Examining COVID-19 related occupational stress in teachers in Ireland through a qualitative study using a thematic analysis approach

Elisha Minihan, Aoife Begley, Angela Martin, Michele Dunleavy, Blanaid Gavin, Fiona McNicholas

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Background: The teaching profession was dramatically affected by COVID-19 with school closures and ultimately the move to online learning. COVID-19 brought additional stress to an already demanding profession with the introduction of online teaching, teachers experiencing fear of infection and additional workloads accompanying the pandemic. Aim: To examine COVID-19 related occupational stress in teachers in Ireland through a qualitative study using a thematic analysis approach. Method: This study implemented two recruitment strategies for participants; email invitations to all members of ILSA and INTO, and email invitations with study information to school principals. A study specific questionnaire was devised with three questions offering free text responses. All responses were anonymous and analysed collectively. The Braun and Clarke thematic analysis method was employed to analyse participants’ responses. Results: 224 participants responded to the survey, however not all participants completed all three questions. Initially 98 codes were generated from the data set, and subsequently reduced to 41 final codes. The codes were arranged into three final themes; Overburdened, Abandoned, and Consequences, representing occupational stress in teachers during COVID-19. Conclusion: In the form of the three themes identified, participants described issues such as large class sizes, high workload, and out of work hours contact, among others. These issues contributed negatively to participants’ mental health and wellbeing with descriptions of being exhausted, isolated, stressed and experiencing burnout. Ensuring adequate awareness of, and paying attention to, teacher wellbeing is essential, such that optimisation of school environment can occur in light of additional burden associated with COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100183
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Research Open
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education

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