A staff well-being framework for the 21st century (SWF21)

Chee, Yan Hoon Shirleen (2014) A staff well-being framework for the 21st century (SWF21). Doctorate (other than PhD) thesis, University of Southern Queensland. (Unpublished)

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This Workplace-Based Learning (WBL) dissertation is the culmination of an in-depth study, which I have embarked upon as a mature student, and as a senior education officer, with more than ten years of experience as a school leader.

As an educator, I have always valued the opportunity for continued learning, and where learning is very much shaped by one’s attitude rather than any physical structure such as a school. I have always looked for opportunities to learn; through courses, conferences or through the acquisition of new roles, which inevitably bring
with them new skills and competencies. In the course of my career, I have learnt that it is not all about doing more work or assuming new duties, but journeying through the process of learning and in doing so, learning to work better, smarter and more effectively.

My desire to embark on a doctoral programme led me to explore different programmes offered by different universities. I was on the verge of signing up with another university, when I was approached to consider a Doctor of Professional Studies (DPST) with the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). What made the DPST attractive is its value in working on direct concerns that arise from the workplace. It focuses on projects that require one to acquire new knowledge to tackle issues emerging from challenges in the workplace. The DPST dictates that the candidate is disciplined and committed to learning, and the learning outcome is of meaning to:

 The candidate, who will apply the leaning to the workplace;
 The candidate’s employer/management/supervisor who will value the contributions of the study in managing workplace concerns; and
 The academicians and researchers and the candidate’s university supervisors who will see how the study when implemented in the workplace can help reduce or even bridge the gulf between the theory and practice, and thus enable an organisation to be nimble in its learning, even as it is poised to meet the challenges posed by the changing times.

As part of the requirements of the DPST, I needed to provide evidence of prior learning. This gave me a chance to reflect on the learning accrued in my entire career. This learning journey commenced with my appointment as a Beginning Teacher to that of a Senior Education Officer. My portfolio of learning (available for review upon request) traced the beginnings of my entry into the Education Service and how issues of working with stakeholders, catering to pupil differences and conflicting demands of family and workplace were managed. The portfolio continued to trace the changing landscape of an educator’s work from curricular development to innovation, and to learn and understand the need for an educator to deal with curricular designs and be constantly engaged in educational innovations.

The road to continuous learning has seen me embarking on a Masters Programme that explored the integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) in school. This took place during the late 1990s when ICT began to make its impact on education. In addition, the participation in a “Leaders in Education Programme” (LEP) in Singapore helped me to appreciate the multi-faceted role of a school leader; the need for ongoing innovations within a school with an engaged staff; and most importantly, a realisation that learning and innovations were integral to the teaching profession.

The Learning Proposal (available for review upon request) thus centred on an area of study that addressed the well-being needs of staff members in the schools, namely the teachers. With the many changes confronting teachers, and the heavy demands on them, the stress level would inevitably rise and threaten their well-being. One needed to explore if the well-being needs for the 21st century worker had changed when compared with the well-being needs of the workers from the previous century, which centred on fair financial compensation for work done, and to be adequately equipped to do the work, that is, a need for provision of relevant and sufficient job training for the staff.

A proposal was put forward to look at a meaningful staff well-being framework for the 21st century. It outlined four phases of work (see Figure A.1) that would lead to a twofold intent of the study for the DPST: the construction of a staff well-being framework, and the identification of domains and measures of staff well-being. The framework was to be implemented in at least one of the schools identified in the assessment of the well-being needs of the teachers.

The dissertation explored and identified well-being needs through literature reviews, a questionnaire survey and focus group interviews. It looked at empirical data and contextual understanding of the participants in the survey. As a qualitative study, I observed how the staff made sense of the information gleaned; designed the Staff
Well-being Framework; identified the vehicles to bring about staff well-being, and their eventual implementation and evaluation of the framework. The study helped to inform the understanding of well-being in organisations such as schools. Through the integration of professional practice, and the application of theoretical knowledge as well as literature reviews, new knowledge could be drawn to offer a more comprehensive understanding of well-being at the 21st century workplace.

The methodology adopted for this study was the ‘survey method’ and the data collected is predominantly qualitative, although some quantitative data of the organisation was used to inform the direction of the study, and to provide feedback on the implementation of the well-being study. This had the benefit of seeing the reality in its complexities, and provided an understanding of why directions for implementation had to be changed because of staff feedback and other challenges often found in the workplace. The unpredictable and complex context demanded
innovative adaptations to the implementation plan. As a result, the evaluation of the implementation shed light on what measures could truly work in a workplace. In a way, this provided an insight into the gulf between plans in theory and the execution of the plans in practice. The drawing up of a framework in theory and the implementation of the framework in practice could yield different outcomes. The value of this study lay in the qualitative, contextual insights that influenced the recommendations to the framework and the measures undertaken to assess the effectiveness of the framework.

More importantly, it highlighted the importance of the communication process and the collaborative skills needed in the 21st century workplace. Communication and collaboration were critical to a successful implementation of the framework and policies. This was even more so in the area of well-being, for the staff needed to see how theories, plans and policies could be translated to actions and practice that genuinely addressed and sufficiently impacted well-being issues.

In summary, the dissertation offered a description of an approach to address the wellbeing needs of staff in an educational institution in the 21st century. It explored the complexities involved in the understanding of well-being today, and it proposed a framework based on current understanding of organisations in the 21st. century. The
dissertation traced the implementation of the framework according to the vehicles drawn up by the staff and evaluated according to the measures put in place by the staff at the study site. The insights and the recommendations contributed to an ever evolving body of knowledge that attempted to address issues of staff well-being that have grown increasingly complex.

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Item Type: Thesis (Non-Research) (Doctorate (other than PhD))
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Doctor of Professional Studies (DPST) (coursework) thesis.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Arts and Communication (1 Jul 2013 - 28 Feb 2019)
Supervisors: Teh, Mui Kim
Date Deposited: 23 Aug 2015 23:42
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 04:37
Uncontrolled Keywords: staff; well-being; teachers; educational institutions
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130313 Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390307 Teacher education and professional development of educators
URI: https://sear.unisq.edu.au/id/eprint/27603

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