Rationale health problems experienced within the workplace. The

Rationale

It
is well acknowledged that teachers are the most important, in education factor,
contributing to student success, satisfaction and achievement, and that teacher
wellbeing is deeply connected to the quality of their work (CESE, 2014). The
teacher development trust (TDT) (2013) also reinforce the ideology that the
wellbeing within education is the fundamental pre-requisite for a healthy,
constructive and productive learning environment, both for the learner and the
educator.

With
this in mind, it is evident that a positive mind set may produce a more
enjoying learning environment as student outcomes are heavily reflected towards
the quality of the teachers work (CESE, 2014). However, there appears to be no
definitive explanation to the term wellbeing, according to Dodge et al (2012)
stating that it is a growing area of research, yet the question of how it
should be defined remains unanswered. Ereaut and Whiting (2008) refer to this
definition as the medical model of wellbeing, which has since been
significantly expanded to encompass economic, psychological and social
dimensions. Recent studies suggest that wellbeing can be categorised in two
parts, objective and subjective wellbeing. Objective wellbeing is considered to
be external factors to the individual, such as income and goods, whereas
subjective wellbeing incorporates factors such as happiness, emotion,
engagement, purpose, life satisfaction, social relationships, competence and
accomplishment (Forgeard et al 2011). Although subjective wellbeing focuses
primarily on an individual’s current state of mind, it is equally important to acknowledge
the negative aspects affiliated, such as stress, depression and mental health.
A recent news report conducted by the BBC (2017) confirmed that a growing
number of teachers within the UK have struggled either mentally or physically
due to job stress, stating the main
causes revolve primarily around depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

‘Teacher
stress is a major problem, it damages lives, ends careers and effects teaching
standards’

Holmes
(2005 p.3)

Work-related
stress is defined as ‘The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures
or other types of demand placed on them at work’ (Tyers 2009 p92) and is one of
the most commonly reported health problems experienced within the workplace. The
after effects of such, currently results in teachers and educational
professionals having the highest number of days absent from work, due to work
related stress, depression and anxiety (HSE 2017). With this in mind, we must
first outline the key factors associated with work related stress in an attempt
to improve an individual’s wellbeing. A report issued by the Guardian, focusses
on aspects such as working long hours, meeting deadlines and increased
workloads/ targets, stating that these issues are the most important factors
that affect an individual’s mind set and general wellbeing (Smith 2007). That
being said, the purpose of this report is to gain a deeper understanding of the
issues that may directly impact lecturers wellbeing, and more importantly the
coping strategies that are used to endure such factors. A plethora of studies
over recent years have identified that teaching is one of the most stressful
professions (Brown 2012), the issue however, is understanding the chain
reaction that develops alongside certain educational stressors and the impact
that this has on an individual’s health. Brenner (1985) supports this, confirming
that teachers who perceive students as stressors at the middle of the first
term report general strain and impaired somatic and mental health at the end of
the academic year.

So
what contributes to long term factors of stress and mental health? A study
conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (2014) outlined the most
common factors currently affecting mental health within the educational
setting, with pressures to meet targets (63%) and inspections (59%), followed
by pressure from leaders (55%) reported to be the main contributors. These
finding support the idea that perceived stress and poor wellbeing in the further
education sector remain high and that there are numerous possible factors that
contribute towards this.

This
research will critically analyse a number of factors that have previously been
highlighted as contributing to work-life conflict in the post compulsory
education sector (Kinman & Wray 2013), including job demands, perceived
inequity between job-related efforts and rewards, high levels of integration
between work and home life and over commitment to the job role (Kinman &
Jones, 2008). Whist it may appear that these factors contribute towards bad
practise and moral, Kern et al (2014) found that when staff members are doing
well across multiple wellbeing domains, they are more committed to the school,
and more satisfied with their health, life, and jobs. This accomplishment and
positive emotion towards the job role and setting, may be the solution towards
higher attendance rates. Kinman (2013) study reinforces this, stating that on
average, respondents with poorer well-being on the HSE stressor categories
(particularly relationships, support from managers, peers and change
management), all reported higher levels of perceived stress and work-life
conflict, leading to lecturers having more days off from work due to sickness.

The
aim is to identify to correlation between poor wellbeing, stress and mental
health with a direct link towards bad practise and attendance. This will be
achieved on the basis of strict lecturer confidentiality, so that all results
compiled will be true, reliable and valid.

 

Paradigms

Positivist
paradigms are used to describe an approach to research, based on the assumption
that knowledge can be discovered by collecting data through observation and
measurement and analysing it to establish truths (Somekh, Lewin 2005 p347). The
research will adapt this approach, which according to Cohen, Manion, and
Morrison (2007) claim that positivism knowledge is based on experience and can
be advanced only by means of observation and experiment. With this in mind, a
positivist approach, which focuses on a means of understanding human behaviour,
is preferred due to the nature of the topic in question. As the research
surrounds the wellbeing of lecturers with further education, it is possible
that some of the interviewees may, at the time of questioning, already be enduring
high levels of stress. Which, in turn may prove beneficial towards the
reliability and validity of the data. This is reinforced through Carson (2001) who
suggests that statistical and mathematical techniques are fundamental aspects
towards positivist research which will take the form of questionnaires during
this research task, with the hope of obtaining valid and reliable results.

 

Approaches

As
the research predominantly focusses on the wellbeing and general frame of mind
of an individual, the information that I will collate may alter, depending on
mood and perceived stress levels during questioning. The psychological
behaviour of an individual will have a direct impact on the research, the use
of subjective qualitative methods best fits this approach according to Denzin
and Lincoln (1994). However, the research will be conducted by means of
questionnaires which will decipher data using statistical analysis in an
attempt to offer an explanation or interpretation by means of a quantitative
approach. Thomas (2003) distinguishes between the two approaches, referring to
qualitative as describing characteristics
of people and events and quantitative as measurements and amounts
of the characteristics displayed. Qualitative data, regardless of the
perspective and design, are represented through aspects such as interviews,
observations, participant observation and documents (Punch 1988). Quantitative
research methods are employed in an attempt to establish general laws or
principles. According to Burns (2000) who refers to such, as a scientific
approach that is often termed nomothetic and assumes social reality is
objective and external to the individual.

Given
these differences, combining the evidence from both forms, can significantly
add to the strength and depth of an argument (Burton, Brundrett, Jones 2008). As
the research will gather information from both approaches, a mixed method approach using both
qualitative and quantitative will be used.

Gorrad,
Smith (2006 p61) referred to the importance of using both approaches, stating
that ‘qualitative or quantitative represents only one, perhaps not very useful,
way of classifying methods’ enforcing the ideology that two approaches allow
more reliable and valid depth to the research.

Reams
and Twale (2008) support the necessity of mixed methods, suggesting that it
uncovers information and perspective, increases the corroboration of the data
and renders a less biased and more
accurate conclusion. However, in relation to reliability, Greenbank (2002)
suggests that researchers will inevitably be influenced by their underlying
ontological and epistemological position, which may influence their
instrumental values with regards to competency. This would propose that any
research gathered, may misrepresent the true findings of the report due to my
close connection within further education and my own personal views of the
study. Skeggs (1994) acknowledges the struggles associated with value free research but does however,
highlight a possible approach towards it, outlining that researchers should
include their own biographical details and make a statement about their
underlying values. Berg (2001) reinforces this, stating that the process can be taken a stage further if
the researcher evaluates their own influence on the research process.

With a greater insight and knowledge towards
the research area, the qualitative approach may provide me with a greater
understanding towards behaviour and emotions of the individuals in question,
allowing me to gain additional knowledge through data collection and analytic
strategies. Yin (2006) echoes the importance of such, stating that the stronger
is the mix of methods and their integration at all stages, the stronger is the
benefit of mixed method approaches (p46).

 

Methods

The
research, through that of a positivist and constructivism approach, will be
qualitatively and quantitatively driven with mixed methods to be employed,
including the utilisation of both a questionnaire and interviews. The two
approaches are viewed here as complementary and in parallel Cupchik (2001)
which suggests that a good correlation will be formed, reinforcing valid and
reliable results. Cupchik (2001 p9) later states that  

If the two
approaches offer complementary views of the social world, this implies that
richness can enhance precision because the in-depth account encompasses more
information, while a focus on precision can lead to a clarification of basic
concepts.

However,
Lincoln, Guba (2000), suggest that quantitative and qualitative methodologies
associated with positivism and constructivism, respectively, are also
incommensurable which may prove to be a disadvantage during the research. Never
the less, both approaches deal with data, which means that they break the flow
of events in the social world and selectively focus on this or that action,
utterance, or behaviour of individual respondents or subjects.

The
quantitative methods will allow the data to be facilitated into statistical and
numerical analysis which will allow for greater investigation within the
report.

No
approach depends solely on one method any more than it would exclude a method
merely because it is labelled ‘quantitative, qualitative, case study or action
research (Bell, 2010 p117). The extent of the data collected will be influenced
by the amount of time given within the research project. As a mixed method
approach is adopted within this research topic, it will allow for different
perspectives and thus to be able to confirm or challenge particular findings of
one method with those of another (Bell, 2010). This multi method approach,
better known as triangulation will aid towards consistency across data sources
or approaches, which in this case will be questionnaires and interviews.
However, according to Law (2003) who suggests that multiple perspectives may
not match well at all, highlighting the potential conflicts that may arise with
regards to different accounts of similar phenomena.

Case
studies can be viewed as powerful tools with regards to capturing unique
features of situational phenomena Yin (2009) even more so towards negative
behaviours displayed by individuals (Cohen, Manion 2011), which in this
particular report would be the lecturers in question. Furthermore, case study
research identifies individual personal viewpoints along with the exposure of
additional social truths within the organisation (Bellamy, 2012).  The research will be conducted with my own
educational setting, allowing me to act as an insider in an attempt to gain authentic and reliable evidence.
Costley, Elliot & Gibbs (2010, p2) support the notion of insider research,
stating

‘As
an insider, you are in a unique position to study a particular issue in depth
and with special knowledge about that issue. Not only do you have your own
insider knowledge, but you have easy access to people and information that can
further enhance that knowledge’.

Hodkinson (2005) supports the position of the
insider researcher, suggesting that it has significant potential benefits
towards access and report, which may in turn, lead to a greater understanding
of the researched area. Furthermore, Hodkinson believed that insider status
offered important additional benefits and possibilities with regards to
generating a relaxed atmosphere to conduct open interviews and questionnaires,
which could prove to be key towards reliable, honest results. Adopting to
Badura’s (1977) social learning theory, the direct approach as an ‘insider
researcher’ will enable a sense of trust from the sampling group, as they may feel more comfortable disclosing
information to a familiar face.

 

 

Questionnaires

Questionnaires, according to Cohen, Manion
(2011) are an extremely efficient method of collating numerical data, which
sequentially supports the fundamental core of the hypothesis. As this study
will adhere to both qualitative and quantitate questions, the results obtain
will be both numerical and behavioural. Quantitative questions will enforce a
true reflection on the wellbeing of an individual as questions may ask e.g. ‘I am pressured to work long hours. These
particular question will have a multiple response such as never, seldom, sometimes, often, and always and will also be
numerically codded in order to statistically analyse the data. The qualitative
questions will focus more on the individual’s behaviour and mind set, adhering
to a psychological approach to questioning which will enable the lecturers to
write freely and honestly. However, within any approach to research, the pros
and cons must be analysed to ensure the relativity and timely fashion best fit
the research in question. Questionnaires can generate information easily in a
very short space of time, and can also prove to be a cost-effective research
tool for use in data collection (Jack, Clarke 1998). The questionnaires can
also be easily structured and the amount of questioned can be formatted to
avoid tediousness. Furthermore, the questions provide the respondent with
privacy anonymity and space for reflection (Burton et al 2008). Unfortunately,
questionnaires are unlikely to obtain detailed or profound information and may
have a low response rate (Cohen, Manion 2011). However, as the respondents are
familiar with the researcher, the questionnaires may have a higher response
rate due to familiarity.

 

Interviews

With regards to obtaining information
surrounding sociological and psychological issues, Gubrium et al (2012) suggests
that narrative interviews are the best fit model and are highly applauded by
further theorists (Greenhalgh, Russell, Swinglehurst 2005). They are also
extremely useful towards obtaining sensitive or in depth information, this may
prove beneficial towards the subject area due to its sensitivity surrounding
possible mental health issues. Although Burton et al (2008) praises interviews
interactivity, with an opportunity for the researcher to probe and pursue
certain areas, Tashakkori and Teddlie (2010) are clear that formal one-to-one
interviews can be a difficult method for encouraging participants to share
experiences and participants may also look for cues from the interviewer as to
what answers they are looking for. However, as previously mentioned to aspect
of familiarity will hopefully allow the respondents to answer effectively and
with ease due to the positive relationship and trust between interviewer and
interviewee. The interview duration will approximately last ten minutes and
will be audio recorded to support reliability and validity. Longer, more time constituted
interviews may be difficult to arrange, occupy the interviewees personal time
and be time consuming.

 

Sampling

The researcher will employ a purposive
sampling method with a direct link towards a multi method approach, as previously
referred to as triangulation. The purpose behind this sampling method will
enable the researcher to gain an increased depth into the inquiry and findings
(Leung 2015), which in this case will be questionnaires and interviews.

The questionnaire itself has be based around
four parts outlining background details, stress symptoms, workload and factors
that that contribute to stress. The final section of the questionnaire is less
quantitate and more qualitative in an aid to gain a deeper understanding of the
lecturers wellbeing. The two questions that will enable the interviewee to express
their own feelings are;

What are the
two things, which would make a significant difference to the stress concerns
identified above? &

Please use the
space below to provide any other information or comments you wish to make about
Lecturer’s workload and factors affecting levels of stress.

There is a total of twenty questionnaires that will be issued to
lecturers within the educational sector. These respondents have been informed
of the research and have fully consented to taking part in the research field.

Secondly, the use of interviews will be conducted in an aid to gain a
more honest and reliable source of data. The sample will only consist of five
lecturers, who will be chosen on availability at the time. The interviews will
last no more than ten minutes, and will be conducted in the same setting for
each (room not yet allocated). The setting will be a familiar and friendly
atmosphere to the interviewees, in a hope to gain a relaxed environment.  

The interviews will be audio recorded to
enhance reliability which will only be assessable by myself and used strictly
for research prepossesses, remaining strictly confidential.   

 Reliability

As previously mentioned Greenbank (2002)
suggests that researchers will inevitably be influenced by their underlying
ontological and epistemological position, which in this case may have a direct
link towards the study. However, as there are multiple approaches to gaining
information (triangulation), the reliability aspect will be supported with
greater in depth knowledge through the collection of data through observation, measurement
and analysing (Somekh, Lewin 2005).

Validity

The questionnaire that has been administered
derives from previous research through the
University and college union (UCU) and has been adapted to adhere to the
college lecturers in question. The results obtained from the UCU stress toolkit
questionnaire proved to be extremely valid, proving to be the forefront in
stress, wellbeing and mental health research in recent years. The data obtained
from the questionnaires will be statistically analysed in greater detail and
will focus primarily on stress and wellbeing factors. However, this research
will attempt to uncover a wider range of aspects that may contribute towards
such factors, supporting previous research and outlining new theories in the
process.

Analysis

The
questionnaires will produce the statistical analysis needed in order to gain a
clear representations of the wellbeing of lecturers within further education.
Each question will be coded, which will allow a more precise reading. Bar chart
and line graphs will represent the findings for each question in an attempt to
gain further insight compared to previous research. The qualitative questions
will allow the researcher to gain a behavioural and emotional insight which
will enable the study to gain access to other possible wellbeing affecters.

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