Thesis (Ed.D)

Teacher's emotional work, support for their wellbeing and the role of compassion: A critical exploration


This research aimed to critically explore teachers’ emotional work, support for their wellbeing and the potential role of compassion to support the wellbeing of teachers in three special schools that support children with Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs (SEMH). Three special schools in the South-East of England were invited to take part in the research as linked, comparative case studies. The research adopted an ontological position of social constructivism to gain insights into how participants made sense of their daily professional experiences. Adopting an epistemological position of interpretivism aimed to encourage teachers to reflect on their professional experiences while also recognising my positionality as a partial insider. Reflexivity with regards to my positionality prior to, during and after the research supported an empathetic awareness of participant experiences, a depth of engagement and a desire to understand more about teacher wellbeing in the context of SEMH settings. To guide the research process the overarching research question was: How is teacher wellbeing supported in the context of three SEMH special schools? Subsequently, stage 1 of the research involved undertaking one to one interviews with Head Teachers, teachers, and external visitors to learn more about teacher wellbeing in the context of the three schools. Head Teachers and teachers were also encouraged to share a recent event or experience that had had an impact on their wellbeing. Stage 2 of the research involved undertaking six one-hour focus group interviews in each of the three schools. As part of these focus group interviews, participants were introduced to a variety of compassion focused principles, processes, and practices through a series of interactive activities. During these sessions participants were encouraged to reflect together on the relevance of compassion to their professional roles and wellbeing. Stage 3 of the research involved developing a conceptualisation of how compassion might support teachers’ emotional work and their wellbeing. Findings of this research revealed that the emotional work of teachers is much more substantial than has been previously recognised in research or policy contexts. Support for wellbeing varied between schools and school organisations had a particularly important role in supporting teacher wellbeing. Evaluations of the six compassion focused sessions revealed that all participants recognised the relevance of compassion to their professional roles and wellbeing. This research recognised that teachers’ emotional work and support for their wellbeing is influenced by the interaction of organisational, professional, personal, and external factors. Consequently, research implications are offered to schools, teachers, and Government. The research concludes with a conceptualisation of Compassion Focused Education which locates compassion at the core of every educational experience.

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Reid, Jonathan David


Supervisors: Glenny, Georgina; Carpenter, Barry; Colley, David

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Education
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


Year: 2022

© Reid, Jonathan David
Published by Oxford Brookes University
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