The results of the present study confirmed the usefulness and importance of the P-E fit theory developed by French, Rogers and Cobb (1974) in explaining teacher stress and strain. Besides, job future ambiguity which is regarded as a teacher stress factor in view of the 1997 problem was found to be related to Job strain. A local study (Chan, 1987) on teachers' occupational stress had also reached similar finding that job future ambiguity was predictive of job strain. The present study also highlighted the importance of social support in reducing stress and strain although buffering effects of social support could not be found.7.2 Recommendations
It was found that teacher background characteristics were related to job strain. Teachers of lower forms and of higher professional rank suffered from high level of strain in job dissatisfactions. Younger teachers reported a high level of strain in bodily and affective complaints.
All measures of job stress were found to have significant and positive correlations with job strain. The 3 stress factors were found to be predictive of job strain in job dissatisfactions, whereas the strain variable bodily and affective complaints was predicted by work overload and needs deficiency. In view of these findings, the null hypothesis that the component variables of teachers' perceived stress are not positively correlated with and have no contributions to the component variables of teachers' perceived strain can be rejected.
Supervisor and coworker support was negatively and significantly correlated with job stress in needs deficiency and job future ambiguity. Needs deficiency was predicted by coworker and supervisor support, whereas job future ambiguity by coworker support only. The findings show that social support has main or additive effect on teacher stress. Thus, the null hypothesis that component variables of teachers' perceived social support are not negatively correlated with and have no contributions to the component variables of teachers' perceived stress can be rejected.
The present study also indicated that social support had main effect on strain. All types of social support were negatively and significantly correlated with strain in job dissatisfactions. Moreover, supervisor and coworker support was found to be predictive of job dissatisfactions. Based on these findings, the null hypothesis that component variables of teachers' perceived social support are not negatively correlated with and have no contributions to the component variables of teachers' perceived stress can be rejected.
The buffering hypothesis of social support could not be verified in the present study. Thus the null hypothesis that there are no interactions between component variables of teachers' perceived stress and component variables of teachers' perceived social support in predicting teachers' perceived strain cannot be rejected.
In real life, occupational stress is an inevitable phenomenon and it exists in all kinds of occupation although it varies in degree and extent. There is no doubt that the teaching profession in Hong Kong is highly stressful as is known from public opinions and the results revealed in the present study. If teacher stress is left unresolved, it will have substantial negative impacts on teachers' physical and mental health. Worst still, this will accelerate the turnover rate of teachers and aggravate the problem of teacher shortage. The whole educational system will be impaired and inefficiency will ensue. In view of all the possible adverse consequences of teacher stress, certain measures must be undertaken to alleviate teacher stress and strain in order to enhance their enthusiasm in teaching.
From the results of the present study, a few recommendations are raised for school authority, teachers' organizations and the Education Department.
7.2.1 Recommendation for school authority
The following methods are proposed for school authority to help in reducing teacher stress and strain:
7.2.2 Recommendations for teachers' organizations
- 1. The school authority should try to have more interactions with teachers as well as create more opportunities for communications among members of the staff. This can be done by organizing informal social gatherings and various kinds of extra-curricula activities for teachers with the aim to promote mutual understanding and concern among teachers. The principal should actively take part in these activities and try to establish a friendly and supportive relationship with the staff.
2. The school authority should find ways to lessen the heavy workload of teachers by lifting some of the non-teaching duties of teachers and distributing evenly the workload among teachers.
3. Efforts should be made in school to see that teachers have the opportunity to fulfill their needs in self-actualization, autonomy and esteem in order to avoid the feeling of strain. The school authority should help teachers to develop their potential in teaching by allowing them a higher degree of flexibility and independence in teaching. Besides, the school authority should promote the image of teachers as deserving respect.
4. Orientation programs should be conducted for younger and inexperienced teachers so that they can familiarize themselves with their work quickly and easily.
Below are some means proposed for teachers' organizations to help in reducing teachers' stress and strain:
7.2.3 Recommendations for the Education Department
- 1. Teachers' organizations should organize seminars and workshops to help teachers cope with work stress and reduce the feeling of strain. The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union occasionally organize seminars on stress management. Teachers who are young, of graduate status and teaching lower forms should be encouraged to participate.
2. They should arouse the awareness of teachers towards the importance of social support especially from supervisors and coworkers and persuade them to seek support whenever stress and strain arise.
3. They should try to fight for increasing the benefits of teachers in terms of monetary and non-monetary rewards so that teachers' security needs can be fulfilled.
4. They should provide counselling service to stressed and strained teachers.
In the present study, it was found that all stress factors contributed to teachers' strain. The Education Department should play a role in redressing this problem. The following are some proposed methods to do so:
7.2.4 Recommendations for future research
- 1. The Education Department should see to the needs of the teachers by discussing with the government on increasing the welfare benefits and 'upgrading the social status of teachers. Besides, rules should be set to ensure that teachers have authority and control over their own teaching and have rights to participate in school decision making.
2. Work overload was found to cause tremendous stress and strain in teachers. The Education Department should increase the teacher-to-class ratio so as to reduce the workload of teachers. Besides, more subsidy should be granted to each school so that more clerical staff can be employed to relief the non-teaching duties of teachers.
3. The Education Department should provide more teaching aids and resources for different subjects so that teachers can get more information handily.
It is not infrequent that a research project raises more questions than it answers. The following are some proposed recommendations for future research:
- 1. The study should be replicated in schools of the government and private sectors and results should be compared with that of the present study.
2. Other job stress factors as role-based stress, job complexity, organizational climate in school, teachers' participation in decision making, teachers' expectation about teaching, communication of teachers with school authority and colleagues, principal's leadership style and career development factors should also be taken into account in future stress-strain research.
3. The present study only examines one intervening variable, namely social support, between stress and strain. Personality variables as Type A/B and hardiness or hardy personality as conditioning variables should be investigated in future research to see whether they are effective in buffering the stress-strain relationship.
4. Due to limitation of resources, the present research cannot include all measures of strain nor could the consequences of strain be studied. It is hoped that future research can pay attention to both behavioural and physiological strains and their effects on illness, teacher turnover, absenteeism, performance, quality of life of teachers and students' academic achievement.
5. The present study is basically a correlational study. It is hoped that causal models of teachers' stress can be established in future research.
6. The present research is a study on teachers' perceived stress, perceived social support and perceived strains. It is crucial to obtain objective measures of stress, strain, and support, and to understand their relationship to each other and with perceived stress, strain, and support. It is worthy to include these areas of study in future research.
7. Since social support plays an important role in alleviating stress and strain, future research should aim at constructing a model of support that not only predicts the effects of support, but to understand how it works the way it does. Such a model must include the concepts of information processing, psychological defenses, and coping and adaptation on one hand, and structural/environmental characteristics, such as role relations and networks of support, on the other.
8. There should be more research on how to change job stresses, how to improve the fit between the person and his job, and how to increase participation and social support.
9. It is recommended that future research should include direct observations and interviews rather than only depend on self-reported responses. It is also essential for future research to be expanded to include more sophisticated experimental and longitudinal procedures.