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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

Teacher Workforce

December 2020


What research or resources are available on factors that influence teacher working conditions or teacher well-being?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and descriptive studies on factors that influence teacher working conditions or teacher well-being. For details on the databases and sources, key words, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Cucchiara, M. B., Rooney, E., & Robertson-Kraft, C. (2015). “I’ve never seen people work so hard!” Teachers’ working conditions in the early stages of school turnaround. Urban Education, 50(3), 259–287.

From the ERIC abstract: “School turnaround—a reform strategy that strives for quick and dramatic transformation of low-performing schools—has gained prominence in recent years. This study uses interviews and focus groups conducted with 86 teachers in 13 schools during the early stages of school turnaround in a large urban district to examine teachers’ perceptions of the social and organizational conditions within their schools. The study shows that some turnaround schools provided more positive working conditions than others, particularly with respect to organizational function and culture. It further finds a strong association between teachers’ perceptions of school-level working conditions and support for school turnaround.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Geiger, T., & Pivovarova, M. (2018). The effects of working conditions on teacher retention. Teachers and Teaching, 24(6), 604–625.

From the ERIC abstract: “Teacher attrition is one of the driving contributors to the shortage of effective teachers internationally and in the United States. The common factors that spur teachers worldwide to leave the profession include low salaries, quality of teacher preparation programs, overwhelming workload, and poor working conditions. In this study, we analyzed three years of Arizona public schools’ teacher retention data and quantitative and qualitative working conditions survey data to understand the relationship between attrition patterns, perceived working conditions at their schools, and the characteristics of the schools where they were employed. We compared attrition rates in schools with different student demographic compositions and related these differences to working conditions as perceived by teachers in these schools. We found that schools where teachers rated their working conditions as more satisfactory had lower attrition rates and also were schools with higher rates of low-income and/or minority students. This findings support the hypothesis of working conditions being a mediating factor in the interplay between school demographics and teacher attrition. We document patterns of teacher retention rates across schools with different student demographics and discuss implications for policy.”

Gunther, J. (2019). Quantifying the value teachers place on non-monetary factors when evaluating job opportunities. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27(45).

From the ERIC abstract: “How working conditions, personal characteristics, and school factors influence teacher recruitment and retention is an oft-studied topic in the field of education finance and policy. Through decades of research, it has become increasingly clear that teachers respond to a set of monetary and non-monetary factors when making decisions in the teacher labor market. What is less clear is the relative or absolute value teachers place on factors such as salary, student demographic factors, school conditions, and other working conditions such as class size, curricular autonomy, and principal support, to name a few. This project introduces the use of a novel survey methodology, Adaptive Choice-Based Conjoint (ACBC) analysis, to quantify the relative importance of various monetary and non-monetary job factors to practicing teachers as they consider the desirability of various hypothetical schools. The use of ACBC estimates the value placed on various working condition factors by secondary teachers in Utah and how those valuations vary with personal and demographic factors. This research provide practical recommendations for administrators and policymakers that aim to make schools more desirable for teachers and demonstrates the use of ABC to answer outstanding questions in the field of teacher recruitment and retention.”

Halstead, E. O. (2013). Teacher satisfaction and turnover in WCPSS. Data trends. (D&A Report No. 13.11). Wake County Public School System.

From the ERIC abstract: “During the spring of 2010, over 9,000 educators across Wake County Public Schools (WCPSS) took the North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions (TWC) survey. Survey responses were then compared to turnover data to see if there is any relationship between the two. Results indicated that teachers’ satisfaction with their working conditions were positively associated with the percentage of teachers who stayed at their school the following year. These findings are discussed in terms of implications for improving staff retention rates at schools.”

Harris, S. P., Davies, R. S., Christensen, S. S., Hanks, J., & Bowles, B. (2019). Teacher attrition: Differences in stakeholder perceptions of teacher work conditions. Education Sciences, 9(4), 300.

From the ERIC abstract: “The purpose of this study was to identify differences in perceptions between three stakeholder groups—principals, K-12 teachers, and parents—regarding the effect of workplace conditions on teacher attrition. All three groups agreed that workplace conditions are important, but they disagreed about (a) which workplace conditions are most problematic for teachers, (b) the magnitude of these problems, and (c) the degree to which these problems may contribute to teachers leaving. The greatest disagreements occurred in perceptions of (a) teachers’ involvement in decision-making, (b) protection of teacher preparation time, (c) administration’s management of student discipline, (d) adequacy of resource availability, (e) the degree to which a trusting and supportive school environment existed within the school, and (f) whether teachers’ expectations were reasonable. Overall, principals believed that work conditions are relatively good for teachers, while many teachers disagreed with these perceptions.”

Horng, E. L. (2009). Teacher tradeoffs: Disentangling teachers’ preferences for working conditions and student demographics. American Educational Research Journal, 46(3), 690–717.

From the ERIC abstract: “One of the greatest differences in resources across schools in California comes from an inequitable distribution of teachers. This study identifies reasons for this sorting of teachers by surveying 531 teachers in a California elementary school district. The surveys ask the teachers to make choices between various workplace characteristics. With this information, the study disentangles student demographics from other characteristics of teaching jobs that are amenable to policy influences. It finds that teachers identify working conditions—particularly, school facilities, administrative support, and class sizes—and salaries as significantly more important than student characteristics when selecting a school in which to work.”

Kaynak, N. E. (2020). A close look at teachers’ lives: Caring for the well-being of elementary teachers in the US. International Journal of Emotional Education, 12(1), 19–34.

From the ERIC abstract: “The purpose of this qualitative study is to shed light on elementary teachers’ perspectives on their sense of well-being, with emphasis on contextual factors that promote or block their sense of well-being. Data were collected through background questionnaires, teachers’ journal writings, and interviews with teachers. Findings reveal that teachers’ sense of well-being was fostered mainly by student growth and supportive colleagues. The major themes that emerged as negatively affecting teachers’ well-being were the influence of accountability testing, lack of power, sense of being scrutinized, student misbehavior, and heavy workload. The results of this study show the need for restructuring teaching contexts. When schools are places in which teachers feel valued, respected, empowered and involved in decision-making processes, they are likely to have a better sense of well-being.”

Podolsky, A., Kini, T., Bishop, J., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2016). Solving the teacher shortage: How to attract and retain excellent educators. Learning Policy Institute.

From the ERIC abstract: “One of the most pressing issues facing policymakers is how to staff classrooms with a stable teaching force responsive to complex student needs and the growing demands of the knowledge economy. Recurrent teacher shortages are a function of both declines in entrants to teaching and high rates of teacher attrition, especially in low-income schools. This turnover is costly, and undermines student achievement and school improvement efforts. A better understanding of why teachers enter and leave the profession, and what might encourage them to stay or return, is critical to improving the educational opportunities for all students, especially those attending the most disadvantaged schools. This paper reviews an extensive body of research on teacher recruitment and retention, and identifies five major factors that influence teachers’ decisions to enter, stay in, or leave the teaching profession, generally, and high-need schools, specifically. Those factors are: (1) Salaries and other compensation; (2) Preparation and costs to entry; (3) Hiring and personnel management; (4) Induction and support for new teachers; and (5) Working conditions, including school leadership, professional collaboration and shared decision-making, accountability systems, and resources for teaching and learning. Based on this review and analysis, the authors outline local, state, and federal policies, grounded in research, that can help to recruit and retain excellent teachers, especially in the highest-need schools.”

Podolsky, A., Kini, T., Bishop, J., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2017). Sticky schools: How to find and keep teachers in the classroom. Phi Delta Kappan, 98(8), 19–25.

From the ERIC abstract: “To ensure that schools enjoy a steady supply of competent and committed teachers, federal, state, and local policymakers should look to the extensive research literature in this area, focusing on five strategies in particular: strengthening teacher preparation, improving hiring practices, increasing compensation, providing support for new teachers, and improving working conditions (with particular attention to school leadership, professional collaboration and shared decision making, and resources for teaching and learning).”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Shen, J., Leslie, J. M., Spybrook, J. K., & Ma, X. (2012). Are principal background and school processes related to teacher job satisfaction? A multilevel study using schools and staffing survey 2003-04. American Educational Research Journal, 49(2), 200–230.

From the ERIC abstract: “Using nationally representative samples for public school teachers and principals, the authors inquired into whether principal background and school processes are related to teacher job satisfaction. Employing hierarchical linear modeling (HLM), the authors were able to control for background characteristics at both the teacher and school levels. They found that 17% of the total variance in teacher job satisfaction is between schools, a statistically significant amount that indicates schools can make a difference in teacher job satisfaction. The authors found that school processes—particularly career and working conditions, staff collegiality, administrative support, and to a lesser extent, positive student behavior and teacher empowerment—are positively associated with teacher job satisfaction. Although two principal background variables—the experience of being a department head or an athletic coach/director—are statistically significant, the authors found the block of school process variables explains far more variance than the block of principal background variables. Based on the findings, the authors discussed issues such as the complexity of the phenomenon of teacher job satisfaction, the role of school process versus principal background, and monetary versus cultural factors.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Wang, K., Li, Y., Luo, W., & Zhang, S. (2019). Selected factors contributing to teacher job satisfaction: A quantitative investigation using 2013 TALIS data. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 19(3), 512–532.

From the abstract: “This study aims to analyze how selected student and school factors may affect teacher job satisfaction, in addition to teacher factors, through multilevel regression and commonality analysis of U.S. data from the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2013. In the overall model of teacher job satisfaction, the factors of low achievers, behavioral problems, SES, classroom discipline climate, school location, principal job satisfaction, school autonomy for instruction, participation among stakeholders, experience, teacher self-efficacy, teacher-student relationship, teacher cooperation, and effective professional development are important predictors for teacher job satisfaction based on the values of beta weights and structure coefficients. Furthermore, the commonality analysis reveals that student, school, and teacher factors uniquely contribute 4.19%, 7.07%, and 6.41% of variance, respectively. Findings provide significant implications for educational policies on teacher job satisfaction and retention.”

Xia, J., Izumi, M., & Gao, X. (2015). School process and teacher job satisfaction at alternative schools: A multilevel study using SASS 2007–08 data. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 14(2), 167–203.

From the ERIC abstract: “This study examined the associations between public alternative schools’ teacher job satisfaction and school processes. Based on a multilevel analysis of the national School and Staffing Survey 2007-08 data, we found that among the seven school processes, public alternative schools’ administrative support, staff collegiality, career and working condition, and positive student behavior had positive associations with teacher job satisfaction. More importantly, we noticed that higher level factors (e.g., administrative/resource support from school level or above) presented more impacts on teacher job satisfaction. Other factors’ impacts on teacher job satisfaction and relevant implications were discussed as well.”

Zee, M., & Koomen, H. M. Y. (2016). Teacher self-efficacy and its effects on classroom processes, student academic adjustment, and teacher well-being: A synthesis of 40 years of research. Review of Educational Research, 86(4), 981–1015.

From the ERIC abstract: “This study integrates 40 years of teacher self-efficacy (TSE) research to explore the consequences of TSE for the quality of classroom processes, students’ academic adjustment, and teachers’ psychological well-being. Via a criteria-based review approach, 165 eligible articles were included for analysis. Results suggest that TSE shows positive links with students’ academic adjustment, patterns of teacher behavior and practices related to classroom quality, and factors underlying teachers’ psychological well-being, including personal accomplishment, job satisfaction, and commitment. Negative associations were found between TSE and burnout factors. Last, a small number of studies indicated indirect effects between TSE and academic adjustment, through instructional support, and between TSE and psychological well-being, through classroom organization. Possible explanations for the findings and gaps in the measurement and analysis of TSE in the educational literature are discussed.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • “Instructional practices” well-being

  • “Student behavior” “job satisfaction”

  • “Teaching conditions” facilities

  • “Teaching conditions” “job satisfaction”

  • “Teaching conditions” “school effectiveness”

  • “Teaching conditions” “student behavior”

  • “Teaching conditions” resources

  • “Teacher conditions” “teacher leadership”

  • “Teacher leadership” “job satisfaction”

  • Teacher well-being

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2005 to present, were included in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.