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Date of Award

2006

Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Department

Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Rachelle Hackett

First Committee Member

Kallie Cain

Second Committee Member

Judith Hoorn

Third Committee Member

Linda Webster

Abstract

This qualitative study sought to examine the perceived role that faith plays in helping teachers to cope with stress. Three research questions examined the ways in which teachers who claim to be sustained by their faith perceive that this faith assists them in coping with professional stress, personal stress, and at times when stress occurs in both contexts simultaneously. Using a phenomenological approach, ten Caucasian, predominantly Christian educators were questioned in a two-part interview over approximately two hours. Study participants were teachers who have been in stressful positions and who also had experienced a serious personal hardship and believed their faith helped them to cope. Each had between 3 and 40 years of experience within the education profession and had filled a variety of roles within the field. Interview transcripts were analyzed using the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach. It was found that the teachers in this study perceived no difference in how they relied upon their faith to cope across the various contexts (i.e., when coping with professional stress, personal stress, or both). A central finding was that study participants tended to view their faith as a core part of their identity, framing how they cope in all areas of life. Teachers perceived that their faith was more a matter of "who they are" than of "what they would do" in any particular context, and reported that they rely on one set of faith-based coping behaviors in response to stress in all settings. Those faith-based coping strategies include prayer, meditation, spiritual/mystical experiences, beliefs, behaviors, feelings, and church involvement. Study participants noted a more intense coping effort when coping with stress in multiple contexts, but suggest that the coping strategies employed do not vary. Recommendations for future research include investigating the patterns of faith-based coping among a larger and more diverse group (e.g., more ethnic and cultural diversity, a broad range of religious beliefs, etc.), conducting a similar study that includes objective measures of stress and coping, as well as conducting studies that examine other personal strengths that may build resiliency within the teaching profession.

Pages

236

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