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School Employee Health, Resilience, and Well-being
April 2020

Question

What does the research say about evidence-based practices and programs that support K–12 school employee health, resilience, and well-being?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.

References

Beisser, S. R., Peters, R. E., & Thacker, V. M. (2014). Balancing passion and priorities: An investigation of health and wellness practices of secondary school principals. NASSP Bulletin, 98(3), 237–255. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/

From the Abstract:
"Given the increased attention on school-based programs to decrease obesity and emphasize fitness among children, there is an alarming lack of attention on health and wellness of school administrators. This study investigated the work-life balance, health, and nutrition status of secondary administrators in one Midwest state using an online survey. Results indicated disparity between administrators’ perceived responsibility to foster healthy school environments and their personal wellness modeling. Stress levels and years of experience were found to affect wellness modeling."

Beltman, S., Mansfield, C., & Price, A. (2011). Thriving not just surviving: A review of research on teacher resilience. Educational Research Review, 6(3), 185–207. Retrieved from https://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/

From the Abstract:
"Retaining teachers in the early stages of the profession is a major issue of concern in many countries. Teacher resilience is a relatively recent area of investigation which provides a way of understanding what enables teachers to persist in the face of challenges and offers a complementary perspective to studies of stress, burnout and attrition. We have known for many years that teaching can be stressful, particularly for new teachers, but little appears to have changed. This paper reviews recent empirical studies related to the resilience of early career teachers. Resilience is shown to be the outcome of a dynamic relationship between individual risk and protective factors. Individual attributes such as altruistic motives and high self-efficacy are key individual protective factors. Contextual challenges or risk factors and contextual supports or protective factors can come from sources such as school administration, colleagues, and pupils. Challenges for the future are to refine conceptualisations of teacher resilience and to develop and examine interventions in multiple contexts. There are many opportunities for those who prepare, employ and work with prospective and new teachers to reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors and so enable new teachers to thrive, not just survive."

Gillan, W., Naquin, M., Zannis, M., Bowers, A., Brewer, J., & Russell, S. (2013). Correlations among stress, physical activity and nutrition: School employee health behavior. ICHPER-SD Journal of Research, 8(1), 55–60. https://eric.ed.gov/

From the Abstract:
"Employee health promotion programs increase work productivity and effectively reduce employer costs related to health care and absenteeism, and enhance worker productivity. Components of an effective worksite health program include stress management, exercise and nutrition and/or weight management classes or counseling. Few studies have documented correlates of health behaviors in school-based employees. A multi-component survey was used to examine relationships among stress, physical activity and specific food choices among employees in a southeastern Louisiana school district. Significant differences were found in coping styles by gender and employee status. Findings also indicated that employees who selected healthful foods were more likely to use task-oriented coping, considered an effective coping style. Further those employees who engaged in vigorous physical activity on a regular basis reported less perceived stress as well as more effective coping strategies. Since these behaviors appear to be interrelated, those conducting health promotion programs may consider a multi-dimensional approach when planning programs for employees. Intervention studies in a school-based population are needed to examine specific effects of different coping styles and healthy behaviors on employee productivity."

Harris, A. R., Jennings, P. A., Katz, D. A., Abenavoli, R. M., & Greenberg, M. T. (2016). Promoting stress management and wellbeing in educators: Feasibility and efficacy of a school-based yoga and mindfulness intervention. Mindfulness, 7(1), 143–154. https://www.researchgate.net/

From the Abstract:
"We evaluated the feasibility and efficacy of the Community Approach to Learning Mindfully (CALM) program for educators. CALM is a brief daily school-based intervention to promote educator social-emotional competencies, stress management, and wellbeing. Two middle schools were randomly assigned to waitlist control condition or the CALM program. Participants included 64 educators. Intervention sessions included gentle yoga and mindfulness practices and were offered 4 days per week for 16 weeks. Pre- and posttest measurements included self-report surveys of social-emotional functioning and wellbeing, blood pressure readings, and diurnal assays of cortisol. Compared to the control condition, CALM had significant benefits for educators’ mindfulness, positive affect, classroom management, distress tolerance, physical symptoms, blood pressure, and cortisol awakening response. There were trend-level effects for two measures related to stress and burnout. No impacts were observed for relational trust, perceived stress, or sleep. Effect sizes for significant impacts ranged from 0.52 to 0.80. Educators found the intervention feasible and beneficial as a method for managing stress and promoting wellbeing. Initial evidence suggests that CALM has potential as a strategy to improve educators’ social-emotional competence and wellbeing, prevent stress-related problems, and support classroom functioning."

Iancu, A.E., Rusu, A., Măroiu, C., Păcurar, R., & Maricuțoiu, L. P. (2018). The effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing teacher burnout: A meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review 30(2), 373–396. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/

From the Abstract:
"We conducted a meta-analysis to investigate the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing teacher burnout. Online and reference list searches yielded 513 unique results, and the final sample contains 23 controlled trials (19 journal articles and 4 unpublished dissertations). More than two thirds of the studies had optimal quality, and the risk of bias was not related to the overall effectiveness of the interventions. The overall effects were small, but statistically significant (d = 0.18, SE = 0.05, Z = 3.26, p < 0.001, k = 23). Separate analyses on each burnout component showed similar intervention effects on emotional exhaustion and personal accomplishment, but almost null effects on depersonalization (d = 0.03, SE = 0.06, Z = 0.53, p > 0.05, k = 11). Additional moderator analyses suggested that mindfulness interventions had significant effects on exhaustion and personal accomplishment. Interventions on primary and middle school teachers reported effect sizes below the average effect. Similar to previous findings, interventions that lasted less than 1 month had the smallest levels of efficacy."

Schultz, N. S., Chui, K. K., Economos, C. D., Lichtenstein, A. H., Volpe, S. L., & Sacheck, J. M. (2019). A qualitative investigation of factors that influence school employee health behaviors: Implications for wellness programming. Journal of School Health, 89(11), 890-898. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

From the Abstract:
"Background: Employee health promotion in the elementary school setting can support students’ health and academic success. School employees can serve as role models, yet evidence suggests poor health among this population. The objective of this study was to identify factors that influence school employee health behaviors to inform subsequent development of employee wellness programs. METHODS: Focus groups (10 groups, total N=62) and interviews (N=5) were conducted with school employees. Participants were recruited from schools in socioeconomically disadvantaged, racially diverse districts in Massachusetts. A socioecological framework was used to identify multi-level factors that influence employee health behaviors. Factors were characterized as supports (+) or barriers (−) to health-promoting behaviors. RESULTS: Eight themes highlighted the importance of an organizational culture that sustains successful employee wellness programming. Intrapersonal themes included: High Stress (+/−), Desire to Adopt Healthy Behaviors (+), and Sufficient Health Knowledge (+). Interpersonal themes included: Strong Social Network (+) and a Desire to Role Model (+). Organizational themes included: Demanding Job (−), Lack of Wellness Culture (−), and Unhealthy Food (−). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that this population would be receptive to wellness programming. Promising strategies include supporting a dedicated wellness champion and creating recognizable top down wellness support for employees."

Methods

Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: School, (Employee OR personnel OR staff OR teacher OR principal), (Health OR resilience OR well-being OR wellbeing OR wellness)

Databases and Resources: 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 Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

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

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The 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.