Examining the Relationship Among Teachers' Working Conditions, Stress, and Professional Trajectory

Examining the Relationship Among Teachers' Working Conditions, Stress, and Professional Trajectory

Paul G. Fitchett (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA), Sally Lineback (University of Texas-Austin, USA), Christopher J. McCarthy (University of Texas-Austin, USA) and Richard G. Lambert (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0204-3.ch027


Teacher attrition can have a disruptive effect within a school, negatively impacting student learning. Moreover, teachers' reported working conditions are an important factor in determining whether they leave or stay within the field. The majority of research examining workplace climate in schools fails to consider the perceptual nature of these reports and how they might be related to teachers' risk for stress and other occupational health measures. This chapter provides an overview of the research relating teacher working conditions to teacher mobility and other workplace dispositions. Then, the authors present the transactional stress model as an alternative to traditional approaches for examining teacher mobility. Policy implications for educational agencies, schools, and teacher education are then presented.
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Teacher turnover is a well-documented and substantially researched phenomenon. Yet, understanding how many teachers leave the profession and what factors contribute to teacher mobility remains highly debated. Earlier studies suggest that almost one-third of teachers leave the profession altogether within their first 3 years and almost half leave after five years (Ingersoll, 2001; National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 2009). Yet, in the post-recession labor market, research suggests that the five-year turnover levels have dropped to approximately 17% of the workforce (Gray & Taie, 2015). Moreover, while studies indicate salary is an important predictor in determining whether individuals choose teaching or remain in the field, working conditions matter as well, perhaps even more (Béteille & Loeb, 2009, Guarino, Santibãnez, & Daley, 2006; Ingersoll, 2001; Ladd, 2011; Loeb, Darling-Hammond, & Luczak, 2005). Salary (dis)incentivizes educators as they weigh the opportunity costs of teaching (i.e. low pay, low status, and difficult professional climate) to the intrinsic professional rewards (i.e. giving back to society, working with young people, and engaging subject matter of interest) (Boardman, Darling-Hammond, & Mullin, 1982; Guarino et al., 2006; Johnson, 2004). However, Hanushek and Rivkin (2007) found little association between teacher salary and attrition in Texas. In their analysis, perceived occupational climate, particularly between urban and suburban schools, were noticeably variable and a more consistent predictor of teacher turnover. Additional studies have shown that teachers’ reported working conditions are significantly correlated with job satisfaction and retention (Ingersoll, 2001; Johnson, 2006; Loeb et al., 2005; Petty, Fitchett, & O'Connor, 2012).

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