Teachers do more than teach. They foster social responsibility, broaden imaginations, and offer encouragement and support. The way a teacher perceives his or her job can directly impact any influence on students—academically, behaviorally, and emotionally. In previous research, elements such as teaching efficacy, overall stress, and job satisfaction have been looked at as markers of teacher well-being. However, school climate—the environment of the school support, staff interaction, and student behavior and attitude—has not been thoroughly examined relative to teacher well-being. Rebecca J. Collie of the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia thought analyzing how school climate was perceived by teachers, and how it affected efficacy, satisfaction, and stress, was an important and overlooked area of research.
Collie recently led a study in which she surveyed 664 middle and elementary school teachers. She asked them to describe how they perceived their school climates and how it affected their perceptions of their own abilities, satisfaction with their jobs, and stress. She also asked the teachers to report how they felt about social-emotional learning (SEL), a relatively new aspect of teaching that encourages teachers to build social, emotional, and moral foundations into the academic platform. With regard to stress, Collie looked specifically at stress arising from student behavior and workload stress.
The results revealed that SEL was important to teacher efficacy and satisfaction. The teachers that felt most comfortable with delivering SEL components had lower levels of stress and higher levels of self-efficacy and job satisfaction. When Collie looked at school climate, she found that teachers who felt they had motivated and well-behaved students reported less stress and, again, high levels of satisfaction and efficacy. Student behavior problems directly increased stress and decreased efficacy. Increases in stress decreased job satisfaction, and workload stress decreased overall efficacy.
Collie noted that the results from this study, although robust in nature, were not without limitations. In particular, there is no way to determine if the teachers interpreted the questions as they were intended. In addition, the responses could have been biased, as the teachers were not assessed for uniqueness that could have influenced their answers. Despite these factors, Collie believes these findings are significant and can have a big impact on student and teacher outcomes. “The findings clearly indicate that researchers and policy makers need to consider the complexity of relationships among variables when examining or implementing policy related to teacher well-being and motivation,” she said.
Collie, Rebecca J., Jennifer D. Shapka, and Nancy E. Perry. School climate and social-emotional learning: Predicting teacher stress, job satisfaction, and teaching efficacy. Journal of Educational Psychology 104.4 (2012): 1189-204. Print.
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