Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Experiencing a Sense of Calling: The Influence of Meaningful Work on Teachers' Work Attitudes

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Experiencing a Sense of Calling: The Influence of Meaningful Work on Teachers' Work Attitudes

Article excerpt


South Africa finds itself in the midst of an educational crisis (Motshekga, 2011). The educational crisis is particularly disconcerting given the mammoth challenges of dealing with the legacies of substandard and unequal education practices left by apartheid (Lumadi, 2008). Quality education entails the enrichment of cognitive skills and the younger generation must be trained, through their schooling, to positively contribute to society in the future (Lolwana, 2007). The role of the South African Department of Education in addressing these challenges is brought into sharp focus under the auspices of transformational strategies and policies of improving the delivery of quality education to all learners (Department of Basic Education, 2012; Hammett, 2008; Lolwana, 2007; Rademeyer, 2013).

Envisaged transformation towards quality education depends primarily on teachers being in the classrooms, every day, doing what they are supposed to be doing - teaching the learners (Jansen, 2007). To ensure that this is taking place, the underlying individual attitudes, beliefs and social structures that unconsciously drive the observable behaviours must be examined, understood and explained in order for them to be changed. True transformation necessitates changing the underlying motivation or attitude, not merely rearranging the existing observable behaviour (Berliner, 2002). Consequently, improving the work attitude of teachers is now being aimed at (Department of Basic Education, 2012).

Experience of a sense of calling

In the opinion of Wrzesniewski, McCauley, Rozin and Schwartz (1997), a sense of calling relates to a person's motivation to perform their duties, especially in social occupations such as teaching. However, researchers report incongruent definitions of what does or does not constitute a sense of calling (Hirschi, 2011). Historically, the origin of a sense of calling lies within the religious framework where the individual is said to receive a 'transcendent summons, experienced as originating beyond the self, to approach a particular life role' (in this case work) (Dik & Duffy, 2009, p. 427; Elangovan, Pinder & McLean, 2010). As research on this concept continued, the definition was altered to include any 'honest' line of work as long as the individual was still motivated to serve the greater purpose and common good (Hunter, Dik & Banning, 2010). This change in the definition was motivated from psychologists' notion to regard religious discussions with clients as inappropriate and therefore a sense of calling had to be conceptualised as a more modern and secular idea (Bergin & Jensen, 1990).

The modern definition of calling includes a sense of purpose, direction, the desire to be helpful and personal fulfilment (Dik, Duffy & Eldridge, 2009; Elangovan et al., 2010; Hall & Chandler, 2005; Steger, Pickering, Shin & Dik, 2010; Wrzesniewski et al., 1997), which became known as the secular view of a sense of calling and it recognises people's desire to contribute to the greater good (Dik & Duffy, 2009; Steger & Dik, 2010). Personal fulfilment and serving the greater good are viewed as important factors of a person's work experience, regardless of the individual's religious views (Hall & Chandler, 2005).

For the purpose of this study sense of calling will be conceptualised as search and presence of calling (Duffy & Sedlacek, 2007). The teachers who report a presence of a calling have a good sense of their interests and abilities, they are more likely to be mature in their career development process and they are more comfortable in making career decisions. Conversely, teachers that report a search for calling tend to be slightly more indecisive and slightly more likely to lack a clear career development process; these individuals are less comfortable in making career decisions and are markedly less clear about their interests and abilities (Duffy & Sedlacek, 2007). …

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