Kang, S., & Yoo, H. (2019). Music teachers’ psychological needs and work engagement as predictors of their well-being. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 221, 58-71.
What did the researchers want to know?
What are the strongest predictors of music teachers’ well-being, and do these vary career stage?
What did the researchers do?
Kang and Yoo surveyed 330 music teachers in the southeastern United States. In addition to collecting demographic information, the survey included questions to measure teachers’ psychological needs, work engagement, and subjective well-being. Measurement of teachers’ psychological needs included 16 questions focusing on three subfactors: “autonomy (to experience oneself as the originator of one’s behavior), competence (to feel that one can master challenges), and relatedness (to feel a sense of meaningful connectedness within one’s social condition” (p. 62). The nine questions pertaining to work engagement focused on teachers’ energy level, vigor, mental resilience, and willingness to invest effort in their work. Finally, 40 questions asked teachers to rate their well-being in a variety of areas, including general happiness and other emotions, confidence in coping with future challenges, relationships, and health.
Kang and Yoo conducted a stepwise regression to ascertain the strongest predictor of well-being. To investigate whether predictors of well-being vary throughout career stages, Kang and Yoo conducted stepwise regressions for each of five different stages (0-5 years teaching, 6-10 years, 11-20 years, 21-30 years, 31+ years).
What did the researchers find?
The strongest predictor of participants’ well-being was their sense of competence in their work as music educators. While competence was still the strongest predictor of well-being for teachers with 11-30 years of experience, relatedness was the strongest predictor of well-being for teachers with 0-10 years and 31+ years of experience.
What does this mean for my classroom?
“Based on the results of this study, we can conclude that promoting music teachers’ psychological needs, especially competence and relatedness, will ensure higher levels of their well-being” (p. 66). It is especially important for newer teachers and those nearing retirement to feel connected to their colleagues and students. In general, feeling competent in their work is the strongest predictor of a music teacher’s well-being. Thus, music teacher preparation programs and school districts can help teachers’ well-being by assisting them in developing their competence to the greatest extent possible.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has continually posed new and unforeseeable circumstances in schools. From moving to virtual instruction to eliminating key areas of learning and skill development (e.g., avoiding singing due to concern over aerosols) to having their own classes canceled so they can substitute for grade-level teachers, music educators have experienced two years of constant threats to their sense of competence in their work. If you are exhausted and feeling like you are failing as a teacher, you are not alone! There is no way you could have been prepared for this. Just as new teachers go through a period characterized as “survival,” we are all doing the best we can in the circumstances we are facing. To help strengthen well-being among teachers and students alike, now may be the time for scaling back educational goals and focusing on building relationships to the best of our abilities. School administrators should also prioritize teachers’ well-being and provide them with opportunities to build autonomy, relatedness, and competence. “Continuous efforts should be made to understand teachers’ well-being and promote it on an individual and/or case-by-case basis” (p. 69).