Teacher Academic Optimism: Secondary Teacher

Teacher Academic Optimism is a set of beliefs held by individual teachers that:

Conceptual Roots

Teacher academic optimism evolved from general work on positive psychology, which goes beyond the traditional focus on illness and pathology to look human experience in terms of well-being, hope, and fulfillment; that is, academic optimism is rooted in humanist psychology. The theoretical foundations of academic optimism are Albert Bandura's social cognitive and self-efficacy theories, James Coleman's social capital theory, Wayne Hoy and his colleagues' work on culture and climate, and Martin Seligman's study of learned optimism.

Specifically, teacher academic optimism has the same conceptual bases as collective academic optimism (Hoy, Tarter, Woolfolk Hoy, 2006). The construct is multidimensional with three important and related facets: self-efficacy, trust, and academic emphasis. Self-efficacy is an individual belief or expectation; it is cognitive. Trust is an affective response. Academic emphasis is a focus on learning and a press for particular behaviors in schools; it is behavioral. Thus, academic optimism is conceived as a triadic set of interactions with each element functionally dependent on the other. The three facets interact with each other to produce a positive force for learning. These elements are not only similar in nature and function but also in their potent and positive influence on student achievement; in fact, Hoy and his colleagues (Hoy et al., 2006) have demonstrated at the collective level that the three properties of schools come together in a unified fashion to create a positive academic environment.

Recently, Hoy and his colleagues (Fahy, Wu, & Hoy, 2010) have confirmed that teacher sense of academic optimism is also an individual concept with essentially the same structure as its collective counterpart: sense of efficacy, trust in students and parents, and academic emphasis. In fact, optimism is a latent construct composed of these three personal components (Fahy, Wu, & Hoy, 2010). Download this paper by clicking on the icon at the upper right side of this page.

Measure of Individual Academic Optimism for Secondary Teachers:
Teacher Academic Optimism Scale (TAOS-S)

The measurement of academic optimism at the individual level is comprised of three parts. First measure teacher sense of self-efficacy, then teacher trust in students and parents, and finally, the teacher's academic press for achievement. An index of teacher sense of academic optimism is the created by combining the measures of these three components of academic optimism. The item means and standard deviations below are from a typical set of secondary teachers (Fahy, Wu, & Hoy, 2010).

Teacher Sense of Self Efficacy Items
  • 1. I can motivate my students who show low interest in school work.
  • 2. I can get students to believe they will do well in school.
  • 3. I can get students to follow classroom rules.
Scale Mean = 7.53 Standard Deviation = 1.211 Alpha = .85

Trust in Student and Parents Items
  • 4. Most of my students are honest.
  • 5. My students' parents are reliable.
  • 6. I trust my students.
Scale Mean = 3.41 Standard Deviation = .856 Alpha = .87

Academic Emphasis Items
  • 7. I press my students to achieve academically.
  • 8. I give my students challenging work.
  • 9. I set high, but attainable goals for my students.
Scale Mean = 4.43 Standard Deviation = .756 Alpha = .83

TAOS-S (Teacher Academic Optimism Scale for Secondary Teachers)

Clicking on the pdf icon at the top right of this page will download the questionnaire containing all these items as well the scoring directions.

Scoring TOAS-S

  1. Self-Efficacy (SE): Sum the scores of items 1, 2, and 3, then divide by 3.
  2. Trust (T): Sum the scores of items 4, 5, and 6, then divide by 3.
  3. Academic Emphasis (AE): ): Sum scores for items 7, 8, and 9, then divide by 3.
  4. Standardize each of the three subtest scores as follows:

    Standard Score for Self-Efficacy (SSSE) = [100X(SE-7.53)/1.211] +500
    Standard Score for Trust (SST) = [100X(T-3.41)/ .856] + 500
    Standard Score for Acad. Emphasis (SSAE) = [100X(AE-4.43)/ .756] + 500
  5. Then follow the formula below:

    Academic Optimism = [(SSSE)+(SST)+(SSAE)] divided by 3

Interpreting the Teacher Academic Optimism Score for Secondary Teachers (TAOS-S)

This academic optimism score for an elementary teacher can be interpreted by comparing a teacher's score with a typical set of elementary teachers. The scores have been standardized using the earlier formulas such that the mean for a typical elementary teacher is 500. Thus, a score of 650 on academic optimism represents a very high score just as a score of 350 depicts a very pessimistic view on academic optimism. Most teacher scores, however, fall between these extremes. The range and interpretation is based upon the normal distribution.

If the score is 200, it is lower than 99% of the schools.
If the score is 300, it is lower than 97% of the schools.
If the score is 400, it is lower than 84% of the schools.
If the score is 500, it is average.
If the score is 600, it is higher than 84% of the schools.
If the score is 700, it is higher than 97% of the schools.
If the score is 800, it is higher than 99% of the schools.


Fahy, P. F., Wu, H. C., & Hoy, W. K. (2010). Individual academic optimism of teachers: A new concept and its measure. In Wayne K. Hoy & Michael DiPaola (eds.). Analyzing school contexts: Influences of principals and teachers in the service of students. Greenwich, CN: Information Age.

Hoy, W. K., Tarter, C. J., & Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2006). Academic optimism of schools: A force for student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 43, 425-446.

Ohio State School of Education
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