Wellbeing of pre-service teachers: the impact of growth mindset, empathy and grit

Teaching is a profession associated with high occupational stress. Research across a number of countries reveals similar patterns of stress amongst teachers often leading to job dissatisfaction and mental health issues. Stress is frequently cited as one of the major reasons for high attrition, especially early in teachers’ careers. While systemic change is called for, teacher education is also often suggested as a point of intervention to address these challenges, with a particular focus on building wellbeing of pre-service teachers to prepare them for the stressors of the job. Supporting the wellbeing of higher education students also makes sense as mental health issues amongst students remain a concern, with documented impact on academic outcomes and subsequent employment.

In this mixed-method study we extended thinking about wellbeing for pre-service teachers beyond the usual connection with resilience to include three variables hypothesized to be important to beginning teachers: growth mindset, empathy and grit. The study involved an initial survey of 114 (90 female, 21 male, 1 transgender and 2 other) initial teacher education students in a small Australian education faculty. The mean age was 24.5 years. Across undergraduate and post graduate programs wellbeing fell in the moderate to high range, with modest correlations noted between wellbeing, grit and empathy. A correlation between empathy and growth mindset was also noted. Few differences on any of the variables were noted between programs, suggesting similarities between pre-service teachers, regardless of specialization or degree level. Quantitative findings were unpacked in a series of focus groups with students in different programs, exploring the students’ experience as learners as well as their expectations as teachers.

Quantitative and qualitative results will be presented and implications for pre-service teacher learning in teacher education programs will be discussed. This study contributes to the theme education for a socially just world through its emphasis on supporting the wellbeing of future teachers who, through a ‘ripple effect’, impact their students, families and future generations.