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A faculty member gives a student a fist-bump in class

Faculty members who say they are passionate about their jobs and practice self-care are more likely to be effective teachers, according to a new study.

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Many faculty members participate in professional development training to improve their instruction, pedagogy and curriculum, but a recent study finds personal attitudes and behaviors can also impact student success.

The article, published in the journal BMC Psychology, evaluates how work passion and emotion regulation among educators can influence students and improve their own occupational wellness and teaching efficacy.

The background: Often, instructors in higher education do not receive training on teaching, instead they rely on their own educational experiences or how they were mentored, which can put them at a disadvantage when encountering challenges.

Over the past decade, student emotional wellness has declined, with young adults reporting historically high levels of anxiety and depression. Students may turn to faculty members for support, which can also be a challenge for faculty navigating their own wellness.

Previous research has highlighted a need for training and education around how faculty members can support students with their mental health, but less has focused on how a professor’s mental health can impact their teaching effectiveness and satisfaction in their role.

The study: Researchers surveyed 401 faculty members in China who taught English as a foreign language in higher education. Each participant completed a survey gauging their occupational well-being, teacher effectiveness, work passion and emotion regulation based on separate scales for each variable.

Researchers defined work passion as “a disposition toward action or endeavor that individuals esteem highly, find enjoyable and devote a substantial amount of time and effort to.”

Passion can improve a person’s well-being and motivation and add feelings of significance to their lives, and, in the case of instructors, improve their effectiveness.

Instructor wellness is also a critical component of teacher effectiveness, so researchers also sought to see how professors’ emotion regulation impacted their efficacy.

Emotion regulation, according to the study, is a professor’s capacity to control and administer their own emotional experiences and expressions, which can be influential on students’ responses and reactions in class and promote overall resiliency in faculty.

Through statistical analysis, researchers found work passion and emotion regulation can predict occupational wellness and teaching effectiveness, particularly self-determination, autonomy, enthusiasm, resilience and persistence.

So what? Based on the findings, researchers found two major themes:

  • Faculty wellness matters in student success. Emotion regulation can help overall teacher welfare as they encounter challenges and interact in the classroom, so investing in faculty’s psychological wellness can help with job satisfaction and improve their relationships with students. Professors with a higher intrinsic drive and optimism are more likely to be satisfied in their roles as well, making them more likely to nurture their teaching skills and invest in their own professional development.
  • Competent teachers are happier. Professors who ranked their own efficacy and teaching abilities higher were less likely to indicate fear, dissatisfaction or sadness, which are related to disengagement and burnout. Building faculty members’ confidence in their teaching abilities can therefore promote health and wellbeing, as well as encourage greater levels of involvement within the institution.

With this in mind, researchers encourage administrators to invest in training to promote effective teaching, with a focus on professional enthusiasm and personal wellbeing.

Trainings should:

  • Take into account that each faculty member will have different strategies in their emotion regulation based on their personalities, but still differentiating between positive and negative tactics people can use.
  • Encourage vulnerability among departments to help best assess situations and address faculty members’ concerns in their specific situations.
  • Highlight practical tactics, demonstrating when and how different practices should be implemented in the classroom.

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