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Teacher wellbeing: Its effects on teaching practice and student learning

Quality of work life Teaching evaluation Teacher retention Teachers Well-being Australia

In recent years, there has been a considerable amount of research exploring teacher wellbeing levels. However, many of these studies have focused on ameliorating negative states of teacher wellbeing (McCallum, Price, & Graham, 2017). For example; teachers’ increased stress levels (Curry & O’Brien, 2012; Richards, 2012), teachers’ increasingly demanding workload (Buchanan et al., 2013; Yin, Huang, & Wang, 2016) and teacher burnout (Antoniou, Ploumpi, & Ntalla, 2013). In fact, compared to other professional occupations, teachers’ rate their wellbeing lower (Grenville-Cleave & Boniwell, 2012) and have one of the highest occupational rates of workplace mental stress claims in Australia (Safe Work Australia, 2013).

Although few studies have examined teacher wellbeing from a positive perspective, high levels of teacher wellbeing have been shown to have significant positive effects across a number of domains. Whilst research is scarce in this area, Kern, Waters, Adler, and White (2014) evaluated the wellbeing levels of 153 Australian education staff in a single school of which 60% were teachers. They found that staff members who were doing well across multiple wellbeing domains, were also more committed to the school, and more satisfied with their health, life, and chosen occupation.

At the same time, there has been a considerable rise in the application of positive psychology strategies in professional contexts to improve wellbeing. Leading researcher in positive psychology, Seligman (2012), states that wellbeing can be defined as a construct which includes the elements of positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment, which he has collapsed into the term ‘PERMA’.

The effect on teaching practice and student learning when teachers consciously use PERMA positive psychology strategies has not been examined. This research took a qualitative phenomenological approach to address a gap in current literature by exploring teachers’ perspectives on the effect of consciously using positive psychology strategies on their­­ teaching practice and student learning.

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