The politics of teacher wellbeing: Whose responsibility? Who cares?

Year: 2017

Author: Price, Deborah, McCallum, Faye

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Since the 1960s, there has been a steep increase in scholarly discussions of wellbeing. The corpus includes literature from across the globe and yet; there is no agreed definition of teacher wellbeing, the effects of teachers' work is negatively felt, and there is general concern about the wellbeing of teachers. The current climate signals teacher supply and demand challenges, particularly for attracting and retaining early career teachers in the profession. Educational politics directly impacts on curriculum reform and policy changes in areas such as teacher workload, accountability, teacher quality, health, status, societal value and sustainability, yet the wellbeing of those empowered in shaping and leading future generations is largely ignored.
In this paper, the qualitative researchers analysed Australian and international studies covering the years 2001-2017 to locate written texts through an extensive literature review involving three databases (Google Scholar, Trove and Scopus). The terms teacher 'wellbeing' and 'wellness' searched quantitative and qualitative studies for review and analysis, according to the primary focus on enabling wellbeing factors. A total of 191 sources were analysed in an attempt to define teacher wellbeing, to highlight the factors that have an impact on teachers' work, and to identify enabling wellbeing initiatives for individuals and schools. The materials have not tried to follow a predefined protocol in executing the analysis but by reading and re-reading the materials, key themes have been identified that draw a picture of the presuppositions and meanings that constitute the cultural and social worlds of teacher wellbeing.
Historical and Critical discourse analysis identified how power and inequalities in society affect our understanding of teacher wellbeing. The qualitative text analysis applied here complements a larger study drawing on online survey and focus group data. This paper, however, reports on the first stage of the study, the findings of the literature review, and calls for political support for the prioritisation and advancement of teacher wellbeing. Three main themes frame this work: How is teacher wellbeing addressed in educational policy? What factors are reported to impact on teacher wellbeing? What are the proposed enabling wellbeing initiatives?