Stress on young teachers has long term damage

Damage caused by excessive demands placed on early career teachers has lasting effects that compromise their teaching.
Oct 29, 2020
Early damage, lasting effects

Damage caused by excessive demands placed on early career teachers has lasting effects that compromise their teaching.

Teachers who experienced excessive demands early on in their worklife were more likely to have their positive management methods derailed, instead developing negative approaches to manage student misbehavior in the classroom.

These patterns persisted into teachers’ mid-career: classroom management methods and professional confidence at the beginning of their careers to some extent became locked in behaviours.

Demands can include time pressure, performance pressure, poor student motivation, challenging professional and parent-teacher relationships, and decreasing autonomy in the workplace and were more common in secondary schools.

This compares to teachers who felt well-prepared and confident in their ability to manage classroom behaviour. They were more likely to report providing students with clear structure and expectations about behaviour. They were less likely to adopt negative approaches such as yelling, losing their temper or using sarcasm.

A study followed 395 teachers from the start of their teacher education until up to 15 years of teaching experience. They were surveyed to find out how their workload, school resources, and confidence to manage student misbehaviour affected their teaching methods. Findings highlight the need to reduce excessive demands on teachers starting their careers.

“The way teachers start out sets up long-term professional behaviours,” said Professor Helen Watt of The University of Sydney, one of the study’s three authors. “The key message from our findings is that the excessive demands experienced by beginning teachers have long-term, damaging consequences for their teaching behaviour”.

The findings demonstrate that teachers’ self-efficacy – their confidence and sense of professional preparedness –  is established fairly early, and remains quite stable even up to 15 years of teaching.

“This shows that teacher education isn’t just important to equipping future teachers with effective classroom management skills. It’s also important to developing their confidence to manage student misbehaviour through positive structures rather than negative reactions,” said Professor Watt. “But this gets derailed when teachers who are just becoming established are overwhelmed by paperwork and suffer extreme time pressure”.

Early career mentoring related positively to beginning teachers’ self-efficacy and to less excessive demands, which may suggest it helped the teachers cope better. “A reduced allocation of workload, assistance with meeting the initial professional registration requirements that teachers face in their early careers, and quality mentoring programs would likely help beginning teachers cope with the initial overload of demands they experience,” said Professor Paul Richardson.

Teachers working in advantaged schools tended to be more confident in their ability to manage classrooms. “This may be explained by the better conditions teachers experience in advantaged schools including higher student achievement, and better school resources and facilities,” write the researchers.

“Teachers who work in such settings may be confronted with fewer disruptions and less problematic student behaviours, producing lower levels of stress – and a higher sense of self-efficacy.”

The study is based on the ongoing Australian “FIT-Choice” program of research (Factors Influencing Teaching Choice; undertaken by Professor Watt and by Professor Paul Richardson of Monash University. This is the only study in the world to track a large sample of teachers from their entry into teacher education until up to 15 years’ teaching experience. It is funded by sequential Australian Research Council grants. The current study is the first to analyse patterns across the whole time-span, conducted together with Dr Rebecca Lazarides at the University of Potsdam.

If using this release for an online story, please link to the original research below. If using this release for a print story, please make mention of the journal:

Rebecca Lazarides, Helen Watt, Paul Richardson (2020). ‘Teachers’ classroom management self-efficacy, perceived classroom management and teaching contexts from beginning until mid-career’, Learning and Instruction, Vol. 69, article 101346.

Photo by Viktoria Goda from Pexels