How teachers find meaning in their work and effects on their pedagogical practice.

Year: 2019

Author: Turner, Kristina, Thielking, Monica

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Previous studies have revealed that finding meaning in life is a well-established route to psychological wellbeing (Cohen-Meitar, Carmeli & Waldman, 2009; Seligman, 2012). Further, an individuals’ ability to find meaning in their work has important benefits for both the individual and the organisation they work for (Fourie & Deacon, 2015; Steger, Dik, & Duffy, 2012). In light of this, researchers such as Steger et al. (2012) and Rich (2017) have called for more qualitative research to be conducted to facilitate in-depth knowledge of individuals’ nuanced experiences of finding meaning in work. This study took a qualitative phenomenological approach to address a gap in current literature and to answer the following two research questions: (1) In what ways do teachers find meaning in their work?; and (2) How does this effect their pedagogical practice? Teachers were asked to consciously look for meaning in their work for fifteen days. Data were collected through teachers’ written reflections and semi-structured interviews and analysed using phenomenological reduction. Findings revealed teachers’ find meaning in their work through having an impact on their students’ lives and positive relationships with students and colleagues. In addition, this study revealed an incongruence between activities that teachers found to be meaningful and the actual activities that they performed in their daily work. Further, when asked to notice meaning, teachers began to craft their work environment to make it more personally meaningful for them. Findings from this study will inform future research into teacher perception of meaning in work and its effect on teachers’ wellbeing and pedagogical practice.

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