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“I like being a teacher” : Career satisfaction, the work environment and work engagement

Carolyn Timms (Psychology, School of Arts and Social Sciences and School of Education, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia)
Paula Brough (Social and Organisational Psychology Research Unit, Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 23 September 2013



The purpose of this paper is to compare the explanatory power of two theoretical frameworks in regard to the work engagement of 312 Queensland teachers from non-government schools. The first theoretical model is the job demands-resources (JD-R) theory which suggests that work engagement will be evident if people report an abundance of resources in their work environment. The second perspective is self-determination theory (SDT) which suggests that work engagement will be evident if people are able to satisfy their personal psychological needs within the work environment.


The current research collected data from the same participants on two occasions with a six-month interval. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted to test the research hypotheses both cross-sectionally and longitudinally.


It was found that the SDT provided the more compelling explanation for work engagement, in that career satisfaction (rather than job satisfaction) was a robust predictor of work engagement, although some evidence was also found for a contribution of the psycho-social work environment (supporting the JD-R model) in teachers’ work engagement or burnout. It was concluded that these two theoretical perspectives are compatible.

Practical implications

It is recommended that future studies of work engagement include some measurement of people's satisfaction that the career they have chosen fulfils their personal aspirations.

Social implications

The theories of SDT (work engagement as a fulfilment of psychological needs) and JD-R (work engagement as a balance of job demands and resources), while coming from different directions appear to be compatible, with each perspective enriching the other and affording administrators a more complete understanding of dynamics affecting the psychological health of teaching staff.


Previous work involving the JD-R and work engagement has focused on the immediate psycho-social environment of the workplace. The current research finds that career satisfaction predicts all dimensions of work engagement in cross-sectional analysis and over time. This supports insights from SDT and suggests that a more complete understanding of the dynamics of work engagement must include people's opportunity to redress psychological needs within the workplace.



This research was funded by a Griffith Health Institute Project Grant, the support of which is gratefully acknowledged. In addition, the generosity and practical assistance of Ms Roslyn McLennan and Mr Terry Burke of the Queensland Independent Education Union is gratefully acknowledged.


Timms, C. and Brough, P. (2013), "“I like being a teacher” : Career satisfaction, the work environment and work engagement", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 51 No. 6, pp. 768-789.



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