Meaning in work of secondary school teachers: A qualitative study
In order to identify specific, shared sources of meaning and mechanisms with which individuals attempt to make meaning, the objectives of this study were to explore the way in which secondary school teachers perceive, conceptualise and attain meaning in their work. A qualitative design with a phenomenological strategy was used with a convenience sample (n = 20) of teachers. Semi-structured, one-to-one interviews with open-ended questions were used to gather data. Participants were asked to diarise related issues for five working days following the interview, in order to strengthen and validate the interviews’ results. The results showed that the participants conceptualise meaning as purpose and significance, and that the main sources of meaning related to work include the transfer of knowledge, and making a positive difference in the learners’ lives. Forming relationships based on trust and receiving feedback was also important. The main mechanisms identified were putting effort into preparations, while this group of participants reported that meaning leads to the experience of happiness and personal satisfaction. Although most of these findings support those in the broader literature, there are differences in the emphasis placed on some of the findings, due to the context of education in South Africa. From the results, recommendations were made to create opportunities for teachers to experience more meaning in their work.
Keywords: education sector; meaning in work; meaning-making mechanisms; sources of meaning; teachers
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