In recent years, there has been a steady change in well-being research, as Capone and Petrillo suggest [1
]. This change led to a shift from the research of distress symptoms to the investigation of personal strengths, resources and well-being from a positive psychology perspective [1
]. In the same line of thought, Diener [4
] puts forward a broader definition of well-being, understood as the complex result of people’s cognitive and affective evaluations of their lives. This includes a number of separate components: life satisfaction, satisfaction with important domains, positive affect and low levels of negative affect. The approach to defining a good life was called subjective well-being or happiness [4
]. Within the framework of the theory of maximal development of human potential, Ryan and Deci [7
] define well-being as an open, healthy operation based on the subject’s commitment. In their view, ‘developing the individual potential favours the well-being, but does not grant it’ [7
A large empirical literature suggests that well-being is a multidimensional construct [4
] and can be defined by the prevalence of the positive, not just the absence of the negative, involving both optimal experience and positive functioning [13
]. Keyes [15
] advocates that a comprehensive approach of well-being would include both hedonic and eudaimonic approaches. Consistently, Huppert [13
] and Kern [9
] emphasize the need to relate both feeling good and functioning well in theoretical approaches of well-being. Dodge and her collaborators raise criticism of the omnibus nature of previous approaches to defining well-being [16
]. Consequently, they build upon the dynamic equilibrium theory and point forward to a new definition of well-being encompassing three key elements: a set-point for well-being, the equilibrium and the balance between psychological, social and physical challenges and resources. The systemic functioning of the three elements is explained by Kloep et al.: ‘Each time an individual meets a challenge, the system of challenges and resources comes into a state of imbalance, as the individual is forced to adapt his or her resources to meet this particular challenge’ [17
]. Well-being is a balance point between support, resources, and autonomy with challenges, demands, and intensity, argue Wassell and Dodge [12
]. When challenges outrun the resources, a state of tension occurs, destabilizing the ‘balance’. To increase well-being, it is important to identify whether more demand and challenge are needed or whether the individuals need more support, autonomy or feedback to reach an equilibrium state. Essentially, well-being state is reached when the subjects hold the psychological, physical, and social resources needed in order to optimally meet a challenge in the environment.
The literature points out several negative effects of an imbalanced relationship between challenges and resources within the teaching profession. The teacher attrition phenomenon is a recurring problem on the agenda of the worldwide educational systems. Recent research suggests that approximately 40% of teachers abandon the profession less than five years after the teaching career onset [18
]. Likewise, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) Big Question Survey conducted in 2017 in England reveals that 61% of teachers were thinking of quitting the profession [20
]. The costs related to teacher attrition are significant and they draw negative effects: discontinuity of study programs and the need to invest in training new teachers and implementing employability programs for them [21
]. Some of the early-career teachers experience pressure, conflictual situations and stress [22
], leading to low levels of motivation and involvement in the teaching activity [19
]. Other authors highlight the implications of burnout syndrome, pointing out its extensive dimension with recurrent absenteeism and high costs for healthcare [25
]. Although an extensive corpus of research investigates stress and burnout in teachers, fewer studies focus on emotions and well-being.
Within the framework of the dynamic equilibrium theory proposed by Dodge and her collaborators, the main purpose of this research study was to propose a statistical model of teacher well-being, postulating relationships between job resources, job demands, perceived self-efficacy, teaching emotions and subjective happiness, seen as a dimension of well-being. The following sections discuss the variables in the model and their relationship with teacher well-being.
2. Challenges and Job Demands in Teacher Well-Being
Teachers constantly find themselves in contexts where they have to provide optimal answers to the demands of the educational environment and of the students [28
]. Bakker and Demerouti [29
] state that job demands ‘refer to those physical, psychological, social, or organisational aspects of the job that require sustained physical and/or psychological (cognitive and emotional) effort or skills and are therefore associated with certain physiological and/or psychological costs’. Skaavik and Skaavik [30
] indicate that the concepts of job demands and job stressors could be used interchangeably.
In explaining the job demands category, the literature includes the subcategories of physical, cognitive and emotional demands. Skaavik and Skaavin [30
] suggest that time pressure (or work overload), discipline problems (or student disruptive behaviour), low student motivation, large student diversity, conflicts with colleagues, lack of administrative support, value conflicts, and role ambiguity are the most frequent and impactful job demands in schools. In recent years, there has been a rise in research studies reporting an increase in teacher workload [30
]. Examining teacher job satisfaction, Cross [31
] finds that teachers experience depression, anxiety and stress mostly due to real or perceived workload.
Yin, Huang and Wang [32
] have studied the range of emotions associated to teaching and emotional regulation. The research results reveal contrasting models of interaction between the emotional demands of the teaching activities, trust among colleagues and the teachers’ well-being. Moreover, the study proves that an efficient strategy protecting teachers’ well-being is based on the full awareness of emotions and affective states typical of the school environment, the skilful management of emotional regulation strategies, and the aspects of building an emotional climate based on trust and co-participation. Other researchers report student misbehaviours and time pressure to be associated with low engagement and motivation, stress, and intention to leave the profession [5
]. ‘Organisational and social pressures, such as the administrative work volume, the class management issues, and the lack of a supervisor and of the team support, were extensively studied’ [35
]. Split et al. [38
] approach the impact of the teacher–student relationship on teachers’ well-being. The teacher–student relationships, characterised by conflict and lack of trust, have harmful effects on learning outcomes [39
]. Even so, little is known about the ‘interpersonal requirements experienced by teachers from their students’ [40
]. In addition, it has been contended that there is a low awareness of the internal needs the teachers themselves might have for positive, personal relations with the students. In the present study, three job demands were researched, namely (1) disruptive behaviours of the students (e.g., disobedience, absenteeism); (2) overwork and insufficient time for carrying out the work tasks (e.g., a high number of work tasks and perception that their completion is impossible, such as preparing the lessons, correcting the tests, and others); (3) conflict situations (e.g., in relation to the parents or school leadership).
The present paper aimed at developing a comprehensive model of pre-university teachers’ well-being. The proposed model includes a relevant and significant selection of variables: job demands; job resources, perceived self-efficacy, subjective happiness, and teaching emotions. Hence, the model postulates that the perceived level of job demands (independent, exogenous variable) affects the perceived self-efficacy (mediator variable) and both variables influence the teaching emotions (dependent variables). Complementing this, the model proposes another exogenous variable—job resources—influencing teachers’ happiness and enjoyment of teaching. In addition, the model draws a relationship between enjoyment of teaching and subjective happiness.
presents descriptive statistics for the observed variables included in the statistical model.
Mean analysis suggested that respect (RLM2), social and professional support (RLM8), task variety (RLM9), and feedback provided by fellows (RLM7) are the most important resources of schools as professional environments. On a contrary, the respondents reported a lack of financial safety and comfort (RLM1). The findings pointed out that teaching is a source of positive emotions. The variables associated with the enjoyment of teaching (JOY_1, JOY_2, JOY_3, JOY_4) have mean scores varying from 4.37 to 4.75. Kruskal–Wallis H Test was conducted to examine the differences in teaching enthusiasm (JOY_1) according to teachers’ career level. No significant differences were found: , with a mean rank enthusiasm score of 559.35 for debutant teachers and 549.34 for first degree teachers. Lower mean scores were computed for negative emotions associated with teaching, namely anxiety (ANX_1, ANX_2, ANX_3) and anger (ANG_1, ANG_2, ANG_3, ANG_4). Relative frequency analysis indicated that 35% of the subjects feel worried during teaching activities to a great extent. There are no significant differences related to the teaching experience variable, as Kruskal-Wallis H test showed (, with a mean rank score of 572.18 for debutant teachers and 535.66 for more experienced subjects (first degree teachers).
In regard to respondents’ subjective happiness, the mean score computed for the whole sample is These values suggest an optimal level of individual subjective happiness. Statistically significant differences were found between female and male subjects: , indicating that female teachers reported higher levels of happiness.
The statistical model proposed in this paper postulates a relationship between job resources and demands. To research job demands, typical stressors were operationalised: student disruptive behaviour, overwork and lack of time for job duties, conflicts with peers and parents. As the mean analysis indicates (Table 6
), the main stress generator factors are conflicts (SM_2) and disobedient students (SM_3). Statistically significant differences were found for teachers in rural and urban areas (
, concluding that student disobedience is more significantly perceived as a stressor by teachers in rural schools. In terms of perceived self-efficacy, the Mann-Whitney U test showed no statistically significant differences between urban and rural residents (
To reduce the number of variables included in the statistical model, principal axis factoring with Varimax rotation was conducted. The Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin (KMO) test confirmed that the data were suited for factor analysis:
In addition, the Bartlett’s test of sphericity was applied to test the adequacy of the data to factor analysis. The test was found to be statistically significant,
Seven factors with eigenvalues greater than 1 [94
] were identified and retained in the model (Table 7
). Most of the extracted communalities (
) were above 0.4. Although there were communalities lower than the 0.4 threshold, we have decided to retain them in the analysis due to theoretical relevance.
Using the regression method, seven factor scores have been extracted. The factor scores were used to compare different subgroups according to residence, gender, teaching experience. Table 8
presents the correlations between the factor scores computed during the factor analysis. All the correlations are statistically significant at the 0.01 level.
As anticipated in research hypothesis H1a, job demands are positively and significantly correlated with anger and anxiety. Antithetically, the H1b research hypothesis stated a negative relationship between job demands and enjoyment of teaching. The correlation between the two variables is negative and statistically significant, as data in Table 8
Statistically significant differences were found for the job resources variable according to rural–urban residence: , pointing out that teacher in rural areas perceive that schools offer fewer resources to support their work. In addition, One-Way ANOVA with Bonferroni correction was applied to test differences between subgroups according to their level of career. The F test is statistically significant: concluding that new teachers perceived school professional environments as more resourceful than experienced teachers ( There were no significant differences for gender ( and for educational level.
In regard to job demands, differences were found between subjects teaching in rural and urban areas: suggesting that teachers in rural schools perceived a higher burden of job demands than those teaching in urban areas. Despite new teachers perceiving schools as more resourceful environments than experienced teachers did, no significant differences were computed for job demands, teaching emotions, and subjective happiness variables. As expected, first degree teachers felt more self-efficacious than their younger colleagues, as the One-Way ANOVA analysis with Bonferroni correction confirmed:
In order to confirm the findings of the exploratory factor analysis, a two-step structural equation modelling with maximum likelihood estimation was performed. The initial statistical model tested with Amos (IBM, New York, NY, United States), included 40 observed variables, five unobserved endogenous variables (namely subjective happiness, enjoyment of teaching, anger, anxiety, and perceived self-efficacy), and two unobserved exogenous variables (job demands and job resources). The initial structural model displayed acceptable fit (Table 9
). The normed chi-square is 4.303, being close to the upper threshold of 5. The RMSEA value can be considered very good. The RFI index is lower than 0.8 (
but the other indices are above the lower threshold.
Mardia’s coefficient is 334.6 and the critical ratio (c.r.) = 95.3, indicating a significant non-normality. Thus, the data were bootstrapped with 1000 draws at 95% bias-corrected confidence level. The standardized values computed after bootstrapping (estimates, p
values, standard errors) are reported in Table 10
. For the unstandardized estimates and standard error, please see Appendix A
The standardised indirect (mediated), statistically significant () effect of job resources on subjective happiness is 0.217. This is in addition to the direct (unmediated), statistically significant () effect of 0.296 that job resources have on subjective happiness. The standardised indirect (mediated) effect of job demands on subjective happiness is −0.153. The variable job demands also has an indirect, negative and standardised effect on enjoyment of teaching of −0.160. Perceived self-efficacy has also a positive indirect effect on subjective happiness of 0.066 (. In addition to this is a direct standardised effect on the enjoyment of teaching variable (0.176, .
Re-specifying the initial structural model implied a number of changes in the model. Thus, some variables and the relationships between them have been eliminated from the initial model. We have decided to keep the enjoyment of teaching (as mediator variable) and to eliminate negative emotions from the model (teaching anxiety and anger). The two categories of emotions refer to two modalities of influencing subjective happiness: one negative modality and one positive modality. The negative modality, represented by anxiety and anger emotions, proved to be less significant within the model: due to this we decided to keep in the model the positive emotion called enjoyment of teaching. Although some of the observed variables associated with subjective happiness (OHQ_1_rev, OHQ_4_rev, OHQ_7, OHQ_8, and OHQ_9_rev) had low communalities, we have decided to keep them in the model due to theoretical relevance. Table 11
synthetizes the fit indices of the re-specified model. By eliminating the negative teaching emotions from the model, most of the fit indices increased:
. Therefore, the model can be considered adequate.
Standardized path coefficients, standard errors, and bootstrapping results for the re-specified model are presented in Table 12
(please see Appendix A
and Table A2
) for the unstandardized values).
presents the path diagram of the re-specified model, graphically replicating the postulated relations between variables. The diagram confirms the values calculated through the model adequacy indices. All the path coefficients are significant (
The noteworthy feature of this model is the positive relationship between the enjoyment of teaching and subjective happiness variables (H2c hypothesis), and between job resources and enjoyment of teaching (H2b hypothesis), as illustrated by the unstandardized path coefficients of 0.23 and 0.33, respectively. The standardised coefficients indicate a stronger relationship between enjoyment of teaching and subjective happiness (0.41), confirming research hypothesis H2c, and job resources and enjoyment of teaching (0.44), validating the assumption stated in the hypothesis H2c. Moreover, there is a negative relationship between job demands and perceived self-efficacy ( The measurement portion of the model is good: indicating that enjoyment of teaching and job resources variables account for 39% of the variance in subjective happiness. The two variables are significant predictors of the endogenous variable subjective happiness ( Job demands and perceived self-efficacy variables explain 27% of the variance in the enjoyment of teaching, being significant predictors of the enjoyment of teaching ( The lowest value in the model indicates that job demands explain 6% of the variance of the perceived self-efficacy variable.
Within the re-specified model, job resources have a standardized, positive, and significant mediation effect on subjective happiness of 0.182. Moreover, job resources have a significant influence on both enjoyment of teaching and on teachers’ subjective happiness: the relations are positive and statistically significant ( The research revealed that, in the case of Romanian teachers, job resources have a more powerful influence on the enjoyment of teaching and subjective happiness (standardized direct effect is 0.439) than self-efficacy has (standardized direct and negative effect of −0.137). The direct effect of job resources on happiness is 0 and on enjoyment of teaching is . In addition, job resources have an indirect effect of on subjective happiness, resulting in a total effect of 0.50. Therefore, the computed scores endorse the decision to accept the research hypothesis H2: job resources have a significant effect on the teaching staff well-being, in terms of subjective happiness: It is to be noted that job resources also have a moderate indirect effect on the OHQ_3 (‘I am well satisfied about everything in my life’) observed variable of 0.423.
The saturation coefficients indicate that creating challenging contexts to address various professional competences (RLM5) is the most influential vector of the job resources dimension (0.75), followed by task variety—RLM9 (0.73), and autonomy—RLM4 (0.71). Nevertheless, the job resources significantly influence the enjoyment of teaching, whose most influential vector is enthusiasm (0.79).
One central element of the model is the relation between the enjoyment of teaching and the subjective happiness of subjects. The relation between the two variables is positive, statistically significant, and moderate in intensity (. The total effect of the enjoyment of teaching positive emotion on subjects’ happiness is 0.415. This value confirms the H2c hypothesis: the enjoyment of teaching influences the subjective happiness of the teachers.
Job demands have a direct, standardized effect of
on the perceived self-efficacy and an indirect effect on the enjoyment of teaching of
, the relation being mediated by the perceived self-efficacy. The association of job demands and perceived self-efficacy is negative (
as stated in research hypothesis H1. Therefore, by increasing the job demands the perceived self-efficacy would be decreased. A similar result is also found in other, similar researches [33
]. The computed score suggests that the perceived self-efficacy (seen in this context as a personal resource) has a lower influence on subjective happiness (indirect effect of 0.088) and on the enjoyment of teaching (direct effect is 0.21) compared to the resources provided by the professional environment. In line with the previously presented findings, disobedient students (SM_3) represent the most impactful and stress generator variable (0.86) in terms of job demands.
The aim of this study was to extend the dynamic equilibrium well-being model and to design a teacher well-being model that values the role of personal resources in the prediction of subjective happiness. In order to do so, self-efficacy and teaching emotions were included in the model as personal resources. Generally, the research results have confirmed research hypotheses 1 and 2, since job demands, job and personal resources are significant predictors of teacher subjective happiness. The research has drawn a line of influence starting with the perceived level of job demands, whose effect on subjective happiness is mediated by the teachers’ self-efficacy. Influenced by job resources, the enjoyment of teaching plays a part in teacher subjective happiness, also influenced by the job resources that teachers benefit from.
To outline, structural equation modelling applied to both initial and re-specified models provided evidence that empirical data support the conceptual model initially designed. More precisely, the results showed that both personal and job resources have a positive and significant effect on subjective happiness, seen as an indicator of teacher well-being (hypothesis 2). The paths computed between personal and job resources and teacher subjective happiness have moderate values. In line with prior findings, the current research has suggested that task variety, autonomy, and the value of the profession are predictors of teacher subjective happiness [33
One particular feature of the model is that it takes into consideration the importance of teaching positive emotions (hypothesis H2c). Therefore, it is important to discuss the role of positive teaching emotions on teacher subjective happiness. As the research has revealed, the direct effect of the enjoyment of teaching on subjective happiness is greater than the effect job resources have on the same variable. As Fredrickson suggests [79
], the effect of positive emotions can be explained by the broaden and build theory, stating that the higher the positive emotions individuals attribute to themselves, the higher the chance to build positive aspects of the self [80
]. Along the same lines, Buonomo et al. ([96
] emphasise the role of positive emotions in predicting teacher self-efficacy. According to our H2a hypothesis, findings have shown that enjoyment of teaching is positively related to self-efficacy. As other studies have reported, positive emotional states are likely to be associated to subjects perceiving themselves as more efficacious [96
]. In addition, the work of Fredrickson and other subsequent studies have strongly supported the hypothesis that positive emotions can boost other personal resources [77
Moreover, the current research is in agreement with recent studies putting forward the role of job resources in increasing intrinsic motivation and proactive behaviour at work [59
]. In our study, job variety, teacher autonomy, and the value of the profession seem to play a more important role, confirming hypothesis H2b. These results led us to consider a design of a school professional environment where job resources (more specifically, autonomy and job variety) are used to self-generate authentic, contextually relevant positive emotions, eventually boosting teacher subjective happiness. In support of this, Wang et al. [44
] advocate the need to increase teacher autonomy. As OECD analyses [43
] suggest, highly performant countries and economies foster high levels of teacher autonomy. Autonomous work in the classroom is also seen as the core of the teaching profession [99
]. Therefore, an ideal work environment would offer not only financial comfort, but would create a culture of sharing and respect, where teachers could benefit from task variety, feedback, and social support. This finding is in line with other scholar’s opinions suggesting that a culture of sharing and learning could improve teacher professionalism and learning outcomes alike [45
]. Garcia and Weiss [54
] point out that novice and veteran teachers largely don’t get access to proper resources to prepare their teaching practice. Developing communities of practice and supporting professional networks membership could be beneficial to enriching the professional environment. In addition, a valuable solution to boosting the school environment’s resources would consist of mentoring activities and professional coaching, due to the significant relevance of feedback, seen as an impactful resource. Additionally, the study has found that novice teachers perceive schools as more resourceful organisations than their experienced colleagues do. A particular characteristic of the teachers who expressed these opinions is that they reported higher levels of enthusiasm (a dimension of enjoyment). Thus, induction and mentorship programmes addressing novice teachers could exploit this personal resource, as Darlin–-Hammond have suggested [52
Their variety would be beneficial for teacher well-being. The research of Bermejo-Toro et al. [33
] identified a higher contribution of self-efficacy compared against the one of job resources.
We believe that the current findings are an important contribution to explaining the role of challenges and resources on teacher subjective happiness, here understood as a dimension of well-being. As previously stated, well-being is a multidimensional construct and subjective happiness is one of its facets. However, the study stresses the need for more research on teaching positive emotions and their effect on psychological well-being.