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Home > News > Professional Issues > Professional Issues Volume 6 > New study reveals key sources of teacher stress

New study reveals key sources of teacher stress

stress.pngNew research has revealed increasing workloads, additional administrative tasks and the pressure of parental and student expectations as leading causes of stress for Queensland teachers regardless of their career stage.

The findings of the research project, a collaborative venture with Griffith University, the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) and our union, has provided insight into what strategies are needed to counteract the health and wellbeing as well as retention issues that stem from educator stress.

Griffith University Research Assistant and PhD student, Rachel Morrow said the project had comprised of two parts and were based on input from practitioners across all career stages from beginning teachers to educators nearing retirement. 

“The first phase of the Supporting the Educators: Occupational stress and wellbeing across the teaching career-span project was completed last July.

“This involved one-on-one interviews with a small number of individuals which indicated that the biggest factors of teacher stress and wellbeing were mainly around excessive paperwork and non-teaching administration, the blending of roles where teachers were being asked to perform roles in addition to that of educator, such as counselling roles, as well as the increasing demands and expectations of both students and their parents,” Ms Morrow said. 

“The findings from this phase were then used to develop an online survey which saw 560 respondents answer questions on issues including work-life balance, technology at work, bullying and job satisfaction.

Ms Morrow said the average profile of IEUA-QNT respondents was female, in mid-to-late career working in a secondary Catholic school in South East Queensland.

Research findings

Key findings for IEUA-QNT members from the survey included:

  • Respondents reporting low work-life balance, the impeding use of technology in the classroom and relatively high role demands.
  • Administrative duties produced the most demands, often forcing respondents to utilise detrimental workload management techniques such as working late or on weekends in order to stay on top of paperwork and other administrative duties.
  • The use of such detrimental workload management techniques then contributed to poor perceptions of work-life balance and supervisor support with respondents reporting an intention to leave the profession.

Positively, respondents were generally satisfied with their jobs, reporting relatively few bullying experiences and high colleague support.

The respondents also reported that they felt in control over how they perform their job, with many utilising proactive coping strategies to deal with stress.

“That respondents reported general job satisfaction, may suggest they are intrinsically motivated by their career and job role as has been suggested by other recent research findings,” Ms Morrow said.

“Therefore, teachers may be inherently driven to perform their role and as such, this indicates that intentions to leave the profession may be reduced by providing additional support in areas identified as stressful,” she said.

Study underpins strategy and support for members

IEUA-QNT Research Officer Adele Schmidt said the findings from the project’s research would provide the foundation for identifying practices that will retain productive and engaged teaching employees across all career stages.

“This project has provided several key recommendations in order to ensure effective workplace support and development in the future.

“These relate to improving work-life balance especially around the expectations related to increasing administrative tasks as well as providing more support for teachers in their use of technology – recognising the associated demands due to its ever-changing nature.

“The research findings also underscore the need for strategies and provisions which address the increasing roles teacher are responsible for in addition to that of educator.

“These demands, whether to act as an administrator or medical care giver, are extending the traditional teaching role and in turn adding to the pressure educators feel as their core role is distorted.

“Finally, the support teachers receive from their supervisors was reinforced as a critical element in countering stress yet it remains an ongoing issue for some educators, especially those in rural areas, in contract roles and for those at the start of their career.

‘Developing strategies and systems to better support these educators will be critical not only in lessening the levels of stress they encounter but for enhancing their job satisfaction and in turn decreasing their likelihood of leaving the profession.

“At its core, this research project has helped provide valuable information on why too many education professionals are making the decision to leave the profession as well as identifying ways of retaining them with the appropriate support and resources they deserve,” Ms Schmidt said.

To read a copy of the full research report click here.

Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.