Biographical Developments of Physical Education Teachers Focussing on Stress Situations

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Biographical Developments of Physical Education Teachers


Focussing on Stress Situations


W.
-
D. Miethling (Kiel, Germany
)











1

Perspectives of
P
rofessional
B
iography: Research in Biography and Course of
Life


At least in German speaking countries
the following differentiation is familiar:

The first approach aims at the reconstruction of life and identity constructions thereby mainly
using qualitative methods.

The second approach tries to identify the institutionally bound patterns or positions in
PE
teachers’ lives thereby mainly using quantitative methods.




differentiation

biography research: qualitative; individually
reasonable constructions in life and identity

research on course of life: quantitative; socially
structured patterns

the course of life


Fig. 1: Different perspectives of professional biography


So the two research approaches symbolize “two sides of the same medal” or more precisely:
The complexity of the subject
-
matter requires the consideration of the mutual connecti
on of
the social
-
structural preconditions and the individual
-
reflexive arrangement of experiences.
On this note


and with regard to the profession as a teacher


the perspective of the
professional biography as
a developmental problem of the vocational bi
ography

is examined
(cp. Terhart 1994; p. 238).


In
our

study we concentrate on the development of stress and accomplishment potentials from
a subjective perspective as well as from the perspective of certain sources of stress resistance.

The SPOBIO resear
ch is designed as follows:



1

Perspectives of
P
rofessional
B
iography: Research in Biography and Course of
Life

2

The Research Design of the SPOBIO
1

Project


2.1

The Qualitative Longitudinal Study


2.2


The Quantitative Cross Section Study

3

Results of the Quantitative

Cross Section Study

4

Conclusions: Statements on the Professional Biography of Physical Education
Teachers

2

The Research Design of the SPOBIO
1







triangulation












Fig. 2: Research Design of the SPOBIO project



So the SPOBIO project consists of two parts: A
qualitative longitudinal study

which, by
means of the i
nterview
-
method, is exploring the developments of stress perception and
accomplishment strategies in a long
-
term period, and secondly a
quantitative cross section
study

examining, via questionnaire survey, the recognition of stressors and (mental) resistan
ce
resources depending on socio
-
biographical variables (e.g. vocational period, gender).

The two parts of the project are not classified hierarchically


for instance in terms of a
qualitative
-
exploring preliminary investigation with a subsequent quantitat
ive controlling
investigation


but they build a mutual relationship by means of the so called “compensatory
triangulation” (cp. Krüger & Pfaff, 2004, p. 176/177). Both parts aim at the common
achievement of analysing the developmental problems of the prof
essional biography of (male
and female) PE teachers, and they are based on the same stress theory and saluto
-
genetic
assumptions

(see below). This unity
-
creating thematic and theoretical framework makes it
possible on the one hand to simultaneously follow
both empirical research approaches and on
the other to relate them to each other in a meaningful way during the process of data
interpretation.





1

SPOBIO
is

t
he short term of ‚
Sportlehrerbiographien’; that means the biography of P.E. teachers

Stress and its accomplishment as a developmental problem

o
f the vocational biography

Qualitative longitudinal study

Interview survey:

subjective p
atterns of the
interpretation and experience of
stress situations and
accomplishment strategies in the
biographical development

Quantitative cross section study


Questionnaire survey:

vocational stressors and
resistance resources depending
on
socio
-
biogra
phical variables

2.1

The Qualitative Longitudinal Study




Group 1:

12
teachers career beginning
:
1979
-
1980

Group 2:

12
teachers career beginning:

1996
-
1998

Group 3:

12
teachers career beginning:

2006
-
2008


Fig. 3: Design of the Qualitative longitudinal study


The starting point is first of all the investigation on ‘Stress Situations Relating to How
Young
Physical Education Teachers See Themselves’ presented by Miethling (1986), exploring the
development of career beginners from 1979 to 1983 by means of 12 case studies (group I).
Eleven of the twelve PE teachers interviewed in 1986 took part in the se
cond survey after a 20
years period of employment (1999/2000). Along with this cohort specific longitudinal study
another 12 career beginners (PE teachers) were interviewed at the same time. It is intended to
repeat the survey with groups I and II in 2010
and to add a third group of fresh PE teacher
career beginners. Thus variations of individual biographies of professional developments of a
specific group/generation of teachers can be acquired


i.e. intra cohort differences.
Comparisons among the groups o
f different decades and their developments (inter
-
cohort
comparisons) can be drawn as well. The chances of gaining valuable results concerning
individual and general variations of professional biographies are increased to a great extent.

The intermediate r
esults of this study have been published separately (Miethling, 1986, 2000,
2002). The following figure gives a short summary of those results:

Group 1

Group

1

Group 2

Group

1

Group

2

Group 3

1979

1983

1999

2000

2010


Year

Topics and problems

01.







04.




05.





19.



20.


Phase of uncertainty and
accumulating

routine:

Stressing: discipline and motivation problems; coping with problems
amongst pupils; dissent in contents between teacher and pupils


Problems in orientation: stress in orientating oneself amongst institution,
pupils, movement, sports, and self
-
related items


Phase of experiencing and solving (not solving) serious problems of the
professional
self
-
image:





“lack of motivation”

††††††††††††††††††††††††††
“crisis of meaning”

†††††††††††††††††††††††
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††
“burn
-
out”



Phase of concentration on “important matters” and self
-
protection
compared with relative calmness:

Stressing: changed pupils (not concentrated, uneasy, diminished abilities in
movement, but

demanding); decreased support of parents, colleagues,
director; worsening of circumstances concerning facilities and material;
one’s own mental
-
physical demands (physical “deterioration”); high physical
a湤n牶r
-
牡c歩kg⁳瑲 獳s瑨牯畧栠湯楳e
→ voice


Changes in orientation: intensified differentiation of teaching


灲楶a瑥楦t;
獴牯湧e爠獥汦
-
p牯瑥c瑩潮㬠桩h桥爠re浡mca瑩潮猠o湤n摲d睩wg映 潮c汵獩潮猻
c潮oe湴na瑩潮o⁩湴e牡c瑩潮⁷楴栠灵灩汳


Fig.

4
: Development of male and female PE teachers

from 1980


2000

(Miethling 1986;
2002)


The career beginner phase (1st to 4th professional year after the internship) is characterised by
a higher amount of uncertainty and strain, only at the end it changes into a less strenuous and
even stabilising pha
se.

However, the stability achieved does not continue. In the
period up to the 20th year of
employment
almost all interviewed male and female PE teachers came into a “crisis of
meaning”, characterized by ‘lack of motivation’ or ‘burn
-
out situations’. Whet
her these
critical phases can be overcome depends upon certain resistance resources resp. competenc
ies
of accomplishment. Social r
esources (support through colleagues and/or family) are relevant
as well as the development of the sense of coherence enabling

the understanding of one’s
situation, the evaluation of being able to manage this situation and to find subjectively
relevant meaning in one’s own doings (cp. Antonovsky, 1997).


In the 20th year of employment

a state is reached that is characterized by
different stress
-
creating conditions as well as changes in orientation. Those changes are expressed by an
intensified differentiation of vocational and private life, a stronger self
-
protection, and a
higher amount of concentration on the interaction with p
upils, as well as a higher and more
consequent demarcation during lessons.

These qualitative
-
longitudinal lines in development acquired in a small expert sample (N = 12
male and female PE teachers) show broad parallels to a wide non
-
expert survey (by
Huber
mann 1989; more detailed: Miethling 2002). Consequently, it can be assumed that
developments in the professional biography of PE teachers partly contain special aspects and
issues, its rough course, however, is characterised by more general patterns.

I wil
l take up that context in my conclusions. At first and in detail the quantitative part of the
SPOBIO research will be outlined.


2.2

The Quantitative Cross Section Study

The configuration of the quantitative su
rvey is demonstrated in figure 5
.





Fig.

5
:
T
he quantitat
ive cross section study


The perception of stress was measured by the empirically approved questionnaire of stressors
by Heim & Klimek (1999). The authors pointed out in their survey that the peculiarities of
perceived vocational stress (concerning ‘
discipline of pupils
’, ‘
inadequate spacial conditions
’,
etc.) correlate significantly with different burn
-
out symptoms (emotional exhaustion, personal
capability, depersonalisation as well as psychosomatical disturb
ances). Taking this connection
as an established fact
our

study goes further ahead. Considering the resource
-
theoretical
approaches (in terms of trans
-
actional stress theories (sensu Lazarus & Launier 1981) and
saluto
-
genetical models (sensu Antonovsky 199
7), the genesis of strain resp. stress is to
understand also an interaction between (recognised) requirements and (mental) resistance
resources. Therefore, the question is asked of how the PE teachers’ recognition of stress
-
creating conditions and mental r
esistance resources are connected. The data of resistance
resources are collected via selected scales (subjective importance of the work, ability of
keeping distance, etc.) of the AVEM
-
questionnaire of a comprehensive study by
Schaarschmidt et al. in 2001.


1.

How does the recognition of stress creating conditions form the PE teachers?

2.


Are there significant connections be
tween the recognition of stress
-
creating conditions
and mental resistance resources with PE teachers?

Stressors in PE classes

(Heim/Kli
mek 1999):



lack of discipline of pupils



inadequate spacial conditions



problems in motivation and
grading



inadequate curricular guidelines



problematic interaction with
colleagues



physical strain

Mental resistance resources

(AVEM, Schaarschmidt et al.

2000
)
:



subjective importance of work



ability to dissociate



offensive problem solving



contentedness in life



social support

Socio
-
biographical variables

Age/years of employment, gender,
family status,
number of children, type of school, county

3.

To what extent do the peculiarities an
d connections depend upon certain socio
-
biographical variables, especially concerning the vocational development (years of
employment)?


3

Results of the Quantitative Cross Section Study

A total of
N = 1.124

questio
n
naires has been evaluated (
N = 611 male
PE teachers and N =
513 female PE teachers
). Concerning the school type
50 % of the interviewed teachers are
employed at a high school/grammar school
(

Gymnasium

), the percentage of teachers from
comprehensive schools (‘Gesamtschulen’) is rather low. Rega
rding the variable
age in
profession,

about 30% of the sample
s

are in their 1st to 4th vocational year.

Thus, it is one of the most extensive studies (numerally seen) of the last decades, comparable
to the extent of the SPRINT
-
study (cp.
Deutscher Sportbun
d e.V. & Deutsche Sportjugend in
the Deutscher Sportbund e.V., 2006).
Nevertheless, a statistical representativeness cannot be
claimed; whereas the gender
-
ranking tends to result in equality, ranking is unbalanced as to
school type

and
age in profession
. W
ithin the next two years an amplification of the sample
up to N = 3.600 is planned in order to receive a balanced ranking. Insofar the following
results are neither more nor less a preliminary report about the current state von SPOBIO.


Comparing the avera
ge levels of stress factors in PE classes, our investigation shows the
following results:


Mean comparison of stressors



Fig. 6: Average levels of stressors in PE classes [scale 1 (never) to 6 (permanent)]


All in all, the give
n results do not seem dramatic. It has, however, to be taken into account
that in Heim & Klimek’s study all stressors show significant correlations with psychosomatic
diseases and symptoms of burnout. This means that higher values in the different scales d
o
indeed indicate a higher potential of threat (also cp. Schaarschmidt’s (2005) results on the
professional stress of PE teachers).

Comparing the particular stress conditions it can be noted that



the variable ‘
inadequate curricular guidelines’

reaches the
highest mean



the variables ‘
physical strain’
,
problematic interaction with colleagues’


lacking
discipline of pupils’
and ‘
inadequate spacial conditions’

follow with considerable
distance.




motivational and grading problems’
aren’t perceived very often by
PE teachers.

1,00

1,50

2,00

2,50

3,00

3,50

stressors

lacking discipline of pupils

inadequat
e special conditions

motivational and grading problems

inadequate curricular guidelines

problematic interactions with colleagues

physical strain

Before analyzing this stress profile in a more detailed and differentiated way under the
conditions of gender and professional age, the question on possible correlations between
stressors and resistance resources shall be answered.


The follow
ing correlation matrix draws a clear and coherent picture:


Table 1: Correlations between stress factors and resistance resources (Pearson)

* = significant; ** = highly significant


stress

factors

lacking
discipline
of pupils

inadequate
spacial
conditions

motivational
and grading
problems

inadequate
curricular
guidelines

problematic
interactions
with
colleagues

physical strain

resistance

resources

subjective
importance of
professional
work

-
.12**

-
.09**

-
.05

-
.12**

-
.10**

-
.07*

ability to
dissociat
e

-
.09**

-
.06*

-
.08**

-
.02


-
.20**

-
.26**

offensive
stress
managemen
t

-
.16**

-
.09**

-
.19**

-
.15**

-
.12**

-
.26**

contentedness
in life

-
.22**

-
.12**

-
.19**

-
.13**

-
.10**

-
.27**

social support

-
.14**

-
.09*

-
.11**

-
.07

-
.15**

-
.17**


The extent of perceiv
ed stress is almost consistently and highly significantly dependent on the
dimensions of (psychic) resistance resources (and vice versa). This finding confirms the basic
resistance
-
theoretical assumptions that the interplay of perceived strain and availabl
e
resistance resources determines the manifestation of stress.

Although most of the calculated correlations are statistically highly significant, their values,
however, are rather low. This could indicate that the dynamics and complexity of the
interrelati
ons could only partially be measured in this study. Without a doubt, further
variables such as

teaching competence

in PE or general
capability in life
play a vital role.

Two variables of the calculated correlations stand out numerically: ‘
contentedness in
life’

as
part of the resistance resources and ‘
physical strain
’ as part of the stressors. Obviously, the
general attitude to life

influences the perception of stress in PE significantly
-

just as the latter
influences the contentedness in one’s own life. T
he ‘long arm of the job’ reaches into the
outside sphere of PE teachers and vice versa. And especially ‘
physical strain
’ as a specific
aspect of teaching in PE is influenced in a more extensive way by certain resources such as

ability to dissociate’, ‘off
ensive stress management
’ and ‘
contentedness in life
’ (as well as
vice versa).


On the effect of ‘gender in profession’

The following tables deal with gender
-
related differences:















Fig. 7: Medium range of stressors with regards to gender dif
ferences [scale 1 (never) to 6

(permanent)]















Fig.
8
: Medium range of resistance resources with regards to gender differences
differences
[scale 1 (
totally match
) to
5 (don’t match at all)]


The means of variables in both parts (stressors and
resistance resources) are surprising: they
show hardly any gender differences at all.

As to stressors, only slight differences could be detected for ‘
physical strain
’ (female teachers
appear to be a little more stressed). And concerning resistance resourc
es, female teachers
show higher values in regard to subjective importance of professional work and

contentedness in life’
than their male colleagues. Those are significant but numerally small
differences thus one could speak of a no
-
difference
-
result in r
eference to the variable
‘gender’.


Male and female PE teachers seem to perceive stress in PE classes to almost the same extent
and don’t differ in relevant resistance resources either. This result also doesn’t change when
differentiating in age and feder
al state. This no
-
difference
-
result clearly contradicts
Schaarschmidt’s findings. Schaarschmidt has shown a significantly higher stress situation
with female teachers. In addition, Gieß
-
Stüber (2006, 7) has noted interesting gender
differences in a recent
study on male and female teachers in Baden
-
Württemberg. According
to that study, women are more often working part
-
time whereas men are over
-
represented in
1,00
1,50
2,00
2,50
3,00
3,50
lacking discipline of
pupils
inadequate spacial
conditions
motivational and grading
problems
inadequate curricular
guidelines
problematic interactions
with colleagues
physical strain
female p. e.
teachers
male p. e.
teachers
1,00
1,50
2,00
2,50
3,00
3,50
4,00
4,50
subjective importance of
professional work
ability to dissociate
offensive stress
management
contentedness in life
social support
female p. e.
teachers
male p. e.
teachers
higher administrative positions. Women are more interested in matters of equal opportunities,
carry
their interests rather in an informal than in an ‘official’ way and more often perform
entertainment and service tasks in projects (festivals). Older male teachers are more often
tradition
-
oriented, show reservations towards innovation and hold long monolo
gues in
conferences. However, those differences in diverse aspects of gender
-
related comparison are
less extensive than those between younger and older teachers. This could be interpreted as a
possible change in gender
-
related role and action patterns. Whe
ther the argument of dynamic
change in gender relations suffices to explain the inconsistent finding concerning stress
perceptions of PE teachers seems at least highly uncertain. Insofar, the results presently
cannot be explained coherently.


On the effect

of ‘age in profession’

First, it has to mentioned that the variables

lacking discipline of pupils
’ and ‘
motivational
and grading problems
’ show

no significant differences in age
-
related comparison,
they stay

on the same level at all career stages. All ot
her stressors show significant differences.
The
following table displays these particular differences and their development according to age
-
differentiations based on Huberman’s “phase
-
structure
-
model” (1989).


Fig. 9
: Mean comp
arison of stressors according to Huberman [scale: 1 (never) to 6
(permanent)]


These four stressors clearly indicate that stress varies systematically throughout the career.
Especially the first part of the career is characterized by more stress due to ‘
in
adequate
curricular guidelines
’ and ‘
problematic interaction with colleagues’
. At the same time, young
PE teachers are less stressed by ‘
physical strain’
, which, however, becomes an increasingly
important issue in the course of professional life.

As to ‘
s
pacial conditions
’, there seems to be an effect of adaption with growing age in
profession. In the third or fourth decade one tends to feel less restricted by that criterion.

In conclusion, there is


with the exception of the first part of the career


no

part that either
can be regarded as particularly distinguished or particularly critical.
But it

would be a false
conclusion, however, to see the professional biography as a constant development. It is much
more plausible to assume that the phases of uncer
tainty, doubts, crises as well as of re
-
evaluation, trial
-
and
-
error and changing of focuses vary depending on cohort and take place at
different times. In other words: the variability and dynamics of these developments cannot be
2,20

2,40

2,60

2,80

3,00

3,20

1.
-
3.

year

4.
-
6.

year

7.
-
18.

year

19.
-
30.

year

31.
-
40.

year

inadequate spacial

conditions

inadequate curricular

guidelines

problematic interactions

with colleagues


physical strain

expressed in the given rese
arch report; they are underestimated here due to the design of this
study. Further conclusions can definitely be expected from
the qualitative part of the SPOBIO
project.


Concerning the part of resistance resources, one result seems especially relevant:
the variable

contentedness in life
’ shows a highly significant development in the career of PE teachers:

















Fig. 11: Mean
comparison
of the variable ‘contendedness in life’ according to Huberman
[scale 1 (
doesn’t match at all
) to
5 (matches

perfectly)]


The positive [‘tinge’ of the general] attitude to life continually decreases in the course of the
professional life (the rise between ages 31 and 40 can be neglected statistically) without
reaching an alarming negative zone. This result seems

remarkable because the variable
‘contentedness in life’

is highly correlated to diverse stressors, meaning that a decrease in
‘contentedness in life’

implicates a somehow weaker prevention of stress.


4

Conclusions: Statements on the Professional Biograph
y of Physical Education
Teachers

Summing up the results of SPOBIO and other investigations, the following assumptions can
be derived as a conclusion concerning the potentials in stress situations and its
accomplishment in the development of the p. e. teach
ers professional biography:

1.

Although the work of p. e. teachers requires a specific structure, the professional stress is
neither lower nor higher than for teachers of other subjects.

According to Schaarschmidt problematic constellations are thereby co
ncerned on a large
scale. However, all in all the results of SPOBIO do not indicate alarming data.

2.

The perception of stressors in physical education classes (lacking discipline of pupils,
problematic interaction with colleagues, physical strain, etc.) i
s connected in a manifold
way to psycho
-
social resistance resources (ability to dissociate, social support,
contentedness in life).

Although there is a multitude of significant (correlative) relations, the extent of the correlation
is rather low; i.e. tha
t other variables


like certain educational competencies on the one hand
and a common way of managing demands in life on the other hand


might exert more
significant influences. Nevertheless, our results indicate that the resource
-
theoretical
presumption
s of the interaction of perceived strain and psychic resistance resources claim a
general importance for the examined field.

3,70
3,80
3,90
4,00
4,10
1.-3.
year
4.-6.
year
7.-18.
year
19.-30.
year
31.-40.
year
contentedness in life
3.

The entire career of physical education teachers takes place as a complex and dynamical
developing process involving implicit an
d explicit learning.

That means that after passing the internship by no means a professional ‘end form’ is reached,
but it is the onset of continuous rowing/struggling with manifest or latently increasing
professional problems and challenges in the biograp
hy of teachers.

4.

Gender
-
related comparisons show no serious differences in any phase of the professional
development, neither in the field of stressors nor in the area of resistance resources.

This no
-
difference
-
result is clearly contradictory to the f
indings of Schaarschmidt which show
a higher proportion of risk patterns with female teachers. At present there is no sustainable
explanation for this contradictory result. Whereas there are no serious differences concerning
gender in our investigation, th
e differences amongst younger and older physical education
teachers


male and female


are significant.

5.

Especially the first phase of professional development (1st to 3rd/4th year in profession)
shows a particular profile of strain as well as of relie
f: The younger male and female p. e.
teachers have more problems dealing wit
h the curricular guidelines and

the interaction
with colleagues; their perception of ‘physical strain’ is rather low and their notion of
‘contentedness in life’ rather high.

Diffe
rent investigations are consistent in the finding that this first professional period is a
special one. It apparently deals with the problems of finding ones position which goes along
with immense difficulties in orientation. Two aspects contribute to the
conspicuous stress
profile of this professional phase: uncertainty in finding one’s own social position and the
search for a self
-
accountable educational concept. At the same time, however, the protection
factor ‘contentedness in life’ is available to a gr
eat extent in this period. In the further process
of professional life this constellation changes extensively.

6.

After the first phase of teaching until the end of one’s professional life an inconsistent
image arises: the qualitative studies show concise dev
elopments in the professional
biographies which are characterized by certain patterns and sequences of uncertainty,
doubts, crises, and reevaluation, experimentations, movement of emphasis. These
developments, however, seem to proceed in such a heterogeneo
us way and in differing
time phases thus at present they cannot be verified in an adequate way by quantitative
cross section stress research
.

From these findings a comprehensive area of research subjects in the field of professional
biography of physical
education teachers emerges, especially in terms of gender
-
related
developments. Furthermore, investigations on professional self
-
conceptions and working
routines in the career of the PE teacher will even be more significant when the perspectives of
school
development, changes on the part of the pupils and last but not least the modification
of the movement and sports culture are included.


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