Occupational stress factors as perceived by secondary school teachers.
There is a growing body of evidence that occupational stress is a problem for a significant number of teachers. Teacher stress has a detrimental effect not only on the physical and mental well-being of teachers, but on their efficiency and productivity in the school setting as well. This study investigated teacher stress within the interactional framework. Its main aim was to determine the nature and extent of stress patterns in a sample of 360 Indian school teachers selected from ten secondary schools in the Greater Durban area. Other closely related aims were to identify the most important task-, situation- and role-based sources of stress among these teachers, their most common reactions to excessive stress, their common modes of coping, as well as their most important sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Furthermore, this study sought to investigate the influence of demographic characteristics on the teachers' experience of stress and coping. For this purpose intra-group comparisons were made involving six subsamples of teachers male - female, married - unmarried, younger - older, less experienced - more experienced, diplomates - graduates, Level One teachers - Heads of Departments. A self-administered questionnaire and in-depth interviews were used to obtain the quantitative and qualitative data required for this study. Among the most important findings of the study are the following: 1 . Over one-half of the number of the secondary teachers surveyed (54%) perceived their job as being very stressful. 2. The four most frequent and intense sources of stress were related to the working conditions of teachers rather than to the actual task of teaching. These stressors relate to poor career development prospects and a lack of accomplishment. More specifically, these are, in rank order: (1) the system of awarding merit notches; (2) the system of promotion; (3) the system of evaluation; and (4) a relatively low salary. 3. The four most important sources of role stress are, in rank order : (1) the volume and variety of tasks that teachers are expected to perform and the adverse effect this has on the quality of work they produce because of the limited time at their disposal; (2) being compelled to perform duties that appear to them to have little value; (3) having too heavy a workload; and (4) uncertainty about how superiors evaluate their teaching. 4. At least one-third of the teachers are "at risk" of developing more serious health problems. Finally, the limitations of this study are discussed, and various recommendations are made. It is argued that stress among teachers is a complex phenomenon arising out of the interaction of a whole host of factors and circumstances. Consequently, any attempt at amelioration should be multidimensional in nature and involve a variety of disciplines.