Teachers play a crucial role in the academic success of students and research has proven that happy teachers are more engaged, motivated and committed to the profession. Ensuring quality teachers are satisfied in their job has benefits for many stakeholders in education, as rising attrition rates have a soaring economic cost to schools and education departments worldwide. Recruitment issues of teachers is no longer seen as a shortage of teachers with research now analysing the complex and multi-faceted reasons behind rising attrition rates of teachers, particularly within the first five years in the profession (Torres, 2012).
Research tells us there are many factors to improve teacher job satisfaction, including autonomy, student behaviour and principal feedback to name a few. This article focuses on one of those elements in particular, ‘teacher self-efficacy’, and how it contributes to teachers’ job satisfaction.
Tschannen-Moran & Hoy (2001), backed by prior research, suggest that job satisfaction is a direct result of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the inner judgement we make with regard to our ability to effectively implement our practise (Klassen et al., 2009; Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001). Higher teacher self-efficacy improves teaching practises and significantly impacts on greater student achievement whilst low teacher self-efficacy presents as pessimism about student learning, limited resilience and an inability to effectively manage student behaviour, therefore contributing to higher stress levels, and quite possibly teacher burnout (Caprara et al., 2006).
There has never before been more of a spotlight placed on teacher self-efficacy than during the COVID-19 pandemic, whereby many teachers had to put themselves out of their comfort zones and learn a whole new way to educate. Where older teachers showed higher self-efficacy in the classroom previously through their wealth of classroom experience, they were set new challenges to immediately learn ways to deliver digital education to their students.
Nationally, of the major study around teacher job satisfaction undertaken by The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) (2011), the Staff in Australia’s Schools (SiAS) survey, there is a gap in exploring how teacher self-efficacy affects teacher job satisfaction. Internationally, the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) did address this element to some extent (Organisation For Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2014), as did Klassen et al. (2009), who conducted wide-scale research on an international level across varied cultural settings. However, even though teacher self-efficacy and teacher job satisfaction is a world-wide issue, interpreting the data across cultures was problematic due to cultural variation, with American and Canadian counterparts rating themselves higher in self-efficacy than other countries (Klassen et al., 2009). Cultural psychologists report a difference in how cultures rate themselves, with some cultures playing down their skills either through modesty (Heine, 2004), which is common in East Asia, or where Australians are concerned, being more laid back.
Being that teacher self-efficacy is an internal construct, and that the above government studies focused more on aspects outside of teachers’ control, we need to look at ways to support teachers to build their self-efficacy beliefs in order for them to be motivated, resilient and committed to the profession.
How can we build on teacher self-efficacy?
There is much that principals and teachers can do to support teachers to build their self-efficacy. Most important to note, is positive principal feedback and recognition. Often, principal feedback is seen as negatively impacting on teacher job satisfaction, as reported by 62% of the Australian teachers surveyed in TALIS (Organisation For Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2014). A respectful and supportive relationship between principal and teachers is imperative to build trust.
Principals can provide further support to teachers by assisting them to set goals and re-visit these goals regularly to measure their advancement. Goal setting is at times seen by teachers as motivated by the current school-wide or government policy focus, however being that self-efficacy is an internal judgement, it is important to give teachers the freedom to choose goals and the support to guide them in achieving their identified goal. One way to do this is providing opportunities for teachers to access professional development in their area of need. This is advantageous to teachers in that it has the potential to turn fear of failure into confidence through building their self-efficacy.
For early career teachers, an effective induction and on-going, authentic mentoring program within the school is paramount to supporting new teachers to build skills and confidence. Additionally, research has proven that trusting, professional colleague relationships are of utmost value to building self-efficacy amongst teachers, no matter how many years of experience, as is team teaching, modelling and observation whilst providing, and receiving supportive developmental feedback (Organisation For Economic & Development, 2014).
Scenario discussions during staff meetings allows a professional discourse to hear other teachers’ perspectives on how to deal with the often-complicated challenges teachers are faced with throughout the school day. This allows them to feel like they are not alone in what they are experiencing, and that there are people more experienced in certain situations that they can reach out to.
Additionally, teachers that have personalities that are curious, and value life-long learning tend to be more interested in professional development and mastery of skills that challenge them, being a skill we promote and value in our students, to be risk-takers in their learning.
Lastly, it is important for teachers to identify the things they have control over, to constantly self-reflect on their teaching practises, evaluate gaps in their skill-set and then have the courage to do something about it. Afterall, teachers are what makes schools successful, quality places to learn, and with happy teachers who are satisfied in their job, committed to the profession, dynamic in their practises and motivated to improve student outcomes, the better society sees the school as a whole.
Australian Council for Educational Research. (2011). Staff in Australia’s schools 2010: Main report on the survey. https://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1013&context=tll_misc
Caprara, G. V., Barbaranelli, C., Steca, P., & Malone, P. S. (2006). Teachers' self-efficacy beliefs as determinants of job satisfaction and students' academic achievement: A study at the school level. Journal of School Psychology, 44(6), 473-490. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2006.09.001
Heine, S. (2004). Positive self-views: Understanding universals and variability across cutlures. Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology, 2(1-2), 109-122.
Klassen, R. M., Bong, M., Usher, E. L., Chong, W. H., Huan, V. S., Wong, I. Y. F., & Georgiou, T. (2009). Exploring the validity of a teachers’ self-efficacy scale in five countries. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 34(1), 67-76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2008.08.001
Organisation For Economic, C.-O., & Development. (2014). TALIS 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning (Vol. 32). OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264196261-en
Organisation For Economic Co-Operation and Development. (2014). TALIS 2013 results: An international perspective on teaching and learning (Vol. 32). OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264196261-en
Torres, A. (2012). “Hello, goodbye”: Exploring the phenomenon of leaving teaching early. Journal of Educational Change, 13(1), 117-154. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-011-9172-z
Tschannen-Moran, M., & Hoy, A. W. (2001). Teacher efficacy: Capturing an elusive construct. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17(7), 783-805. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0742-051X(01)00036-1