Published: 28-05-2024 10:39 | Updated: 30-05-2024 09:15

New IMM thesis on teachers’ psychosocial work environment

Welcome to Jeffrey Casely-Hayfords' defense of the thesis ”Should i stay, or should i go: teachers’ motivation to stay at their workplace” on June 10.

Jeffrey Casely-Hayford, IMM

Time: June 10, 10.00 AM
Location: Atrium, Wargentinhuset, Karolinska Institutet, Solna
Supervisor: Lydia Kwak, Associate professor, Institute of Environmental Medicine (IMM), Karolinska Institutet
Opponent: Professor Beng Huat See, University of Birmingham

Three questions to Jeffrey

What is the thesis about?

The thesis addresses the teacher shortage crisis from a work environment perspective and contributes to the teacher retention discussion by examining the relationship between teachers’ psychosocial work environment and teachers’ intention to remain in the profession and/or at their workplace. 

Teacher shortages are the result of several systemic issues that have impacted the supply of teachers. Meanwhile, most education systems are seeing an increase in the demand for teachers due to increases in the student population; a high proportion of teachers nearing retirement age; and low teacher retention rates. The main reason for teachers choosing to leave the profession and/or their workplace is work-related ill health such as burnout, caused by challenging aspects of teachers’ psychosocial work environment. The dominant policy response has been to increase the supply of teachers by expanding teacher education programmes and providing alternative certification pathways and fast-track initiatives. However, research has shown that the issue is not the number of teachers entering the profession but rather the number of teachers who choose to leave the profession.

Can you tell us about some interesting results?

The first study explored the association between a range of psychosocial work factors and teachers’ intention to remain in the profession and the results pointed to teachers’ work-related health being an important factor that influences teacher retention. 

In the second study the research team delved further into the mechanisms that facilitate teacher well-being and teacher retention using a positive deviant case: a school that shared the contextual characteristics of schools with perpetual staffing difficulties but that had managed to keep teacher turnover over time. The results from this interview study showed that teacher retention at this particular school was driven by a strong teacher community that was coloured by different expressions of collegiality that helped teachers manage their day-to-day demands and strengthened their sense of belonging to their workplace. 

The third study examined the longitudinal influence of psychosocial work factors on teachers’ intention to remain in the profession and also explored whether job resources could provide a buffer against the health-impairing influence of teachers’ job demands. The results suggested that the health-impairing influence of teachers’ job demands is a stronger determinant of their career intentions than the presence of job resources, which highlights the importance of the management of psychosocial risk factors in schools. 

The fourth study delved further into schools’ psychosocial work environment and explored its association with objective teacher turnover data in 14 schools in 2 Swedish municipalities. The results also pointed to the importance of the management of psychosocial risk factors in schools for teacher retention. 

As such, the implications of the findings in the thesis points to the importance of the management of psychosocial risk factors in schools and suggests that the systematic management of the work environment can be an effective teacher retention strategy. 

What further research is needed in the area?

More research is needed in the Swedish context as educational reforms, such as the introduction of paraprofessional support roles and the first teacher reform, have transformed the organisation of teachers’ work and their psychosocial work environment. 

Read the thesis