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An investigation of the specific job-related challenges and coping strategies of Senior and Master teachers at South African public schools.

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Many in-service teachers describe their profession as highly challenging and express feelings of stress. In South African schools, some of these teachers also become Senior or Master teachers. As part of the Senior and Master teacher roles, they have additional tasks to fulfil and they thus form a specific level in the school hierarchy. Research from Occupational Psychology has coined the term middle managers for such positions (also called sandwich positions). This term implies that employees in such positions face a specific set of job-related challenges. The same can be assumed for Senior and Master teachers. Yet, there are job-related challenges of these two groups of teachers and coping strategies they use to cope with these specific set of challenges. Thus, the aim of this study was to investigate the specific job-related challenges and coping strategies of Senior and Master teachers at South African public schools. This research draws on the Transactional Model of Stress and Coping (Lazarus & Folkman, 1987) as a theoretical framework which allows a researcher to look at the daily challenges of individuals and their coping strategies and how both may affect their well-being. The study was conducted in three Primary schools and two Secondary schools in the Umlazi District using a sequential mixedmethod design involving quantitative followed by qualitative data generation based on a pragmatic paradigm. Data were generated using screening questionnaires (N=40) based on established scales to assess challenges and coping strategies as well as semi-structured interviews with selected Senior and Master teachers (n=5). Quantitative data on the level of challenges and choice of coping strategies of Senior and Master teachers was presented enriched by qualitative data which was analysed thematically. For quantitative results, Senior and Master teachers showed moderate to high levels of role clarity and support from supervisors and colleagues but also moderate levels of role conflict. These teachers also used instrumental support, positive reframing and planning as the mostly used coping strategies. The least used coping strategies were behavioural disengagement, humour and selfblame. For the well-being of these teachers, the more coping strategies they used the more likely they were to show low to moderate levels of stress, somatic stress and cognitive stress. For example, when these teachers used behavioural disengagement, positive reframing, religion, selfvii blame and distraction, results show low to moderate levels of stress and somatic stress as well as low levels of cognitive stress. For qualitative results, Senior and Master teachers indicated clear roles, lack of recognition and lack of induction when it came to facing their challenges. The most used coping strategies for these teachers were active coping, acceptance, instrumental support and behavioural disengagement. For their well-being, when they use behavioural disengagement, instrumental support, active coping and acceptance, the less they are affected by stress, somatic stress and cognitive stress. In conclusion, these results shed light on the specific roles of Senior and Master teachers, which in turn will help them fulfil their specific tasks more effectively.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.