Academic journal article Education

Teachers' Experience of Their School Environment-Implications for Health Promotion

Academic journal article Education

Teachers' Experience of Their School Environment-Implications for Health Promotion

Article excerpt

Research Problem and Aim

We are living in an era which is characterized by extreme complexity and uncertainty. This situation is even more aggravated by the recent terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 in the United States of America. Change may lead to uncertainty, stress and stress related diseases.

It is essential that the principal should try to understand change and the people who are effected by change, in this case the teachers. Some of these changes are for instance the move from 19 departments of education to one national department and nine provincial departments of education and mono-cultural schools which changed into multicultural schools. Along with this process: rationalization, retrenchment and redeployment of teachers also took place as the new government established its own policies. News reports reflect that these changes in the educational system have placed a lot of pressure on teachers.

The transformation in the education system and schools seems to have confused teachers as to their roles and even their own identities. Teachers are experiencing stress related problems. These problems manifested in various forms of destructive behavior such as alcohol abuse, absenteeism, and destructive relations between teachers and learners, teachers and colleagues and teachers and their families. These problems are usually indicators/symptoms of personal health at risk which might lead to stress related diseases. Little or no information is documented on how teachers experience their school environment. The aim of this research project is therefore to explore and describe how teachers experience their school environment in a society in transition and to derive guidelines to promote their health.

Research Design and Method

The research design was qualitative, explorative, descriptive and contextual (Mouton & Marais, 1992:45, 175; Mouton, 1996:103-169). Focus group interviews (Kingry, et al 1990: 124-125; Krueger, 1994:16-20) were conducted to ascertain teachers' experience of being in their school. Themes were identified and recommendations deducted to support teachers in facing challenges in their schools.

Measures to Ensure Trustworthiness

Measures to ensure trustworthiness were applied. Guba's (Lincoln & Guba, 1985:290-327) strategies of credibility, transferability and dependability were applied. Activities in achieving credibility were prolonged engagement in the field, keeping reflexive journals, the researchers' authority, triangulation, peer review and structural coherence. Transferability was achieved by a dense description of the data and purposive sampling. Dependability was achieved by a description of the method of data gathering, data analysis and interpretation. Finally, confirmability was achieved by ensuring an audit of the entire research process, reflexive analysis and triangulation.

Ethical Measures

Ethical measures were adhered to during the research regarding this sensitive issue. These include informed consent of respondents, voluntary participation, freedom to withdraw without discrimination, participant/respondent benefits from having their voices heard, ensuring confidentiality and anonymity, protection from harm and providing feedback on the project to the respondents (Democratic Nurses Association of South Africa, 1998: 1-5).

Population and Sample

The population from which the sample was taken consisted of secondary school teachers from urbanized areas in the Gauteng Province of South Africa. The sample consisted of 48 secondary school teachers who were identified through purposive sampling (Creswell, 1994:15).

Data Collection

Data was collected using focus group interviews (Krueger, 1994). The interview process was directed by one central question: How is it for you in this school? Seven moderators facilitated the interviews by creating an open, non-threatening atmosphere. …

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