Physical Education specialist’s emotional wellbeing as professional success factor

Dr.Hab., Professor L. Kardeliene1
PhD, Associate Professor A. Sharkauskiene1
Klaipeda University, Faculty of Health Sciences, Klaipeda, Lithuania

Keywords: school physical education teacher, emotional wellbeing, educational service.

Background. Mission of the school Physical Education (PE) discipline is to lay a foundation for the children’s physical health and active longevity by cultivating motivations for habitual physical development [2; 8], with the key role played by the school physical education teacher [6; 3; 5]. It is important to ensure due harmony of the broader public health policies with the physical education curricula in the educational system [7].

Some studies of the professional PE service make an emphasis on the teacher’s commitment and attitudes to the service [1]; some consider the PE service in the context of the trainees’ motivations for physical development [13]; some give a top priority to communication in the PE process [5]; and the others pay a special attention to the physical education teacher’s health rates versus success in the professional career [12]. Many analysts point out that the job conditions may be detrimental to the emotional wellbeing of the physical education teacher, particularly when he/she is overloaded, the numbers of trainees are too high, and he/she has to work under pressure in the attempts to individualize and customize the PE service [10]. Most of the physical education teachers are at risk of being mentally drained when the lessons exceed four hours per day and they have to work overtime, all the more that school administrations more often than not tend to underestimate the importance of the PE discipline and are reluctant to ease/ facilitate services of the PE personnel [5]. This common underestimation encourages the public health researchers to give a special attention to the emotional wellbeing of the school PE personnel since success of this professional group in the students’ health improvement service heavily contributes to success of the health policies pursued by the national government and society [4; 9]. The above situation with the school PE service motivated us for the study of the school physical education teacher’s emotional wellbeing in the context of their service quality.

Methods and design of the study. Subject to the study was a random sample of physical education teachers (n=324) from the general education schools of Lithuania, with the average age of the sample estimated at 44.59±0.57 years and average school service record at 20.52 ±0.58 years. The 56.5% (n=183) male and 43.5% (n=141) female sample was split up into the following two groups: Group 1 (48.7% male and 55.8% female) was composed of the individuals with the service records of ≤20 years, and Group 2 (50.3% male and 44.2% female) of their senior peers with the service records of 20+ years.

Study methods were designed to rate the emotional wellbeing of the sample by a 12-point scale of stressors [11], with the responses rated from no stressors to constant stressors. The study data made it possible to compute the stress rates and group the sample into the following two groups: Group 1 tested with the constant and frequent stressors, with the stress rates above the median value; and Group 2 tested with the occasional stressors, with the stress rates under or equal to the median value. Prior assumptions of the study were verified by the X-square and Student t-criterion, with a factorial analysis of the output data. The findings were rated statistically significant when errors were at least 95 percent improbable.

Study findings and discussion. The school physical education teachers’ emotional wellbeing was rated by the service stressors and stress triggering factors. The study data and analyses found some gender-specific differences in the stress rates. The female subgroup was found more exposed to the family-related stressors (24.5% versus 9.9%; p<0.001) followed by the less serious job-specific competition related stressors (19.9% versus 12.2%; p=0.06). The service-record groups were also tested different in the following aspects. The senior group was found more sensitive to the presumably negligent attitudes at work (14.1% versus 7.3%; p<0.05) and different health disorders (17.2% versus 9.0%; p<0.05); whilst the junior group was tested exposed to the stressors due to the gap between the theoretical knowledge and real practice (p=0.06).

The senior male subgroup was found most sensitive to the presumably negligent attitudes at work (12.4% versus 7.9%) and different health disorders (13.3% versus 8.8%), albeit less exposed to the financial problems related stressors (26.7% versus 35.2%). The female subgroups were found meaningfully different in the following aspects. The senior female subgroup was found more sensitive to the presumably negligent attitudes at work (16.7% versus 6.7%) and different health disorders (23.0% versus 9.2%; p<0.05); and less exposed to the stressors due to the gaps between the theoretical knowledge and real practice (8.3% versus 28.6%; p<0.01).

Analysis of the stress triggering factors (with the KMO=0.84 [Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin test for sampling adequacy]) helped identify three key stress factors accounting for 54.7% of the stress factors distribution: see Table 1.

Table 1. Analysis of the stress factors

Stress factors with variables

Factorial weight of the variable

Job-specific factors






Negligence at work


Personality factors


Living standards


Financial problems


Health disorders


Family problems


Sexuality related problems


Vocational factors


Labor on the whole


Specific job-related responsibilities


Gap between the theoretical knowledge and practice


As provided by the above Table 1, the stressors reported by the sample are dominated by the personality factors including the sexuality related problems, financial problems and living standards. For a detailed analysis of the factorial data, we computed a total score for each factor for the male and female subgroups: see Table 2.

Table 2. Gender-specific stress factors, total scores




Job-specific factors



Personality factors



Vocational factors




The above data are indicative of the sample stressors being dominated by the job-specific stress factors rather than the personality factors. The gender-specific differences of the grouped stress factors were found meaningless.

If we assume that one of the key missions of the school PE service is to encourage the self-reliant leisure-time physical trainings of schoolchildren to cultivate their habitual physical development agenda for the whole lifetime, the role of the school PE teacher’s service cannot be underestimated by the school management. Prior to a discussion of the role of the school PE teacher’s service, it is rather beneficial to consider the emotional wellbeing rating data with the relevant stress factors that may be of influence on the service quality. It was found, for instance, that the school PE teachers are exposed to the competition-related stressors in the context of the school service professionalism assurance policies [3], and these stressors have been reported and rated by some studies [10]. These and other research and statistical data have resulted in the research community giving a growing attention in discussions to the emotional wellbeing of school teachers and the relevant stress factors and variables including personal independence, positive communication and service environment [4; 9].

Based on the study data and analyses, we found 29.1% and 27.7% of the male and female groups, respectively, being exposed to the constant and frequent job-specific stressors; and 24.3% and 22.0%, respectively, exposed to the management requirements related stressors. In addition, the female group was found more sensitive to the family problems related stressors (24.5% versus 9.8%). This gender-specific stress picture substantiates the findings of other analysts that the relatively higher emotional stressors reported by women are due to the conflict of the job-specific and family responsibilities and requirements [12]. It may also be important to mention that the job-specific emotional stresses considered among the most serious wellbeing-undermining factors cannot but be detrimental to the PE service quality; albeit the quality sags are often explained by the constant pressures due to job intensity factors, overtime and overloads, problematic interpersonal relations with teachers and pupils etc. [15].

Financial problems reported by 30.8% and 38.8% of the male and female groups, respectively, shall be ranked among the stress factors of influence on the PE service quality as found by our study. Some study data [14] are indicative of the low salaries being among the job-specific stress factors. However, some researchers argue that the PE teacher’s emotional wellbeing and service quality is determined rather by creative freedom in the service design and management and appreciation and remuneration of the service [9], although the financial safety appears to be no less important for the individual mental and social comfort [5].

Conclusion. The physical education teacher’s emotional wellbeing rating study found that 51.7% and 51.9 of the male and female groups, respectively, are exposed to regular stressors dominated by financial problems, job-specific responsibilities, management requirements and living standards. Analysis of the emotional wellbeing shaping variables showed that about half of the sampled physical education teachers are sensitive to the problems undermining their emotional wellbeing. The senior subsample (with longer service records) was also found more exposed to the health disorders related stressors.


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The national educational system gives a growing priority to the physical education teacher’s emotional wellbeing viewed as a professional success factor. The situation is complicated by the underestimation of importance of the school physical education service. Physical educators (n=324) from the general education school system of Lithuania were randomly sampled for the study purposes. The emotional wellbeing in the sample was rated on a 12-point scale of the key emotional stressors. The study data provided the means to compute individual stress rates and split up the sample into the following two groups: Group 1 exposed to constant and frequent stresses; and Group 2 exposed to occasional stresses only. The study data and analyses found about one of three instructors facing job-specific stressors; and one of four instructors exposed to stressors due to the excessive/ specific management requirements. The study also found a correlation of the emotional wellbeing rates with the physical education teacher’s service records.