Self-belief factors affecting the resilience, well-being and retention of secondary schoolteachers in England

  • Andrew Chitty

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


There is a considerable amount of literature showing that levels of well-being in schoolteachers in England are low and this leads to reduced retention. Currently, the number of teachers leaving the profession before retirement is causing retention problems. However, most teachers stay in teaching and some flourish and so the rationale for this research is to discover reasons for this. If characteristics aiding retention can be found then these can be developed and retention improved. Thus, the overarching aim of this research is to explore factors influencing the levels of teacher resilience and well-being and how these contribute to their retention.

The study examined retention from the perspective of positive psychology. This branch of psychology examines interventions that not only repair deficits in people, such as low mood, but also develop strengths to produce a flourishing individual. Generating well-being, for example, is not just the removal of negative emotions but also the development of strengths to enable the individual to thrive.

The self-belief variables of Hope, Optimism, Self-efficacy, Mindset and Job crafting were examined to see if they contribute to Resilience, Well-being and Retention in secondary, schoolteachers. Alongside these psychological factors, demographic factors such as age and length of service were also studied to address the first objective of the study: to measure demographic and psychological factors predicting teacher Resilience, Well-being and Retention. This strand was investigated using quantitative methods.

Teachers working in English secondary schools (N=279) completed a survey to measure the impact of the demographic and psychological factors on the dependent variables. To obtain qualitative data, semi-structured interviews were also undertaken, as described below. The demographic analysis indicated that only years spent in teaching and positions of responsibility were related to the variables of interest.

The regression analysis showed that Self-efficacy and Optimism predicted Resilience. Hope, Optimism and growth Mindset (the latter as a negative suppressor) predicted Well-being but only Work orientation-calling predicted Intention to Quit teaching. Well-being was a strong mediator in the Resilience-Intention to Quit relationship, indicating that Well-being enhances the effect of Resilience on reducing Intention to Quit.

The quantitative data addressed questions of ‘what and when’ but to find out ‘how and why’ eleven (N=11) semi-structured interviews were carried out on three groups of teachers: Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs), established, and those that had left, or were in the process of leaving the profession. The qualitative data generated was then subjected to thematic analysis. This addressed the second objective: to explore in-depth teacher accounts at different career stages about factors contributing to decisions to stay or leave the profession. This analysis indicated that teachers needed contextual factors, especially the autonomy to craft their work, so they could then develop their sense of Calling. In particular, they wanted the ability to work collegially in a supportive environment, put students at the centre of their work and develop their academic subjects. By doing this they could develop their Calling.

Using a critical-realist approach the third objective was carried out: to examine the relationship between objective 1 and 2 and examine the applications of the research. The findings from the two strands triangulated and aligned with each other on several points especially the central role of Calling. They also showed that both psychological and contextual factors are needed to develop all the self-belief variables and Resilience, Well-being and Retention. Implications and applications of the findings are discussed.
Date of AwardJul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorRachel Maunder (Supervisor) & Roz Collings (Supervisor)


  • self-belief factors
  • resilience
  • well-being
  • retention
  • secondary schoolteachers
  • positive psychology
  • job crafting
  • intention to quit

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