Teachers’ ability to cope with the demands of the profession is less to do with their personal characteristics than the amount of workload and management support they receive, new research suggests.
Academics at Manchester Metropolitan University found that the resilience of teachers was influenced more by external factors – such as how a school is run and its culture – rather than internal and personal factors, such as lack of confidence.
Researcher Dr Steph Ainsworth said: “A key implication of the study is that the responsibility for adaptation should not be placed solely at the feet of the teachers.
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“While there might be a place for interventions or training designed to boost teachers’ ability to cope within the workplace, equal attention needs to be paid to the nature of the conditions which teachers are expected to work in.
“We hope that this research is viewed as an empowering message for school leaders to become more mindful about the workspace they create to improve the lives of teachers and the children in their care.”
Researchers say their report, "Quantifying Teacher Resilience", published in the Journal of Teaching and Teacher Education, has implications for school leaders looking to tackle teacher retention issues, and cite research by the NEU teaching union that around one in five teachers plans to leave the profession in less than two years.
They asked a total of 226 teachers in the UK to rate their levels of wellbeing, burnout and job satisfaction.
The teachers were also asked to rate this alongside individual factors such as empathy, self-belief and optimism, and environmental factors such as school culture, workload and relationships with management and colleagues.
More than 72 per cent of the variation in teachers’ levels of job satisfaction and 61 per cent of the variation in teacher burnout was attributed to environmental factors. Positive support from management was seen to be the biggest factor, and workload and school culture were also found to be very important.
Dr Ainsworth added: “If we are to support teachers in thriving not just surviving we need to ensure that teachers are not only protected from burnout, but that they are also satisfied and well.”
“The environmental factors impacting on levels of wellbeing, burnout and job satisfaction can all be manipulated at the school level and are essential to improve the lives of teachers, sustain motivation and provide an effective learning environment for their pupils.
“Positive adaptation to the workplace – or lack of – has an indirect effect on pupils, with satisfied and well teachers creating happier and more productive classrooms.”
The research was also carried out by Jeremy Oldfield. Researchers say the findings also have important implications for perceptions around what it means to be a resilient teacher.