HOW WELL DO WE UNDERSTAND WELLBEING? TEACHERS’ EXPERIENCES IN AN EXTRAORDINARY EDUCATIONAL ERA
1 CEM, Cambridge Assessment (UNITED KINGDOM)
2 Cambridge Assessment (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Conference name: 14th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 8-9 November, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Covid-19 has had a huge effect on education. Across the UK, schools were closed to most children for several months in both 2020 and 2021. During these periods, home schooling, supplemented by distance learning through collaborative technologies such as Zoom, became the norm. Whilst there has been much interest in the effects of school closures on children, less attention has focussed on teachers’ wellbeing. Teaching has become bound up with the availability of broadband, knowledge and understanding of technology and the ability to manage student behaviour and motivation remotely. Additionally, lesson-planning has changed in terms of how subjects can be taught. Many secondary school teachers have been expected to collect evidence of students’ achievements to justify final grades in the absence of the UK’s usual high stakes external examinations. Undeniably, teaching experiences have changed substantially.
This paper describes a small-scale survey of teachers’ wellbeing. We explored teachers’ experiences and concerns during and after the UK’s second national school closure in early 2021. Our aim was to improve understanding of how teachers had been impacted in these unprecedented times, and of their support needs.
A blog and advertisement on our organisational website invited teachers in the UK to complete a 15-minute online survey, based on the Teacher Well Being Scale (TWBS) (Collie et al., 2015). The TWBS draws from theoretical concepts around self-determination, self-efficacy and motivation. Its questions relate to three teacher-specific factors: organisational wellbeing, workload wellbeing, and student interaction wellbeing. The TWBS takes a practice-oriented approach to measuring teacher wellbeing, focussing on determinants rather than related outcomes.
We modified the TWBS slightly for use in our survey in the UK. It comprised 32 questions. The first 16 related to teacher perceptions during the 2021 national lockdown. The second 16 related to wellbeing two months after schools reopened. Additionally our survey included demographic questions. A final question asked respondents what single thing would most improve their wellbeing as a teacher.
Fifty-four responses were received from teachers in nine schools from across the UK, who among themselves, taught a wide a range of subjects. In line with national teacher data, three quarters were female.
Levels of organisational and student interaction wellbeing were reported to be positive both during and after lockdown, but slightly higher after lockdown. By contrast, reported workload wellbeing was slightly negative overall and slightly lower after lockdown.
Strikingly, the issues that most affected teacher wellbeing had an effect regardless of lockdown. Teachers were most concerned about the time available to do their jobs and the amount of administration expected of them. Some found these issues were exacerbated by school leaders’ decisions. Interestingly, some of the longest-serving teachers were among those finding that time pressure and administration affected their wellbeing.
Teachers’ longer-term working conditions impacted their wellbeing far more than teaching through lockdown did. Ensuring wellbeing needs are met in ‘normal’ times may help increase resilience when novel challenges arise.
Keywords: Teacher wellbeing, covid-19, TWBS.