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Teacher Wellbeing and Student Success

Introduction and Background of the study

The wellbeing and mental health of qualified secondary and primary school teachers can affect the wellbeing and mental health of students or pupils and their academic or educational performance (Naghieh et al., 2015). Evidence suggests that the teaching field has also often come out as a highly stressful occupation (Health and Safety Executive, 2020). For example, in the United Kingdom, individuals working in the teaching or education sector have reported significantly higher degrees of lower wellbeing and work-related stress than the expected average across the other industries (Health and Safety Executive, 2020). One of the reasons why the area of teachers’ wellbeing and mental health is an important research area is because it affects the emotional and social wellbeing of students or pupils (Naghieh et al., 2015). Evidence has also shown that the wellbeing and mental health of professionals is impacted by their relationship with the work environment and work. Work settings that put too much pressure or high demands on people, without sufficient support and control to satisfy the demands might lead to poor wellbeing and mental health of the individuals (NICE, 2009). Some of the reasons which teachers have highlighted as making them feeling stressed included workload pressures like administrative paperwork and challenging student or pupil behaviour (Porter, 2014).

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According to Naghieh et al. (2015), high work-related stress levels are also linked to different physical challenges like increased cases of cardiovascular illnesses. The stress has also been found to cause mental health problems like depression (Naghieh et al., 2017). As noted by Naghieh et al. (2017), high stress levels has also been found to affect professionals by causing high cases of absenteeism. In the United Kingdom, for example, evidence by Health and Safety Executive (2020) demonstrated that work-related stress, anxiety and depression cause more than 54% of absenteeism or lost working days between 2018 and 2019. Iancu et al. (2017) opine that long-term work-related stressors often result in burnout, characterised by professionals feeling detached and emotionally exhausted, showing of cynical attitudes to one’s own job and professional inefficacy. These authors also claim that burnout results in physical health challenges like high blood pressure. Moreover, people who continue their work in stressful work settings, regardless of their burnout, performs sub-optimally in their duties and show low job commitment and satisfaction (Iancu et al., 2017).

Mulholland, McKinlay and Sproule (2017) note that the Health and Safety Executive identifies several aspects of a teacher’s, or any other professional’s work settings, which might lead to stress that is work related. According to these authors, demands, especially that are related to work patterns, work setting and workload puts significant pressure and stress on teachers. There is also the challenge of organisational change, especially how it is communicated or managed, relationships with other colleagues and whether positive working practices are promoted, for instance, by avoiding unacceptable behaviour and resolving conflicts (Mulholland, McKinlay and Sproule, 2017).

Lastly and importantly to this paper is the issue of support. Mulholland, McKinlay and Sproule (2017) say that the lack of support, in terms of resources and encouragement by colleagues, the management or the institution has also been linked to significant stress. According to NICE (2009), work settings which put a lot of pressure and demand on professionals without offering them enough support and control to satisfy these demands or meet the pressures can lead to poor wellbeing and mental health problems.

There are limited research that have been conducted to assess the ways in which teachers’ wellbeing and mental health are supported, whether there is enough support in this regard. There are studies which have concentrated, however, on the prevention of the issues and causes of mental health issues, instead of promoting positive wellbeing and mental health, for instance, by coming up with measures to promote positive wellbeing and mental health of these professionals. This paper aims to research and shed light on whether there is enough support for the teachers’ wellbeing and mental health and the kind of measures which are being used to achieve this.

The drivers of work-related stress for teachers

Evidence has consistently shown that teachers experience increased risk of mental health challenges than individuals working in other professions (Kidger et al., 2016). According to Health and Safety Executive (2020), the overall rate of prevalence for work-associated stress, anxiety or depression for individuals employed in secondary and primary education in the UK is substantially higher compared to the overall levels across other sectors. As noted by Kidger et al. (2016) in their research, school teachers often report higher psychological distress than expected. Kidger et al. (2016) provides an example where they found that about 20% of teaches in eight secondary schools within Bristol and its neighbouring had between moderate to serious or severe depression than the 10% normal score for the rest of the UK population.

Teachers are met with numerous potential stressors at work, as noted in the introduction section, like workload pressures, external and relational problems (McCallum, Price and Graham, 2017). According to these authors, work-related stress comes in many forms, including insufficient non-contact time necessary for lesson planning. These authors also note that administrative paperwork is a significant workload-related stressor. One of the reasons that make these workload related issues to be significant stressors is because they affect teachers performance and pupil’s academic outcomes (Paterson and Grantham, 2016). Other stressors which teachers experience are associated with relational aspects, including their connection with students, parents and colleagues. According to Acton and Glasgow (2015), student misbehaviour, challenging situations involving parents of students or pupils and parents, as well the lack of necessary support from leaders and the management negatively affects the mental health of teachers. According to Harding et al. (2019), the relationship between the quality of relationship between a pupil and a teacher, a teacher’s mental wellbeing and health and academic performance is complex and inter-related. These authors claim that when teachers have poor mental health, they find difficulty in developing supportive and positive relationships with the students or effectively control classroom behaviour.

Iancu et al. (2017) claim that teacher burnout is associated with poor classroom instruction and low teaching quality, and high risk of bad pupil classroom behaviour. In their cross section study by Harding et al. (2019), in Wales and England involving 25 secondary schools, it was found that lower depression and good teacher wellbeing were directly linked to low pupil mental direst and better wellbeing. To support these findings, Gutman and Vorhaus (2012) claim that students with higher emotional and social wellbeing often show better performance in schools.

Lastly, evidence has also found that there are external stressors which affect teachers’ mental health and the eventual performance and mental health of pupils or students (Acton and Glasgow, 2015). According to these authors, teachers’ mental health is also often affected by external influencers such as new policy initiatives, especially those that affect and change school systems. When new policies change the normal way or the operation which teachers are used to, they may become stressed and resistant to this change. They may not perform as well as they previously did, which may lead to low student performance and mental health issues in the students (Acton and Glasgow, 2015).

In a study conducted by Ravalier and Walsh (2017), the authors summarised the drivers of work-related stressors to include inadequate levels of staffing, which often tend to increase the workload, changes in education systems which, for instance, change the curriculum, inadequate support for the needs of pupils or teachers and heavy administrative paperwork (Porter, 2014).

The current status of the mental health of teachers

In an EIS member survey conducted by The Educational Institute of Scotland (2019) in 2018 in Scotland, where 28% of the total of 48000 teachers took part in the study. Of the number that took part, about 60% of them reported often feeling stressed in their jobs and stations on typical days of the week. Ravalier and Walsh (2017), in their study that aimed to look at the wellbeing and working conditions, in a survey that involved about 2835 secondary and primary school teachers and about 1296 EIS members working in universities or colleges, including in management roles and other positions, it was found that teachers were affected with high stress levels compared to the average levels experienced by the general population, mainly because of poor conditions in the workplace. Ravalier and Walsh (2017) concluded that as compared to the professionals working in other fields, secondary and primary school teachers had worse working conditions which lead to severe mental health problems like stress and depression.

In another study carried out by Porter (2014), the researcher focused on examining the wellbeing and job satisfaction levels of lecturers and teachers, a research that was commission by EIS. Participants from high education, nursery education and special education (about 53800 participants in total) were invited to take part. Of the number that eventually took part in the study (an eighth of the 53800), 44% of the primary education teachers, 49% of the secondary school teachers who took part in the study reported high stress levels at all times when at work.

The evidence shows a general trend in the level of stress that both primary and secondary school teachers experience while at work, with about half of the teachers experiencing work-related stressors. It is imperative, therefore, to examine the types of support that have been offered to help them overcome the mental health challenges these professionals experience.

Support measures that exist for the mental health of teachers

Different strategies have been proposed to help reduce the mental health problems causing stressors. One approach include interventions which are mindfulness-based, which target to improve the mental wellbeing of teachers or relieve mental distress (Lomas et al., 2017; Klingbeil and Renshaw, 2018). Other approaches include the strategies used to alleviate teacher burnout as noted by Iancu et al. (2017) and organisational interventions that target to eliminate work-related stressors ad improve teachers’ wellbeing and mental health (Naghieh et al., 2015).

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Mindfulness-based approaches

Mindfulness-based interventions seek to improve the wellbeing of teachers (Emerson et al., 2017). Additionally, they are meant to relieve teachers of psychological stress. According to Emerson et al. (2017), Mindfulness-based approaches target helping teachers to identify and control their responses or reactions to stressful situations thus enabling them to reduce the levels of stress experienced. These authors also note that mindfulness-based methods are important and beneficial across different mental health challenges and outcomes. According to Emerson et al. (2017), mindfulness-based approaches have shown significant improvement in situations where teachers have suffered from depression and anxiety (Emerson et al., 2017). Lomas et al. (2017) also found that this approach is effective in reducing teacher burnout (Lomas et al., 2017). These authors claim that mindfulness-based interventions have shown positive results in improving the wellbeing of teachers. For example, the group intervention approach has been found to reduce the pressure and stresses related to work. The positive results associated with group interventions have been associated with the social support offered and the mindfulness element. Additionally, Bagnall, Jones, Akter and Woodall (2016) note that mindfulness approaches like group interventions have shorter follow up and it is easy to find out whether the method is actually relieving teachers of the work-related stress.

Teacher burnout interventions

In a study conducted by Iancu et al. (2017), it is noted that teacher burnout can be dealt with using several broad approaches. One of these methods is cognitive-behavioural therapy which seeks to determine the causes of maladaptive behaviours that lead to mental health problems and find ways of correcting or coping with them. Another method that has already been noted is the mindfulness approach, as well as the use of meditation approaches. According to Iancu et al. (2017), professional development, that is, the programs which equip teachers with better knowledge and skills for classroom management and student interaction have been found to reduce teacher burnout. These authors also note that teacher burnout has been successfully overcome using psycho-educational approaches that increase the knowledge that teachers have about mental health, stress and burnout.

Social support, received from colleagues while working on group work also been associated with reduced stress levels for teachers. Teachers have also been found to benefit significantly from socio-emotional skills gained from programs which are meant to improve this area. Through such programs, teachers have learned different stress management and coping techniques. Other approaches that have helped teachers reduce the mental effect of burnout include expressive writing, the use of positive psychology method and doing physical exercises (Iancu et al., 2017).

In Iancu’s and colleagues (2017) meta-analysis, the effect of these interventions on burnout and its three components, including personal accomplishment, depersonalisation and emotional exhaustion, were collectively effective. Mindfulness-based interventions also reported significant impacts on personal accomplishment and emotional exhaustion. Cognitive behavioural therapy was found to be particularly effective in reducing emotional exhaustion related to burnout. Furthermore, Iancu et al. (2017) found social support to be helpful in dealing with personal accomplishment related stress. Of all these interventions, it was, however, found that none was effective on dealing with the depersonalisation burnout component (Iancu et al., 2017).

Organisational interventions

These forms of interventions have been used to deal with stressors found at work instead of tackling individual stress response (Naghieh et al., 2015). These researcher note that organisational interventions are usually used to target transforming organisation conditions and characteristics, for instance, transforming school ethos, the school climate or policies. Additionally, these interventions seek to change the role conditions or characteristics like role conflicts and the senior management practice. Naghieh et al. (2015) note that these interventions have also be applied in changing task conditions or characteristics like the work environment and workload. These interventions have also been employed in improving teacher’s wellbeing and lowering their work related stress. According to (Naghieh et al., 2015), changing the characteristics of a task significantly influences the stress levels and job-related depression and anxiety.

Written emotional disclosure methods

In this intervention, teachers experiencing mental health issues write privately concerning their feelings and thoughts around the experiences which they see as traumatic or stressful (Ashley, O'Connor and Jones, 2013). This intervention has been found to be beneficial in improving the physical and psychological wellbeing of teachers who have used it. According to Ashley, O'Connor and Jones (2013), in a randomised control study where 126 teachers from secondary and primary schools who volunteered were asked to note down, for about 20 minutes, each day for three days, about any type and the number of traumatic or stressful experiences they usually meet at work. They were also asked to highlight a single traumatic or stressful experience they have had, work-associated stressful incidences and daily activities without being emotional or while trying to control their emotions. Even though this approach was found to be a positive reflection for the teachers on how to identify the different stressful situations they experienced daily at work, Ashley, O'Connor and Jones (2013) found no statistically substantial impact of writing about traumatic or stressful experiences on their physical or psychological health.

Classroom management programme-The incredible years

The efficiency of the Incredible Years training program for teachers has also been studied to examine whether it has helped to reduce the stress levels, anxiety or depression experienced by teachers at work. This program is meant for children, teachers and parents and targets treating children and young individual’s problematic behaviours, as well as promoting academic, emotional and social competence (Webster-Stratton, 2012). According to Hayes et al. (2020), teachers who took part in this researchers’ Incredible Years’ programme study did not show statistically significant changes in their burnout levels or their mental health and wellbeing state (Hayes et al., 2020).

Rationale of the study
Aim of the study

The aim of this research will be to evaluate the effectiveness of current interventions to support for teachers’ mental health.

Research Questions
  • What is the current status of the mental health of teachers in the UK?
  • What are the drivers of work-related stress for teachers?
  • How effective are current interventions to support teachers’ mental health?
Research Objectives
  • To determine the current state of the mental health of teachers in the United Kingdom.
  • To determine the drivers of work-related stress for the teaching profession.
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of current interventions to support teachers’ mental health
Paradigm of the study

This research will use the Interpretative Paradigm. This the preferred approach because this is a qualitative research that seeks to determine if the current frameworks used to support teachers’ mental health are effective or sufficient (Alase, 2017). In the interpretive paradigm, the assumption is that human behavior is both multilayered and cannot be determined based on the probabilistic model. The assumption is that human behavior depends on prevailing situations and is influenced by environmental factors (Alase, 2017). This approach is suitable because it enables the researcher to examine human behavior in daily life and not a controlled environment. In this research, the effectiveness of existing interventions used in supporting the mental health of teachers will be examined, how helpful they are in real life in supporting teacher’s mental health and behavior.

Research Methodology
Introduction

This research intends to follow the systematic literature review approach to determine if there is enough support for teachers’ Mental Health. Specific literature which show the state of teachers’ mental health and the stressors which they experience in the workplace will be evaluated critically. The findings in this review will be synthesised qualitatively to find the relationship between the existing interventions and how effectively they support teachers’ mental health. Additionally, peer reviewed literature which show the current support that are offered to teachers will be evaluated. The literature will be used to show whether there is enough support for teachers’ mental health. Articles from trusted sources will be used. To be specific, peer reviewed literature will be selected from Google Scholar and PsychINFO using several key words including mental health, school environment, teacher burnout, teacher mental health, and teacher support and teacher resilience. These key words will be used together with the Boolean search technique which employs different conjunctions as explained below to narrow down the search results.

Systematic literature review

The systematic review collates empirical evidence which fits a certain eligibility criteria to answer a research question (Xiao and Watson, 2019). According to Xiao and Watson (2019), systematic review targets at reducing bias, making it appropriate for this research. In line with (Xiao and Watson, 2019), systematic review will help me define the research question in this paper clearly, with the help of an exclusion and inclusion criteria. It allows a systematic and rigorous systematic search of evidence. Additionally, this approach allows for critical appraisal of included literature. This method has also been chosen because it follows a rigorous approach of data extraction, management, and analysis. Results can then be synthesised, managed and interpreted. The results can then be published to support a research question and other views to solve problems or fill research gaps in the public sphere (Xiao and Watson, 2019).

The Boolean Technique

The Boolean search approach is also preferred in this research because, using what are known as Boolean operators or conjunctions such as NOT, OR and AND, in upper case and parenthesis in searching for data, it can help the researcher to receive more targeted results (Aliyu, 2017). Typing the key words in parenthesis and using Boolean operators such as NOT in the upper case can help eliminate what is not expected in the results output. This way, only relevant pieces of evidence will be accessed (Aliyu, 2017).

The exclusion and inclusion criteria

Only relevant pieces of peer reviewed literature discussing support for teachers’ mental health will be used. Additionally, the research will include recent literature, not older than 2012. Lastly, papers written only in English will be used in this study. Papers which highlight the mental health approaches or interventions which have been used to support the mental health of teachers will particularly be preferred.

Analysis of data

Data will be analysed and thematically categorised into different effective interventions used in supporting teachers’ mental health. Effective interventions will be evaluated and compared as the main results of the review.

Limitations

By mainly focusing on secondary data, the research will miss out on the opportunity to assess real teachers on the ground, the types of interventions they use and how effective they are, thereby failing to provide first-hand information on this question. The systematic literature review will be limited in the number or types of interventions assessed. The research will likely fail in assessing some really useful interventions used by schools in different settings.

Ethics

The researcher will seek ethical approval from the university to continue with this research. Secondary data from any learning institution, where applicable, will only be acquired and used after being consented by the respective institution. The data will be used appropriately, maintaining confidentiality where necessary.

References

Aliyu, M.B., 2017. Efficiency of Boolean search strings for Information retrieval. American Journal of Engineering Research, 6(11), pp.216-222.

Alase, A., 2017. The interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA): A guide to a good qualitative research approach. International Journal of Education and Literacy Studies, 5(2), pp.9-19.

Acton, R. and Glasgow, P., 2015. Teacher wellbeing in neoliberal contexts: A review of the literature. Australian journal of teacher education, 40(8), p.6.

Ashley, L., O’Connor, D.B. and Jones, F., 2013. A randomized trial of written emotional disclosure interventions in school teachers: Controlling for positive expectancies and effects on health and job satisfaction. Psychology, health & medicine, 18(5), pp.588-600.

Bagnall, A., Jones, R., Akter, H. and Woodall, J.R., 2016. Interventions to prevent burnout in high risk individuals: Evidence review.

Emerson, L.M., Leyland, A., Hudson, K., Rowse, G., Hanley, P. and Hugh-Jones, S., 2017. Teaching mindfulness to teachers: A systematic review and narrative synthesis. Mindfulness, 8(5), pp.1136-1149.

Hayes, R., Titheradge, D., Allen, K., Allwood, M., Byford, S., Edwards, V., Hansford, L., Longdon, B., Norman, S., Norwich, B. and Russell, A.E., 2020. The Incredible Years® Teacher Classroom Management programme and its impact on teachers’ professional self‐efficacy, work‐related stress, and general well‐being: Results from the STARS randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(2), pp.330-348.

Health and Safety Executive, 2019. Labour force survey - self-reported work-related ill health and workplace injuries: Work-Related Illness by Industry Table (LFSILLIND). https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/lfs/ [Accessed 16th April 2020]

Harding, S., Morris, R., Gunnell, D., Ford, T., Hollingworth, W., Tilling, K., Evans, R., Bell, S., Grey, J., Brockman, R. and Campbell, R., 2019. Is teachers’ mental health and wellbeing associated with students’ mental health and wellbeing?. Journal of affective disorders, 242, pp.180-187.

Health and Safety Executive, 2020. Work related stress depression or anxiety statistics in Great Britain 2020. https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress.pdf [Accessed 16th April 2021]

Iancu, A.E., Rusu, A., Măroiu, C., Păcurar, R. and Maricuțoiu, L.P., 2018. The effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing teacher burnout: A meta-analysis. Educational psychology review, 30(2), pp.373-396.

Kidger, J., Stone, T., Tilling, K., Brockman, R., Campbell, R., Ford, T., Hollingworth, W., King, M., Araya, R. and Gunnell, D., 2016. A pilot cluster randomised controlled trial of a support and training intervention to improve the mental health of secondary school teachers and students–the WISE (Wellbeing in Secondary Education) study. BMC public health, 16(1), pp.1-14.

Kidger, J., Brockman, R., Tilling, K., Campbell, R., Ford, T., Araya, R., King, M. and Gunnell, D., 2016. Teachers' wellbeing and depressive symptoms, and associated risk factors: A large cross sectional study in English secondary schools. Journal of affective disorders, 192, pp.76-82.

Klingbeil, D.A. and Renshaw, T.L., 2018. Mindfulness-based interventions for teachers: A meta-analysis of the emerging evidence base. School Psychology Quarterly, 33(4), p.501.

Lomas, T., Medina, J.C., Ivtzan, I., Rupprecht, S. and Eiroa-Orosa, F.J., 2017. The impact of mindfulness on the wellbeing and performance of educators: A systematic review of the empirical literature. Teaching and Teacher Education, 61, pp.132-141.

McCallum, F., Price, D., Graham, A. and Morrison, A., 2017. Teacher wellbeing: A review of the literature. Sydney, AU.

Naghieh, A., Montgomery, P., Bonell, C.P., Thompson, M. and Aber, J.L., 2015. Organisational interventions for improving wellbeing and reducing work‐related stress in teachers. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (4).

NICE, 2009. Mental wellbeing at work. Public health guidelines PH22. Manchester. https://www.nice.org.uk/Guidance/PH22 [Accessed 16th April 2021]

Paterson A, Grantham R. How to make teachers happy: An exploration of teacher wellbeing in the primary school context. Educational & Child Psychology 2016;33(2):90–104.

Ravalier, J.M. and Walsh, J., 2017. Scotland’s teachers: Working conditions and wellbeing. Bath: Bath Spa University.

Sharrocks, L., 2014. School staff perceptions of well-being and experience of an intervention to promote well-being. Educational Psychology in Practice, 30(1), pp.19-36.

The Educational Institute of Scotland, 2019. https://www.theyworkforyou.com/sp/?id=2018-06-07.15.0

Xiao, Y. and Watson, M., 2019. Guidance on conducting a systematic literature review. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 39(1), pp.93-112.

Webster-Stratton, C., 2012. The incredible years. Training series for parents, teachers, and children.


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