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Positive Psychology in enhancing Teachers' Well-Being
Dasha Bunks
Liberty University
PSYC 775 - Teaching of Psychology
Dr. Winn
2022
Positive Psychology in enhancing Teachers' Well-Being
One of the major consequences of Covid-19 in educational settings has been the transition from
face-to-face instruction to emergency remote teaching in order to maintain teaching and learning
quality standards (United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organization, 2020; Garcia et al., 2021).
Studies have shown a marked increase in stress and burnout in school teachers (Pellerone, 2021) and
technostress among university teachers during the pandemic as a result of different reasons both
subjective and objective (Penado-Abilleira et al., 2021), moderate to low levels of stress, anxiety and
depression in school and university teachers (Ozamiz-Etxebarria et al., 2021a). Fear of contagion and risk
perception in the school context, and teacher with higher levels of anxiety considered that the
possibility of reopening schools was not a priority (Weinert et al., 2021). A systematic review carried out
on teacher health in times of Covid-19 (Holguín, 2021) has found that physical, mental and social health
have been impacted. It is relevant to mention that only two studies were found related to this. One was
about interventions for the prevention of physical symptoms (Kayabinar et al., 2020) and the other
about emotional competencies (Roman, 2020).
Non-university teachers have reported an increase in psychosocial risks in working environments
regarding limited resources, difficulties in organizational justice, interpersonal problems, role confusion
and work overload, uncertainty management, psychosomatic disorders, and burnout as well as the
responsibility of being the primary learning facilitator of children and teenagers (Prado-Gascó et al.,
2020). One of the concerns expressed by teachers has involved assessments, including assessment tools
and strategies, monitoring student learning and ethical issues related to students' behaviors (Jelińska
and Paradowski, 2021).
In addition to other factors determined by education administrations, vaccination plans in some
parts of the world have contributed to the gradual return to face to face instruction or at least a hybrid
model of education. Nevertheless, teachers who have faced the prospect of going back to onsite
teaching have experienced anxiety about contagion risk as well as falling behind or having difficulty
keeping up with the planned teaching schedule and overall student progress (Wakui et al., 2021).
Teachers who have returned to face-to face lessons have reported high levels of anxiety, stress, and
even depression, all of which were likely exacerbated by the emotional experience they have gone
through during the lockdown period, the uncertainty about contagion in schools and managing their
workload from home (Ozamiz-Etxebarria et al., 2021b).
Teaching staff are not coming back to what was considered a “normal” school environment
before the pandemic breakout (Darling-Hammond and Hyler, 2020; Ellis et al., 2020; Brunzell et al.,
2021; Pressley, 2021a). Educational institutions are reopening after high levels of Covid-19 and with a
current marked increase in variants such as Delta. In this context, it is worth considering that we may be
coming back to school experiencing collective psychosocial trauma (Bergren, 2021; Gonçalvez-Boggio,
2021). A scenario that promotes teacher burnout (Pressley, 2021b). With the current educational
situation, we must reflect upon how to promote teachers' psychological well-being both in the present-
day and post-Covid-19.
In order to identify the research on teachers' psychological well-being in the context of the
COVID-19 pandemic, a systematic review was carried out following the PRISMA method (Moher et al.,
2009). Following each of the phases, a comprehensive literature search was conducted in three
databases: SCOPUS, Web of Science (all collections) and EBSCO (all collections), using the keywords
“wellbeing” OR “well being” OR “well-being” AND “teacher” OR “teacher” AND “positive psychology”
AND “covid-19” OR “coronavirus” OR “2019ncov” OR “sars-cov-2” OR “cov-19” identified anywhere in
the registry. The search for primary sources included only English and Spanish language scientific
articles. The initial search yielded four results.
After discarding duplicate works, a total of three studies were identified. The analysis of each of
them resulted in: (a) a qualitative research about the trauma approach in conjunction with applied
positive psychology for elementary school teachers (Brunzell et al., 2021); (b) a study focused on coping
strategies in relation to well-being, stress and negative emotions in language teachers at different
teaching levels (MacIntyre et al., 2020); and (c) a theoretical proposal focused on methods and teaching
strategies based on well-being and positive psychology for teachers but focused on student well-being
(Chu, 2020).
Given the few studies found in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the intention of this
article, which focuses its efforts on the contribution of positive psychology to teachers' well-being, is
relevant. For this purpose, a new systematic review was conducted following the steps described above.
However, the descriptors associated with COVID-19 were substituted by research oriented to
applications or intervention programs (“program” OR “intervention”). In this case, 89 articles were
found in the three databases consulted. Twenty-six of these were duplicates.
The titles and abstracts of 63 articles were read. The selection criteria were: (1) research focused
on teachers, (2) positive psychology topics, (3) in English or Spanish. The final sample consisted of 12
research studies. We identified 66.7% (n = 8) quantitative paradigm studies, 33.3% (n = 4) with a
qualitative design. Only 16.6% (n = 2) of them were published in Spanish. The findings highlight the fact
that, although the rise of positive psychology applied to education has been important in recent years,
the work developed has a greater emphasis on the context of student well-being. There is little research
that considers the teacher from a person-centered approach, despite being an essential actor for the
development of positive education (Rahm and Heise, 2019; White, 2021). Perspectives offered by
Positive Psychology provide us with some important answers. Please note that references to “teaching
staff” in this article refer to teachers working at different formal educational levels including preschool,
primary, secondary, and university or higher education.
Teachers' well-being is a complex construct, which has been conceptualized as the absence of
negative conditions such as teacher's stress, demotivation and even burnout (Huertas and Dávila, 2020;
Bastías, 2021). Teachers' well-being has also been studied as it relates to coping strategies and
engagement and recovery from work (Pöysä et al., 2021). From the perspective of Positive Psychology,
well-being may be analyzed with a holistic approach such as Seligman's PERMA model (Seligman, 2012)
as well as in eudaimonic dimensions such as the multidimensional psychological well-being model
proposed by Ryff (1989, 2014). It is important to understand that well-being is a complex construct that
includes a variety of subjective indicators. Some of which are related to personal growth and self-
actualization, which must always be considered in context. Research measuring teachers' psychological
well-being has yielded interesting results. These may suggest guidelines for the development of
psychosocial intervention strategies.
When focusing on psychosocial interventions, the strategies to be developed may better fit into
an approach that favors health promotion, and prevention risk factors along with primary prevention of
psychopathology. These may be universal interventions targeting all teaching staff. From a theoretical
point of view, these interventions aimed at increasing the protective factors for mental health and well-
being of teachers (Branand and Nakamura, 2017) are based on the Job Demands-resources Model
(Bakker and Demerouti, 2013), the Theory of Flow and Optimal Experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1988), the
Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues (Peterson and Seligman, 2004), the Social Cognitive
Career Theory (Lent et al., 1994), and the Self-determination Theory (Ryan and Deci, 2017).
Furthermore, previous research involving teachers at different educational levels has identified
factors affecting teachers in the workplace. These should be considered when addressing risk reduction
and burnout prevention (Carlotto and Câmara, 2017; Tabares-Díaz et al., 2020). The above mentioned
factors include interpersonal variables such as emotional expression and regulation, motivation, self-
efficacy, and teacher engagement (García-Renedo et al., 2006; Perandones-Gonzalez et al., 2014;
Lozano-Paz and Reyes-Bossio, 2017).
In addition, context-bound variables related to peer support and collaboration, school work
environment, school leadership and management, and the impact of public-school policies (Dávila,
2018) should also be considered. In the field of Positive Psychology, specific interventions aimed at
promoting multidimensional psychological well-being have been implemented (e.g., multidimensional
well-being workshops for teachers, Leal-Soto et al., 2014). Particular character strengths such as
gratitude (e.g., counting blessings, Chan, 2010) can decrease symptoms of depression in teachers and
increase their level of satisfaction (e.g., counting blessings vs. misfortunes, Chan, 2011, 2013).
Mindfulness interventions may be used to strengthen personal resources, thereby reducing work stress
among teachers (Taylor et al., 2015).
In the research laboratory of Jóvenes Fuertes Uruguay, multicomponent interventions aimed at
promoting psychological well-being in teachers have been developed. The goals of the Positive
Psychology Course Applied to Education (CUPPAE according to its acronym in Spanish) were to increase
the psychological well-being of educational staff through the identification of their virtues and character
strengths, and to provide training in teaching strategies to apply positive psychology in their classrooms.
The study had a pretest–posttest design with teachers of various educational levels.
The intervention consisted of eight modules providing a formative journey through positive
psychology, elements of well-being, character strengths, positive education and strategies, mental
styles, resilience and optimism, mindfulness in conjunction with self-regulation, emotional management,
empathy and compassion. The results indicated a significant increase in psychological well-being in each
of its dimensions in the participating teachers before and after the intervention. It was concluded that
the intervention presented satisfactory preliminary results (García-Álvarez et al., 2020).
The Jóvenes Fuertes research laboratory has developed an additional multi-component positive
psychology intervention aimed at developing multidimensional psychological well-being and gratitude.
This intervention uses a pre- and post-measurement methodology with a single group, and comprises
eight sessions. In this intervention, teachers start from a Positive Psychology foundation, well-being
models, and focus on each of the character strengths including an organized gratitude campaign in the
school environment. Pre and post-tests results have indicated a marked increase in teachers'
psychological well-being and gratitude. It was concluded that the intervention could be used to promote
psychological well-being, gratitude and mental health in teachers (García-Álvarez and Soler, 2021).
The results of both studies suggest two significant findings. First, regarding continuous
professional development, the main objective of the intervention must be to train teachers to apply
positive psychology both in their own lives and to implement its principles in the classroom. Second,
regarding the nature of the psychological intervention, the mental health of the teachers and the
educational community as a whole must be promoted. The results of these studies provide
recommendations indicating that any positive psychology intervention designed for teachers should
integrate all aspects, including teaching practice, educational leadership, and school management.
Similarly, these interventions should address specific situations related to teacher distress, as indicated
by the prevention model in Keyes (2002) two-factor model (Kern et al., 2014; Brunzell et al., 2021; World
Health Organization, 2021).
References
Alqurshi, A. (2020). Investigating the impact of COVID-19 lockdown on pharmaceutical
education in Saudi Arabia–A call for a remote teaching contingency strategy. Saudi
Pharmaceutical Journal, 28(9), 1075-1083.
Bakker, A., & Demerouti, E. (2013). Job demands-resources model. Revista de Psicologia del
Trabajo y de las Organizaciones, 29(3), 107-115.
Bao, W. (2020). COVID 19 and online teaching in higher education: A case study of Peking
University. Human behavior and emerging technologies, 2(2), 113-115.
Brunzell, T., Waters, L., & Stokes, H. (2021). Trauma-informed Teacher Wellbeing: Teacher
Reflections within Trauma-informed Positive Education. Australian Journal of Teacher
Education, 46(5), 91-107.
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