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Understanding and improving teacher job satisfaction

5 min read
Teacher job satisfaction drives the success of public schools and institutions across the country. Discover the factors that contribute to teacher job satisfaction, as well as what schools and districts can do to improve it.

Teacher job satisfaction – the measure of how happy or fulfilled educators are with their work – has never been more important. K-12 schools in the U.S. are experiencing a shortage of teachers, and research shows a direct correlation between this shortage and teacher satisfaction:

With this in mind, it’s imperative that schools and districts improve the experiences of their teachers to retain top talent, increase productivity, boost school performance, improve school culture, and support student achievement.

Here, we’ll outline the factors that contribute to teacher job satisfaction, as well as what schools and districts can do to improve it.

Free eBook: Your guide to experience management for education 

Factors that contribute to teacher job satisfaction

It’s been proven that the employee experience directly impacts teachers’ job satisfaction levels. The most successful schools measure the teaching experience, and actively identify factors that influence decisions to stay or quit the profession.

But what does employee experience for K-12 school teachers look like? Based on responses from 891 American teachers, Qualtrics has identified the 5 key performance indicators (KPIs) and 9 teaching experience drivers that matter most.

The 5 key teacher job satisfaction KPIs

  1. Intent to stay – How long do teachers plan on remaining in the teaching profession?
  2. Engagement – Is there enough teacher motivation and support from educational leaders?
  3. Expectations versus reality – Do teachers’ perceptions of the job and school climate align with what they hoped for?
  4. Inclusion – Does the school climate promote a sense of belonging and equity?
  5. Well-being – Does the school support positivity and a healthy work-life balance?

The 9 drivers of teaching experience

  1. Authority and empowerment – School teachers need to feel professionally valued in their job and to have perceived autonomy. Building recognition for the work that teachers do and giving them greater autonomy is essential for teacher job satisfaction and retention.
  2. Collaboration – Building a supportive, positive environment that supports teacher collaboration enriches employees and helps to generate a sense of comradeship that in turn helps to retain employees.
  3. Family involvement – Partnerships between schools and families can improve student learning in terms of grades, attendance, persistence, and motivation. Research shows that this is true regardless of a family’s race or income.
  4. Growth and development – Evidence suggests[1] that effective mentoring and ample opportunities for teacher knowledge development are essential for teaching efficacy and lead to higher job satisfaction.
  5. Pay and benefits – One issue that regularly contributes to teacher stress is a lack of competitive compensation, which has negative consequences on teacher recruitment and retention.
  6. Resources – The availability of school resources and strong educational leadership affects teachers’ ability to teach well. The same conditions can also have direct implications for teacher job satisfaction and ultimately their decisions to remain at their schools or in the teaching profession.
  7. SafetyResearch has shown that teachers cite dissatisfaction with their job and reason for leaving caused by a lack of safety, inadequate support from school leaders, and student discipline problems.
  8. Strategic alignment – A culture of learning provides access and support to employees who wish to learn. If there is no learning culture it is hard to find opportunities to learn and apply that learning when back on the job.
  9. Work processes – Teachers want realistic workloads, manageable class sizes, consistent curriculums and support for high-quality lessons and student outcomes. These variables not only ensure that teachers can operate effectively, they also improve teacher satisfaction and overall retention as they’re not overworked.

Measuring and improving teacher job satisfaction

To effectively measure and improve teacher job satisfaction, schools and districts must adopt a comprehensive approach to overall teacher experience that leverages the framework of KPIs and drivers described above.

Qualtrics has developed a proven methodology that follows three simple, yet critical steps: listen, understand, and act.

  • Listen to teacher feedback with regular pulse surveys throughout the school year. These are designed to glean authentic, in-the-moment feedback on the factors that impact the overall teaching experience at your school – from perceived school climate to teacher well-being and everything in between.
  • Understand the meaning behind teachers’ perceptions by leveraging advanced technology and analytics. The right platform will allow you to dig into these insights and determine how they contribute to teacher efficacy, job stress, job satisfaction, student learning, and more.
  • Act on this information to make meaningful improvements lead to higher teacher job satisfaction and improved retention.

Free eBook: Your guide to experience management for education