring Language Teacher Efficacy in Japan is such an important contribution.

Exploring Language Teacher Efficacy in Japan is divided into eleven chapters with chapter 1 orienting the reader to the topic of LTE. Chapter 2 then provides a well-written summary of Bandura’s social cognitive theory, showing how efficacy beliefs are conceptualized within the theory, before describing how self-efficacy beliefs differ from other self-constructs, while also dispelling some more commonly held misconceptions. Chapter 3 outlines the growing field of LTE research to provide the reader with a clear understanding of this expanding area of research before focusing on Japan. Chapter 4, entitled Approaches for Investigating Language Teacher Efficacy, introduces the survey utilized, with chapter 5 then describing the complexities of designing an effective survey with which to accurately measure LTE. Readers unfamiliar with LTE research will probably find these two chapters particularly noteworthy, as the author provides a very accessible account of the key issues and challenges of measuring language teacher efficacy beliefs. The next two chapters present the findings of the study and discuss the connection between LTE and teachers’ English proficiency. In chapters 8, 9, and 10, the author explores the topics of LTE and English as a means of classroom instruction for high school teachers, the importance of collective efficacy in LTE, and the development of LTE beliefs. Exploring Language Teacher Efficacy in Japan concludes by looking toward the future and identifying where more research is needed.

Overall, Exploring Language Teacher Efficacy in Japan not only contributes greatly to our understanding of LTE, but also provides an excellent framework for readers who might be interested in researching this increasingly important subject. The book is skillfully written, and covers complex concepts with succinct prose, making it very accessible for language teachers and others interested in this topic. Another strength is that it explains in detail the rigors involved in designing a Likert-scale questionnaire to effectively measure a complex construct within a particular context. Policymakers, researchers, educators, and postgraduate students interested in LTE or education in Japan will find this book extremely informative.

One possible shortcoming is that, although broadly titled “in Japan,” readers should be aware that the research focuses solely on high schools and does not cover universities, junior high schools, or elementary schools. In addition, while the fairly concise nature of each chapter might be a positive aspect for some readers, it may also leave other readers wanting a little more. A list of suggested readings and a few discussion questions at the end of each chapter might have increased the book’s practical reach and created more opportunities for use in both undergraduate and graduate classrooms on general education and second language acquisition. Another point of criticism is the author’s overgeneralization of the relationship between collective efficacy and culture. Bandura accurately warns against oversimplifying cross-cultural comparisons that mistakenly equate collective-efficacy beliefs with collectivism, then incorrectly attribute those psychosocial properties to culture (Bandura, 2002). A more detailed and in-depth analysis of collective efficacy would have surely strengthened the book’s overall conclusions.

These are, however, minor criticisms that do not greatly remove from what is an extremely informative and well-written book on a complex topic. Exploring Language Teacher Efficacy in Japan is, in my opinion, a must-read for anyone interested in either teacher education, both pre- and in-service, or language education in Japan.


Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. Freeman.

Bandura, A. (2002). Social cognitive theory in cultural context. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 51(2), 269-290. https://doi.org/10.1111/1464-0597.00092

Tschannen-Moran, M., & Hoy, A. W. (2007). The differential antecedents of self-efficacy beliefs of novice and experienced teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23, 944-956. https:// doi:10.1016/j.tate.2006.05.003

Walter, B. R., & Sponseller, A. C. (2020). ALT, JTE, and team teaching: Aligning collective efficacy. In P. Clements, A. Krause, & R. Gentry (Eds.), Teacher efficacy, learner agency. Tokyo: JALT. https://doi.org/10.37546/JALTPCP2019-04