Beginning teachers’ work satisfaction, self-efficacy and willingness to stay in the profession: a question of job demands-resources balance?

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Published: 
November, 2020

Source: Teachers and Teaching, 25:8, 955-971

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In the present study, the authors aim at deepening the knowledge about how the work environment faced by beginning teachers relates to their work satisfaction, self-efficacy and willingness to stay in the profession.
The study aims to gain insight into typical work situations in terms of job demands and job resources among beginning teachers, and to examine the relationships between these work situations and work satisfaction, self-efficacy and willingness to stay at the workplace and/or in the teaching profession.

Method

Study population
The data for this study comes from a larger prospective cohort study of beginning teachers in Sweden (Lärarstudien), which is being conducted at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg.
Baseline data was collected among student teachers attending the final semester of university programmes leading to certification as fully qualified primary or secondary school teachers.
The data was collected at seven southwest Swedish universities between April 2015 and November 2016.
Of the 1485 students who were invited to participate in the study, 637 subjects filled in the questionnaire (response rate = 43%).
The collection of follow-up data took place between April 2016 and November 2017.
In total, 397 individuals filled in the follow-up questionnaire, for a response rate of 62 percent.
Out of these respondents, 346 reported that they were currently working as teachers.
The final sample used for analysis consisted of 328 subjects.

Data analysis
In order to identify natural categories for individuals’ work situations based on their psychosocial work environment a sequence of cluster analyses was performed.
In a cluster analysis, individuals with a similar response pattern to a set of variables are grouped (i.e. clustered) together.
The number of clusters depends on whether the cluster solution can generate significant differences in variable means between clusters and on how interpretable the clusters are.
The main advantage of this method is that it considers the complexity of a social phenomenon (e.g. the work environment); because it enables the study of different combinations of independent variables—in this case, job demands and job resources.

Findings and discussion
The findings of this study suggest that the balance between job demands and job resources varies among beginning teachers, and that this balance is associated with teachers’ work satisfaction, self-efficacy, and willingness to stay in the profession, and at the workplace.
A cluster analysis of four job demands and five job resources resulted in the identification of four typical work situations for beginning teachers.
The most common situation (n = 148) can be described as a balanced situation, with average levels of job demands corresponding with average levels of job resources.
Teachers in the second-most common situation (n = 103) perceived the highest levels of empowering leadership, social support, decision authority and role clarity, while reporting low psychological and emotional demands.
This work situation can be said to be an advantageous one.
The teachers in these first two situations demographically resembled the sample.
Their situation may also reflect the overall picture of working as a teacher in Sweden, where nine out of ten, on the whole, are satisfied with their work, and eight out of ten think that the benefits of being a teacher clearly outweigh the disadvantages (SNAE, 2019).
The less favourable work situations were characterised by two types of work environmental problems: a clear imbalance between job demands and resources, and the presence of threats.
The first of these situations can be characterised as a pressed situation (n = 43), with high levels of psychological and emotional demands combined with low levels of job resources.
Men, and teachers who reported that teaching had not been their first choice, were over-represented in this situation, as compared with the sample average.
Furthermore, only 10 percent of the teachers in this group had at least one teacher parent, compared with 20–23 percent in the other clusters.
The fourth and final situation (n = 34) was characterised by high levels of threats in every day work, as well as high levels of psychological and emotional demands.
Having to deal with pupils abusing you verbally while you perform your job is, of course, an extraordinary job stressor.
Although, a very small proportion (5%) of Swedish school principals report incidents related to intimidation or verbal abuse of teachers or staff in general, Sweden is among the countries where this phenomenon is most common across the OECD (OECD, 2019).
Fortunately, this was the most uncommon work situation of the sample of beginning teachers.
The overall picture in the OECD, as well as in Sweden, is that students and teachers get along very well (ibid.)

The four work situations clearly differ in terms of the teachers’ work satisfaction, self-efficacy and willingness to stay at the workplace and in the teaching profession.
Teachers in the advantageous situation were the most satisfied with their work and perceived themselves as having the highest levels of self-efficacy.
Teachers in the pressed situation were the least satisfied with their work and, together with teachers who experience threats, reported the lowest levels of self-efficacy.
Similar patterns were observed in terms of willingness to stay at the workplace and in the teaching profession.
For example, 30 percent of the teachers in a pressed situation and 15 percent of the threatened teachers reported that they wanted to leave their workplace, as compared with 9 percent in the total sample.
In contrast, 64 percent of the teachers in the advantageous situation wanted to stay at their current workplace, and nine out of ten teachers in this situation wanted to continue their teaching career.

The findings from this study indicate that new teachers can encounter very different work situations in terms of job demands and job resources when starting their careers.
If the objective is to assist new teachers to remain in the profession, the findings suggest that policy makers, school heads and senior colleagues could boost managerial and social support, clarify the professional role, and provide decision authority to new teachers.
They should also check that the quantitative and emotional demands are at an adequate level and ensure that new teachers who are exposed to threats are taken care of.
Induction programmes can help to retain beginning teachers in the profession and increase their work satisfaction and performance (Ingersoll, 2012).
The preparedness of Swedish schools to receive beginning teachers seems well developed: only 5% of the Swedish lower secondary school heads report that there are no induction activities for beginning teachers compared to an OECD average of 13% and eight out of ten heads report that there are mentor programmes at their schools (OECD average 64%) (SNAE, 2019).
This provides a fertile soil for improved induction.
What appears to be evident from this study, however, is that induction programmes to support new teachers must be well adapted to context (cf. Tynjälä & Heikkinen, 2011).
For example, schools that can offer their new teachers a balanced—or even advantageous—work situation could invest in newcomers’ pedagogical development or subject skills, while schools that struggle with teacher victimisation or high levels of emotional strain should find ways to first reduce these demands or strengthen job resources to compensate for a though work situation.
Rather than generic induction policy and generalised support, the workplace comes to the fore as an important arena for tailored interventions aimed at retaining newcomers in the teaching profession and strengthening their self-efficacy and work satisfaction.
The main practical implication of this study is that induction programmes designed to support new teachers should be tailored to meet the characteristics of specific workplaces.
Because they find themselves in different work situations, new teachers face different challenges, and we need to able to consider several factors at the same time to grasp the complexity of any given work situation.
Policy makers, school heads and senior colleagues could be inspired by the holistic approach presented in this paper and adjust working conditions in a way that assist new teachers to discover the joy and fulfilments of the teaching profession.

References
Ingersoll, R. (2012). Beginning teacher induction: What the data tell us. Phi Delta Kappan, 93(8), 47–51.
OECD. (2019). TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I) Teachers and school leaders as lifelong learners. The changing landscape of teaching. Paris: Author. Retreived from
https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/talis-2018-results-volume-i_686...
SNAE. (2019). TALIS 2018. (Report No 481.) Stockholm: Skolverket
Tynjälä, P., & Heikkinen, H. L. T. (2011). Beginning teachers’ transition from pre-service education to working life. Zeitschrift Für Erziehungswissenschaft, 14(1), 11–33. 

Updated: Feb. 27, 2021
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