Research: Australian Teachers Need More Wellbeing Support

Monash University

A Monash University study has shed light on how Australian teachers conceptualise their wellbeing at work, offering vital insights that could help shape future policies and interventions aimed at improving the educational environment for teachers nationwide.

The study, which was published in Teaching and Teacher Education, aims to understand whether an ideal representation of teacher wellbeing at work exists and to identify which components of wellbeing are considered most important by teachers themselves.

Conducted in three phases, the research included the participation of nearly 1,000 teachers across Australia. The study revealed what an ideal model of teacher wellbeing at work looks like, including what teachers identified as core components that are consistently viewed as essential to their wellbeing.

These included feeling safe, supported, valued and trusted, as well as achieving a work/life balance.

The research was led by Duyen Vo from the School of Educational Psychology and Counselling at Monash University's Faculty of Education. "Our research offers a detailed understanding of what teacher wellbeing looks like from the perspective of teachers themselves," said Ms Vo.

"By identifying the core components of wellbeing, we can better support teachers and create healthier, more productive work environments."

The study's results indicate that fostering a supportive and trusting environment, ensuring teachers feel valued, and promoting a healthy work/life balance are critical to enhancing teacher wellbeing. These insights provide a valuable foundation for schools and policymakers to design targeted interventions and develop policies that promote a thriving educational environment.

Tristan Lanarus, Principal of Westall Secondary College in Melbourne's southeast, which typically attracts students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, said "The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly highlighted the urgent need to support teachers. Understanding the specific aspects of teacher wellbeing helps focus our efforts at a school level to create a more supportive and effective educational environment for both teachers and students."

Duyen Vo said this study shows teacher wellbeing is crucial not only for the individual health of teachers but also for the overall functioning of education systems.

"It affects teacher recruitment, retention and the quality of education provided to students. High levels of teacher stress, anxiety and burnout, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, highlight the urgent need for focused systemic efforts to support teachers' wellbeing.

Ms Vo said the findings provide a clear framework for measuring teacher wellbeing and evaluating the success of interventions.

"By adopting a bottom-up approach, the study captures the authentic experiences and perceptions of teachers. This ensures that any interventions or policies developed are grounded in the real needs and priorities of those they aim to support," she said.

Associate Professor Kelly-Ann Allen from the School of Educational Psychology and Counselling at Monash University's Faculty of Education says this research emphasises the significance of focusing on teacher wellbeing as a proactive approach that benefits educators in their workplaces and shows the depth of knowledge that exists within the teaching profession.

"For decades, school leaders and teachers have focused on student wellbeing, now it is time to broaden this focus to consider all staff as well. Research has repeatedly demonstrated the link between the wellbeing and mental health of teachers and children's academic outcomes and their own mental health," Associate Professor Allen said.

"At a time when media portrayals often overlook these positives, reinforcing teacher wellbeing is going to be a critical way forward for the future of education in Australia."

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