Launching his new research-based diagnostic tool, exclusively for TDT member schools, Dr Sam Sims explores new research about the four aspects of working environments that make a particular difference to job satisfaction and retention.
TDT’s Culture of Improvement working paper shows the important role that school working conditions play in supporting and retaining teachers.
But which aspects of working environment matter most? Is it leadership, workload, behaviour or something else? Researchers have struggled to provide convincing answers to this question, in part because it is difficult to measure the quality of teachers’ working environment.
In an attempt to make progress on this, I have recently developed a carefully validated questionnaire that better captures working environment. To do so, I gathered survey responses from 1,230 teachers, across 24 schools. Let’s see what we can learn from this data…
The vertical axes in Figure 1 (below) shows the probability that each of our 1,230 teachers agreed with the statement ‘All in all, I am satisfied with my job’. The horizontal axes show the quality of four different working conditions: leadership, behaviour, workload, collaboration. A score of zero represents average quality working environment. Scores above zero are above average, and vice versa.
Two findings stand out. First, all four aspects of working environment are associated with improved teacher job satisfaction. Second, the quality of leadership and management clearly shows the strongest relationship with job satisfaction. Indeed, in schools with poor leadership and management, the probability of teachers feeling satisfied with their job drops to just 40%.
“…in schools with poor leadership and management, the probability of teachers feeling satisfied with their job drops to 40%.“
What about teacher retention? In Figure 2 (below) the vertical axes shows the probability that our teachers agreed with the statement ‘In the last term, I have seriously considered leaving teaching altogether’.
Once again, we see some correlation between all four aspects of working environment and teachers’ intentions to leave. However, in contrast to Figure 1, it is workload that shows the strongest relationship with teachers’ intentions to leave. In schools with the worst workload, the probability of teachers wanting to quit the profession rises to 30%.
“In schools with the worst workload, the probability of teachers wanting to quit the profession rises to 30%.“
What should we take away from this analysis? It seems like schools’ first priority should be to eliminate unreasonable workload. You can get a sense of what we mean by this from the questions that measure workload on our questionnaire. In schools that score well on workload, teachers tend to disagree with statements such as ‘At this school, data management gets in the way of teaching’ or ‘I am expected to do tasks which do not contribute to pupils’ education’.
However, once schools have tackled workload, the emphasis should switch to creating an energised and happy workforce through improved leadership practices. Again, the questions provide some insight on what we mean by this. In schools that score well on leadership, teachers tend to agree with statements such as ‘Leaders clearly communicate the reasons for which decisions have been made’ and ‘Leaders say thank you to me for the work that I do’.
“In schools that score well on leadership, teachers tend to agree with statements such as ‘Leaders clearly communicate the reasons for which decisions have been made’ and ‘Leaders say thank you to me for the work that I do’.“
None of this is rocket science. But looking back at the charts, it is clear that there is still plenty of room for improvement in our school system.
So how can your school check whether you are getting working environment right? TDT is offering this survey to TDT Network member schools to help them self-assess and prioritise areas for improvement. The questionnaire takes less than ten minutes for teachers to complete. And the results will allow you to benchmark your school against other (anonymous) schools, in all four areas. Find out more about TDT Network membership.
Appendix for nerds:
- The figures show predictive margins from a logistic regression model
- The model controls for all four aspects of working environment, and school fixed effects
- The margins for each of the four aspects of working environment are plotted with the other three aspects of working environment held at the mean
- These results hold when we implement checks for common source bias
Join Dr Sam Sims in conversation with TDT CEO, David Weston at our free webinar ‘Benchmarking Your School’s Working Environment’ on Wednesday 19th January from 16:30 to 17:15. Book your place.