Teacher Satisfaction Essay

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Teacher satisfaction refers to the pleasure, contentment, or sense of fulfillment one has for a job based on personal expectations or needs. A satisfied teacher is one who is comfortable with both employment in and the direction of the school in which he or she works. Several fields, including psychology, sociology, and business, have informed the research on the satisfaction of teachers. This entry examines satisfaction as a concept, discusses the various factors associated with satisfaction, and considers teacher satisfaction under the current standards and accountability policy context and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Satisfaction As A Concept

To understand teacher satisfaction, one must wrestle with satisfaction with what. In other words, is the teacher satisfied with his or her career choice, with the school organization, with the specific position within the school (e.g., third-grade classroom teacher), with particular aspects or duties of teaching, or with the financial compensation received? Alternatively, teacher satisfaction is sometimes conceptualized in a more global sense in terms of one’s general feelings or attitudes about teaching.

Regardless of the level of satisfaction examined, teachers’ primary sources of satisfaction have consistently been linked to their individual interactions with students. Teachers derive satisfaction from their ability to make a difference in their students’ lives in terms of both academic achievement and social or affective goals. In essence, teachers’ primary sources of satisfaction are intrinsic in nature.

Teacher satisfaction is important because it can affect individual attitudes and behaviors, including the decision to leave one’s school or district and the decision to leave the teaching profession itself. In addition, teachers’ satisfaction levels can affect their motivation, morale, and performance. Beyond the individual level, the satisfaction of the members of an organization can influence the overall performance of the organization. Satisfied members are more likely to accept the organizational goals and work collaboratively toward them, whereas dissatisfied members may either intentionally or unintentionally reduce the effectiveness of the organization.

In defining teacher satisfaction, many theoretical and empirical studies have tried to delineate satisfaction from commitment. Satisfaction is considered a concept relating to the nature of one’s work; commitment, on the other hand, relates to one’s obligation to or engagement in the organization in which a person works. Whether a teacher derives satisfaction from commitment or commitment from satisfaction remains undetermined.

Psychologist Albert Bandura’s self-efficacy theory is also discussed in relationship to satisfaction. Self-efficacy refers to one’s perception or personal judgment about whether or not he or she can successfully meet a particular goal or outcome. Self-efficacy beliefs can influence satisfaction levels, meaning that the more a teacher believes, for example, that he or she can successfully teach the students in the class the range of academic and affective learning outcomes, the more that the teacher will be satisfied with teaching. Self-efficacy beliefs are affected by both a person’s individual ability and organizational environment.

Factors Associated With Teacher Satisfaction

The research examining the relationship between individual characteristics and job satisfaction has uncovered mixed results. Although some studies have found relationships between satisfaction and teacher’s gender, length of time teaching, race or ethnicity, and school level, more comprehensive studies that include school-level factors suggest that individual characteristics do not influence teacher satisfaction.

A number of school-level factors, or organizational features or characteristics, influence teacher satisfaction. These factors are often referred to as teachers’ working conditions. One aspect of the school environment that influences satisfaction is the culture or climate of the school organization. Teachers are more satisfied when the members of the organization, including both teaching and administrative staff, operate under shared values and norms, exhibit collegial support, and trust and respect each other. These social interactions, particularly with teaching colleagues, influence teachers’ attitudes toward their work. In other words, the development of a professional community in the school that has these characteristics is important to teacher satisfaction.

Beyond culture and climate, principal leadership is another aspect of the school organization that is linked to teacher satisfaction. Teachers have greater satisfaction when they teach in schools with principals who are instructional leaders. These principals articulate the vision for the school, develop goals for students and teachers and a plan for meeting those goals, understand how students learn, provide opportunities for professional development, and offer ongoing support to teachers. In addition to valuing this type of leadership, teachers are more satisfied when they believe that the environment is safe and student disciplinary policies are clearly articulated and supported. When student behavior in the school is perceived as disorderly or unsafe, teachers are more likely to be unsatisfied, especially if they believe that administrators or staff are not providing them with adequate support in this area.

Teachers’ beliefs about the degree of control they have within their schools, sometimes referred to as teacher empowerment or teacher autonomy, also influence teacher satisfaction. Although having decision-making authority over curriculum and instruction in one’s classroom is an important aspect of this, teacher control frequently refers to involvement in school-level decisions as well. The association between control and satisfaction has been identified through research, but the relationship between satisfaction and particular reforms designed to increase teacher control, such as site-based management, inclusive or participatory decision making, and charter school reforms, has not been determined, perhaps because of the variation that exists in the implementation of these reforms in relation to the degree of control (or empowerment or autonomy) that teachers experience in practice.

A final school-level characteristic associated with satisfaction is parental support and involvement. Parental support and involvement can range from more traditional parental roles, such as leading field trips and bake sales or communicating with teachers around homework assignments and classroom progress, to more intensive roles, including offering instructional assistance in the classroom. Although teachers have varied expectations regarding the school or classroom activities in which parents should engage, they seek parent cooperation with, rather than opposition to, their teaching efforts.

The professional and social identities of teachers also influence their satisfaction, although less is known about these associations. Teachers who view their job as a profession are more likely to be satisfied about their work. However, teachers’ professional identities may be shaped not only by their individual views of teaching and their professional competence, but also by public perceptions of teachers or the status of teachers within a particular community or in society.

Standards, Accountability, And Teacher Satisfaction

State and federal policy over the past two decades has led to statewide standards in particular subject areas, such as mathematics, as well as statewide assessments to measure whether those standards are being met by students. This standards movement has coincided with calls for greater accountability in public education, culminating in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which requires states to create a system of school-level sanctions linked to aggregated student test scores. Whether increased standards and greater accountability influence teacher satisfaction remains undetermined.

However, the increased pressure on teachers to succeed, the public perception of teachers as unqualified or unmotivated, and the limits on control and autonomy that result from higher stakes being attached to test scores have the potential to negatively influence teacher satisfaction. Given what is known about the influence of satisfaction on organizational effectiveness, examination of the association between accountability and satisfaction within the lowest performing schools that are, as a result, operating under accountability sanctions is of utmost importance.


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