Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Ed.S.

Degree Name

Education Specialist (Ed.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Shannon M. Suldo, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sarah Kiefer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Ferron, Ph.D.

Keywords

Character Strengths, Multiple Baseline, Positive Psychology, Single-Case, Subjective Well-Being, Teacher Well-Being

Abstract

Teaching is considered to be one of the most highly demanding professions, and one that is associated with high levels of stress and sometimes deleterious outcomes. Although research demonstrates that burnout and attrition are often associated with specific characteristics of the occupation (e.g., challenging workload, standardized testing, merit-based salary) minimal research focuses on how to better support teachers’ well-being. The field of positive psychology affords a new perspective in how to obtain quality mental health without solely focusing on psychopathology within a deficits-based approach. This includes the implementation of interventions (i.e., positive psychology interventions [PPI]) that target constructs of well-being (e.g., character strengths, hope, optimism, gratitude, etc.) and are associated with positive changes in authentic happiness. This study examined how a strength-based, PPI entitled Utilizing Signature Strengths in a New Way (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005) impacts dimensions of teacher well-being, as well as other relevant outcomes (i.e., flourishing, burnout) within the school context. Previous research has shown that strengths-based intervention to be the PPI with the most substantial impact and the longest lasting outcomes (Seligman et al., 2005). Utilizing a concurrent multiple baseline single-case design with eight teachers, the study evaluated the effects of the strengths-based PPI on teacher’s overall happiness (i.e., subjective well-being) as indicated by self-report measures of life satisfaction and positive and negative affect. The teachers exhibited significant gains in life satisfaction and reductions in negative affect from pre- to post-intervention that were also evident one month following the intervention. Although positive affect did not significantly change from pre- to post-intervention, a significant gain was apparent at one-month follow-up. Single-case analytic strategies (i.e., visual analysis, masked visual analysis, and hierarchical linear modeling) found that the intervention positively impacted teachers’ overall subjective well-being (composite of standardized life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect scores). Results for single indicators of subjective well-being found variability in basic effects among different individuals (i.e., some teachers benefited more than others) further supporting the theory of person-activity fit. Regarding the intervention’s effects on secondary outcomes that were examined only at pre, post, and one-month follow-up time points, findings indicated the teachers experienced a significant increase in work satisfaction immediately following the intervention, as well as a significant increase in feelings of flourishing at follow-up. Significant decreases in negative dimensions of teachers’ mental health including stress and burnout (i.e., emotional exhaustion) were also demonstrated. Findings from the current study provide initial support for the efficacy of a teacher-focused, strengths-based intervention and its ability to improve multiple components of teacher well-being within an elementary school. Implications for school psychologists and policy, contributions to the literature, and future directions are discussed.

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