Teacher wellbeing: a review of the literature
This Australian paper is a literature review of studies that relate to teacher wellbeing with a focus on teachers’ work and enabling practices. Quantitative and qualitative studies were purposively selected for review, according to their primary focus on teacher wellbeing and wellness. Studies of student wellbeing unrelated to teacher wellbeing were excluded, as were studies which focused on ‘resilience’ or ‘burnout’ without reference to wellbeing.
The underlying rationale being to focus on enabling aspects of teacher wellbeing. A total of 191 Australian and international studies were analysed covering the years 2001-2017 with a deliberate focus on the last 5 – 10 years. A thematic analysis identified a range of relevant issues including the complexity of defining wellbeing, the importance of teacher wellbeing, resilience and self-efficacy, social-emotional competence, personal responses to teachers’ work, burnout, fatigue, exhaustion, stress, relationships with others, mindfulness interventions, positive psychology, whole school initiatives, work-life support, professional learning communities, positive school ecology, leadership, professional development, induction, and mentoring. These issues were ultimately consolidated under three overarching themes - definitions of teacher wellbeing, factors that impact on teacher wellbeing, and enabling wellbeing initiatives.While acknowledging the difficulty of defining teacher wellbeing, the following was put forward: The authors conclude that teacher wellbeing is diverse and fluid respecting individual, family and community beliefs, values, experiences, culture, opportunities and contexts across time and change. It is something we all aim for, underpinned by positive notions, yet is unique to each of us and provides us with a sense of who we are which needs to be respected (McCallum & Price 2016, p. 17).It was found that the factors impacting on teacher wellbeing were both positive and negative but a substantial amount of the literature focussed on negative influences related to: teachers’ work; burnout and stress; relationships with students, parents, colleagues and leadership; workload; and, having to respond to ongoing change. Thus, a focus on enabling wellbeing initiatives ensued and identified that strategies adopted by individual teachers that encompassed personal and professional domains were more likely to have a sustainable influence on one’s wellbeing.To maximise the wellbeing of teachers, whole school and organisational initiatives complement individual measures promoting generativity, motivation, energy and teacher self-efficacy with positive outcomes individually and as a community. Investment in teacher wellbeing contributes to improved health and wellbeing for teachers and students, and ultimately to positive learning outcomes.