Occupational stress and work engagement among special needs educators in the Umlazi District of KwaZulu-Natal.
Williams, Annelieze C.
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The present research study attempted to determine if special needs educators, who reported being engaged in their work, were more likely to appraise perceived stressful work situations as a welcomed challenge as opposed to an unwelcomed threat. This study was undertaken in order to build on the minimal body of existing empirical research in three areas: (a) the occupational stressors experienced by special needs educators, (b) work engagement among special needs educators, and (c) the relationship between work engagement and the appraisal of perceived occupational stress. It achieves these ends by determining: (a) which occupational stressors reported by special needs educators were perceived as being the most stressful, (b) if special needs educators were engaged in their work and the extent thereof, and (c) the impact of work engagement on the perception of occupational stress by special needs educators. A quantitative, non-experimental, cross-sectional, ex post facto research design was employed for the collection and analysis of data. Data was gathered from seven special schools in the Umlazi District of KwaZulu-Natal. These special schools provide high levels of support to learners with severe intellectual (learning) disabilities. A sample of N = 86 voluntary participants was obtained, comprising N = 12 males and N = 74 females. Data was generated via self-report survey-type questionnaires, which were divided into three parts: (1) a section requesting biographical information, (2) the Occupational Stress scale – a survey instrument intended to generate data relating to the demands and resources perceived by participants, and (3) the Work Engagement scale – a survey instrument intended to generate data relating to the participants perceived levels of engagement at work. All data were analysed using SPSS version 15.0 for Windows (SPSS Inc., Chicago, Illinois, USA). The results revealed that inadequate pay and benefits was a major source of perceived occupational stress, and that special needs educators were highly engaged in their work. Support for the hypothesis of an inverse relationship between work engagement and perceived occupational stress was attained. In addition, analyses of biographical variables in relation to perceived occupational stress provided support for the Transaction Model of Stress. Stress management interventions for special needs educators of severe intellectually (learning) disabled learners were recommended, the strengths and limitations of the present study noted and avenues for future research suggested.