A recent study by Associate Professor Rebecca Collie at UNSW Sydney examined teachers’ experiences during and after the pandemic lockdown. She found that teachers were healthier and coped better when school leadership supported teacher initiative and empowerment.
Dr Collie surveyed 325 teachers from across the eight states and territories of Australia in May 2020, using an online questionnaire.
The study comes at a time when concerns are swirling about teacher burnout.
Existing research shows that teachers experience a range of positive outcomes when they believe their schools promote their initiative and empowerment by, for example, encouraging their input, supporting their resourcefulness, and seeking their perspectives. These outcomes include buoyancy (handling the challenges and setbacks of work), lower levels of stress, and lower emotional exhaustion.
“Teachers who are able to effectively overcome adversity at work are able to avoid the physical or emotional load of that adversity, resulting in fewer physical symptoms, less stress related to change, and less emotional exhaustion,”Dr Collie said.
The COVID-19 pandemic placed teachers in a situation likely to increase the challenges they already faced, potentially heightening the risk of negative personal outcomes, such as illness and exhaustion.
“During COVID-19, most teachers would have experienced challenges at work, including potential difficulties in rapidly shifting in-class learning to remote settings, challenges with making online software work effectively for remote learning, setbacks in maintaining a work-home distinction, and difficulties in differentiating learning for diverse students.”
Although the shift to online teaching was unexpected and disruptive, teachers who taught completely online suffered fewer negative outcomes than their peers who taught half online and half in-person.