What contributes to teacher job satisfaction?

How satisfied are Australian Maths and Science teachers with their jobs? Is the level of job satisfaction different for teachers in primary and secondary settings? And, what contributes to teacher job satisfaction?

The latest issue of Snapshots, published this month by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), answers these questions by analysing data from the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

TIMSS data relates to Year 4 and 8 students and their teachers. Snapshots author, ACER Senior Research Fellow Nicole Wernert says the good news is that Australian Year 4 and Year 8 students are generally taught by very satisfied or satisfied teachers, according to the job satisfaction scale. ‘However, teachers' levels of satisfaction appeared to decrease in secondary school. More Year 8 students were taught by teachers who were less than satisfied with the job than was the case at Year 4,' she writes.

Data show 97 per cent of Year 4 Maths and Science students were taught by very satisfied or satisfied teachers but the figures dropped to 89 per cent and 85 per cent for Year 8 Maths and Science students, respectively. The breakdown of percentages for very satisfied, satisfied and less than satisfied can be seen below.

School support for refugee students

Figure 1. Australian teachers' levels of job satisfaction

So, how does this compare with other countries? ‘Australia's results … were very similar to the international average, and placed us in the middle of all participating countries,' Wernert says. ‘Qatar scored high on this scale with around 75 per cent of students in both Year 4 and Year 8 having mathematics and science teachers that were very satisfied with their job. Japan scored lowest on this scale with between 19 per cent (Year 8 science) and 27 per cent (Year 4 science) of students who had teachers that were very satisfied with their job.'

The teacher job satisfaction scale used in TIMSS relates to seven statements:

  • I am content with my profession as a teacher;
  • I am satisfied with being a teacher at this school;
  • I find my work full of meaning and purpose;
  • I am enthusiastic about my job;
  • My work inspires me;
  • I am proud of the work that I do; and,
  • I am going to continue teaching for as long as I can.

Wernert says the statement ‘I am proud of the work that I do' elicited the strongest positive responses from both Year 4 and Year 8 teachers in Australia, followed by ‘I am enthusiastic about my job' and ‘I find my work full of meaning and purpose'.

Teachers were also asked about different aspects of their work environment, including the challenges they face and their perceptions of the school's focus on academic success. Wernert says these responses can shine some light on what contributes to job satisfaction.

‘In general, teachers' perceptions of their school and working environment have a stronger relationship with job satisfaction at Year 8 than at Year 4. However, for both year levels the perception of the school's emphasis on academic success had the strongest relationship with teacher job satisfaction.

‘At Year 8, perceptions of school safety and discipline also had a relatively strong relationship with job satisfaction, suggesting that school climate (that is, as encompassed by an emphasis on academic success and discipline and respect) has an impact on teachers' attitudes towards their job, especially in secondary school.'

Wernert reports there was no clear relationship between teacher job satisfaction and students' Mathematics and Science achievement, adding this may be because of the high percentages of students with teachers that were very satisfied or satisfied.

You can download the full Snapshots report – titled Teacher job satisfaction – by clicking on the link.

Stay tuned: Teacher will be bringing you results of the International results from the 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) when they’re released by the OECD later this week. Sign up to the Teacher email bulletin to make sure you never miss a story.