Caterina Mamprin, Ph.D. Universite de Moncton; Garine Papazian-Zohrabian, PhD, Universite de Montreal; Mireille Demers, PhD, Universite of Moncton
The main objective of this communication is to document how a discussion group designed and conducted to promote the development of well-being in the workplace can impact participants’ support network resources.
As shown by several studies, teaching can have a negative influence on teachers’ well-being. High stress levels (Bermejo-Toro et al., 2015), absenteeism (Maranda et al., 2014) and a considerable level of burnout symptoms are documented (Ghanizadeh & Jahedizadeh, 2015). If social support is one of the most frequently mentioned factors in order to promote well-being among teachers (Chi et al., 2014; Liu et al., 2016), only a few further develop this concept and its attributes in this context. Hence, we have led a qualitative research to study social support in a collective activity designed and conducted to promote the well-being of teachers.
According to Vaux social support is a complex and transactional process that involves an interactive relationship between the individual and his support network (Vaux, 1988). Social support can be associated with three main constructs : (1) network resources, (2) support behaviors and (3) support appraisal (Vaux, 1990). Regarding psychological well-being at work (PWBW), given its relevance for Quebec workers and its methodological strength, we built on Dagenais-Desmarais’ definition (Dagenais-Desmarais, 2010). Five dimensions related to PWBW are described: interpersonal adequacy at work, development in work, sense of competence at work, recognition at work and commitment to work. This mainly eudemonic conception also takes into consideration the hedonic states.
To reflect the particular context in which teachers develop, but also to illustrate the impact of a collective activity conducted in the workplace, this research was conducted using a systemic approach and more specifically the process-person-context-time model (PPCT; Bronfenbrenner, 1998).
Eight second language teachers participated in this qualitative multi-case study. They were working in a Greater Montreal high school and they were participating to a discussion group created and led to promote their well-being at work. Eight sessions of two hours were led by their workplace. Two bodies of data were analyzed. Firstly, the data from this research was collected through two semi-structured interviews, one before and one after the eight meetings of the discussion group. The questions were formulated based on the dimensions of the concepts of PWBW and social support, as described above. Secondly, the recording of the exchanges from the eight sessions of the discussion group, conducted from January to June 2018, was also part of the data.
The verbatim transcripts were coded with the NVivo qualitative data processing software. A thematic coding (as described by Van der Maren, 1996) was conducted. Three researchers were involved in the data analysis to assure a good reliability. The data collection and the analysis are completed.
The results highlight the double scope of the discussion group; they show how teachers considered this activity as a resource and how the groups created a larger network among the participants. We analyzed the data from a systemic perspective, and we illustrated the impact of the discussion group on the social context of participating teachers. Our results also highlight how the second language context may have influenced their perception about the group and the accessible social support. In addition, we documented how teachers were perceiving their well-being after the eight sessions of the discussion group.
If we considered social support as a process (see Bronfenbrenner and Morris, 1998) during this research, the subjective evaluation of support and the study of the impact of the discussion groups on well-being emphasized a second process: the sharing of experiences. While discussion groups bring individuals together around a common issue, the sharing of experiences, allowed by the activity’s framework, was frequently named as promoting the development of well-being. Those findings can be associated with the concept of peer support as documented by Charlier (2018) or Doull et al. (2017). Teachers also talked about how sharing experiences has helped them develop a support network not only during the discussion group, but also outside of it. Thus, the experience sharing was also able to have an impact on several teachers’ microsystems.
This study adds to our understanding of how social support is linked to well-being and provides guidelines for developing good practices that can be implemented in a school context.
The specificities of the context, the systemic perspective and the deepening of the social support dimension “network resources” are innovative in our research. As we consider the fallout from the health crisis, which will certainly continue to be felt in the coming years, it is all the more important to reflect on practices that can support teachers in their work.