Work factors and teacher satisfaction: The mediating effect of cynicism toward educational change
Joanne Sau-Ching Yim
Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, Malaysia
Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia
This study investigated teachers' cynicism toward a major education transformation blueprint and their job satisfaction with a sample of 628 practising teachers. Participants were practising teachers in primary (n = 326) and secondary (n = 302) schools located in a school district in Malaysia. A self-reporting questionnaire was used, where the Job Descriptive Index, Job In General, and Cynicism About Organisational Change scales were adopted and adapted. Overall, teachers reported being moderately cynical toward education transformation efforts. The study found that cynicism toward educational change partially but significantly mediated the effects of work factors (the work itself, advancement, pay, supervision, colleagues) on job satisfaction. Findings also suggested negative consequences of cynical outlook on teachers' job satisfaction, as shown by the inverse relationship found between these variables. This study contributes to the literature on cynicism toward change in an education context, and its significant effect on teacher job satisfaction.
In Malaysia, the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB 2013-2025) is the latest major education reform package offered by the government and is described as the biggest manifestation of government transformation in getting the best returns in human capital to drive all national development aspirations (Malaysia National News Agency, 2013). Changes in the blueprint are envisioned to involve areas such as curriculum change, emphasis of ICT use in learning, increase in parental and community engagement, as well as new processes and structure in the Education Ministry. The blueprint outlines comprehensive transformation programs with 11 improvements aimed at enhancing five outcomes of education: access, quality, equity, unity, and efficiency (Ministry of Education [MOE], 2013). One of the improvements is specifically to "transform teaching into the profession of choice" (MOE, 2013, p. E-14), in order to attract top academic achievers so as to propel the Malaysian education system to be among the top third of countries in terms of international student assessments (MOE, 2013). This logic is apparent as teachers are one of the most significant school-based determinants of student outcomes, and are central to the processes which stimulate school improvement (Hofman, Dijkstra & Adriaan-Hofman, 2009; MOE, 2013). As the country approaches its vision to achieve the status of a developed nation by 2020, this blueprint may well be the final thrust to realise this vision.
However, it must be noted that some of reforms introduced prior to 2013 have not been clearly successful, with implemented policies being retracted or failed reforms being laid to oblivion over time (Hallinger, 2010; Malakolunthu, 2010). For instance, a recent retraction in policy occurred with a change in language used for teaching science and mathematics, where the medium of instruction was switched from Malay to English, and then back to using Malay due to deterioration in student performance for both subjects (Rokiah et al., 2012). Further to this, there is no clear success shown from policies such as those involving ICT usage. Malaysia, one of the pioneer countries in Asia to initiate ICT in education, is facing challenges in integrating ICT to realise its policy goal of moving forward to a knowledge driven economy (UNESCO, 2013). Despite the government's investment of about RM 6 billion over the past decade, ICT usage in schools is still short of expectations with reports that computer use has not gone beyond word-processing as an instructional tool (MOE, 2013). Past change initiatives which did not achieve their purported objectives or were not clearly successful can leave teachers extremely wary about accepting further attempts at change, predisposing them to be cynical toward future change attempts (Bordia, Restubog, Jimmieson & Irmer, 2011; Wanous, Reichers & Austin, 2000). Hence, this study examines the effect of such experiences of change on teacher satisfaction.
Studies on organisational cynicism have often relied on attribution theory (James, 2005), which postulates that people are inclined to impute two types of factors when observing an outcome: external factors and (or) internal factors (Wanous et al., 2000). External factors are situational aspects beyond the control of a person which may affect change, such as unexpected departmental budgetary cut, while internal factors are within-person factors, such as individual intelligence or capability that determine change success. Central to the theory is the concept of self-serving bias, which postulates the tendency for people to attribute positive outcomes to the self (internal factor), while imputing negative outcomes to external factors (Miller & Ross, 1975). The element of blame in attributing failure is common in studies which have conceptualised cynicism about organisational change as a loss of faith in the leaders of change, and a response to a history of change attempts which are not successful (Reichers et al., 1997; Bommer, Rich & Rubin, 2005; Watt & Piotrowski, 2008). This cynicism can bring about a vicious cycle when repeated failures with change attempts reinforce cynicism of employees and other members who hold a similar belief (Brown & Cregan, 2008; Choi, 2011).
Studies that investigated cynicism in the context of organisational change have found it to be positively linked to colleagues' cynicism and resistance to change, while negatively linked to perceived quality of information, trust in the administration, management integrity and ability, transformational leadership, group cohesion, and justice perceptions (Bommer et al., 2005; Qian & Daniels, 2008; Stanley, Meyer & Topolnytsky, 2005; Wu, Neubert & Yi, 2007). In the school setting, an earlier Australian study by Churchill, Williamson and Grady (1997) highlighted the effect of cynicism toward educational change on teachers' work lives. The main source for this cynicism is caused by teachers' belief that change is advocated with the main objective of advancing the self-interests of its proponents, because nothing changed much in the classroom. Teachers' cynicism is exacerbated through their perceptions that changes are only transitory and will soon be replaced by other initiatives. An empirical investigation of antecedents and consequences of cynicism in the school system by James (2005) identified organisational cynicism to be influenced by organisational politics, organisational justice, psychological contract violations, and perceived organisational support. Recently, organisational cynicism is identified to negatively effect school culture, academic achievement, and school leaders' altruistic behaviors (Karadağ, Kilićoğlu, & Yilmaz, 2014; Konakli, Özyılmaz & Çörtük, 2013). However, there is limited work directed at cynicism toward educational change and this study aims to inquire within this gap by linking it to teacher satisfaction.
In the Malaysian context, change experiences may predispose teachers to be cynical toward the MEB 2013-2025. A majority of studies done on cynicism have focused on organisations in Western countries (Mohd Noor, Mohd Walid, Ahmad & Darus, 2013), and it is currently an opportune time to examine teachers' cynicism toward educational changes brought about by the MEB 2013-2025. Hallinger (2010) noted that there are distinct reactions to announcements of educational change between Southeast Asian countries and Western countries. In Southeast Asia, change is usually received politely by stakeholders, who have a tendency to accept the decisions of those in authority. The inclination toward unquestioned acceptance may appear to create a seemingly smooth transition toward change implementation, however, it may not translate to teachers being agreeable to the changes, and change proponents may have the belief that teachers are in agreement with the proposed changes. Cultural norms of high power distance tend to prioritise group harmony to avoid public dissent, and any suppressed dissent may result in a longer process of change adaptation (Hallinger, 2010). Malaysia may not be exempt from this situation, as it is a collectivist country with a high power distance tendency (Hofstede, Hofstede & Minkov, 2010). Though no outright resistance is observed from teachers toward the MEB 2013-2025, dissent may take a more passive form. Qian and Daniels (2008) suggested that cynicism is a passive barrier toward change, and widespread cynicism can become a precursor to more aggressive expression of discontent such as resistance to change.
The global trend of educational reform overload and teachers' work intensification has affected their job satisfaction as changes alter context and environment in which they operate (Fullan, 2007; Verger & Altinyelken, 2013). As reform implementation depends on teachers' satisfaction level, attention needs to be given to this area with any introduction of educational change (Simona, Doina, Norel & Vlad, 2013). Although teachers' job satisfaction is a widely investigated construct, it deserves an update whenever new changes are introduced, lest these changes may result in "self-deceiving public exercise of education reform and a waste of energy and resources" (Nurul-Awanis et al., 2011, p. 110). Research has identified various variables associated with job satisfaction such as collegiality, support from school leadership, student behaviour and relations with stakeholders (Johnson, Kraft & Papay, 2012; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2011). However, no theory has been developed to provide guidance for selecting facets that are most important in different situations or for different people (Brief, 1998; Fritzche & Parrish, 2005). The literature suggests the work itself, advancement, pay, supervision, and colleagues to be typical and basic determinants influencing job satisfaction (Balzer et al., 2000; Judge & Klinger, 2007; Luthans, 2011). Based on the emerging prevalence of cynicism in organisations (Nafei, 2013) and its potential effect on job satisfaction (Abraham, 2000; Arabaci, 2010; Polat & Gungor, 2014), the current study advances this framework to explore the mediating role of cynicism toward change between these work factors (the work itself, advancement, pay, supervision and colleagues) and job satisfaction.
One of the most influential theories that propelled research on job satisfaction is the motivator-hygiene theory by Herzberg, Mausner and Snyderman (1959), and most research on teacher job satisfaction is rooted in it (Bogler, 2001). Herzberg et al. (1959) postulated that job satisfaction is affected by motivator factors which are intrinsic to the job and hygiene factors which are extrinsic to the job. These two factors do not exist on either end of the same scale, but are independent in bringing about job satisfaction with motivators causing satisfaction and hygiene factors causing dissatisfaction. In this study, the motivator factors include the work itself and advancement which are intrinsic to the job, while hygiene factors consist of pay, supervision and colleagues that are extrinsic to the job (Herzberg et al., 1959). Cynicism toward change is investigated as a hygiene factor, as it is related to the context of educational change which is extrinsic to teachers' job content (Dinham & Scott, 2004).
|RQ1:||What is the prevalence of cynicism toward educational change among teachers?|
|RQ2:||Is there a relationship between teachers' cynicism toward educational change and their job satisfaction?|
|RQ3:||Is there any mediation effect of cynicism toward educational change between teachers' work factors and their job satisfaction?|
|Demographic variable||Mean||Std dev|
|Teaching experience (in years)||14||1.77|
|Weekly workload (inclusive of academic|
and non-academic work in hours)
There were 1565 primary school teachers and 1131 secondary school teachers in the district investigated in the study. Sample sizes were derived using Yamane's (1967) formula with a degree of variability of 0.5 and a confidence level of 95%. The sample sizes required for primary and secondary school teachers were 319 and 296 respectively. Bartlett, Kotrlik and Higgins (2001) suggested oversampling to achieve the targeted sample size, especially for educational and social research studies. To obtain the combined sample of 615, a total of 1104 questionnaires were distributed in anticipation of the response rate of 54% (Chee, 2008) to 69% (Mohd Noor et al., 2013) observed from local studies. A total of 664 questionnaires were returned yielding a response rate of about 60%, and the final usable questionnaires numbered 628.
The JIG (Brodke et al., 2009) measured the dependant variable of the study with a global measurement of job satisfaction (18 items). The original response format was used with a three point Likert scale (yes = 3, not sure = 1, no = 0) to indicate the extent respondents agreed with the item in the scale. JDI had the same response format as JIG, and consisted of five sub-scales that measure the work itself (18 items), advancement (9 items), pay (9 items), supervision (18 items), and colleagues (18 items). A composite mean score of the work factors was obtained by combining the sub-scales in JDI. CAOC (Wanous et al., 2000) measured cynicism toward change with the items directed at MEB 2013-2025. The original response and scoring format were adopted using a five-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). The mean scores used to determine cynicism levels were as follow: low (1.00 – 2.50), moderate (2.51 – 3.49), and high (3.50 – 5.00). All scales demonstrated acceptable internal consistency. Table 2 showed the results for Cronbach's coefficient alpha and details of the scales.
|The work itself|
.86 to .93
|Cynicism toward change||CAOC||8||.92|
|RQ1:||What is the prevalence of cynicism toward educational change among teachers?|
The means, standard deviation, and inter-correlations for the variables are reported in Table 3. Teachers reported to be moderately cynical toward educational change with a mean of 3.23 as shown in the table, reflecting their moderate pessimism about the likely success of MEB 2013-2025.
|RQ2:||Is there a relationship between teachers' cynicism toward educational change and their job satisfaction?|
In answering RQ2, Pearson product moment correlation (as shown in Table 3) indicated a significant inverse correlation between cynicism toward change and job satisfaction (r = -.35, p < .001). This suggested that teachers who report higher cynicism toward MEB 2013-2025 do tend to report lower job satisfaction.
|1. Job satisfaction||2.47||.60||-||.61**||.41**||.34**||.50**||.43**||-.35**|
|2. The work itself||2.27||.68||-||.41**||.30**||.47**||.23**||-.31**|
|7. Cynicism toward change||3.23||.85||-|
|Note. ** p < .001, N = 628 for all analyses.|
|RQ3:||Is there any mediation effect of cynicism toward educational change between teachers' work factors and their job satisfaction?|
Mediation analysis was carried out with regression analyses as shown in Table 4. The first step established a significant relationship between satisfaction with work factors and job satisfaction (β = .65, p < .001) and in the second step, a significant relationship was also established between satisfaction with work factors and the mediator, cynicism toward change (β = -.17, p < .001). In the third step, cynicism toward change and job satisfaction was also found to be significantly related (β = -.14, p < .001), satisfying the condition necessary for mediation. In the final step, satisfaction with work factors was found to be significantly related to job satisfaction with the mediator being controlled for (β = .61, p < .001). Hence, this showed that cynicism toward change partially mediated the relationship between satisfaction for work factors and job satisfaction. The partial mediation was supported by bootstrap method with 2000 samples for testing indirect effects which indicated significant indirect effect of satisfaction for work factors on job satisfaction through cynicism toward change (β = .02 p < .001; CI: -.157, -.053).
|Step 1:||Effect of work factors on job satisfaction (c)||.76||.04||.65**||.43|
|Step 2:||Effect of work factors on cynicism toward change (a)||-.57||.13||-.17**||.03|
|Step 3:||Effect of cynicism toward change on job satisfaction (b)||-.22||.01||-.14**||.03|
|Step 4:||Effect of work factors on job satisfaction (while |
controlling cynicism toward change) (c' )
|** p < .001, N = 628|
Analysis showed that higher levels of satisfaction for work factors were linked to lower levels of cynicism toward change, which, in turn, were associated with lower levels of job satisfaction. Figure 1 shows the model of these relationships with a, b, c, and c' depicting the analysis steps taken in Table 4.
Figure 1: Role of cynicism toward change in the link of work
factors and job satisfaction (** p < .001)
Findings of the present study also supported Herzberg's (1959) theory that both motivator and hygiene factors are important in influencing job satisfaction. The motivator factors in the study (the work itself and advancement) and the hygiene factors (pay, supervision, colleagues and cynicism toward change) are significantly correlated to job satisfaction. Results also revealed the importance of reducing cynicism toward change to enhance teachers' job satisfaction. Cynicism toward educational change partially, but significantly mediated the relationship between satisfaction for work factors on job satisfaction. This finding shows the importance of satisfying the work factors investigated (the work itself, advancement, pay, supervision, colleagues) as teachers appear to be cynical and pessimistic toward educational change if they are not satisfied with them. It is apparent that any major reformation will entail policies which affect these factors which are typical in determining satisfaction. Policy implications of the findings suggest that improvement in these basic factors need to be considered before changes can take place. Factors such as advancement and pay are within the purview of the Ministry of Education and proponents of change may need to improve on them first to counter cynicism.
Cynicism is contributed by attribution of unlikely success of change to the incompetence of people responsible for change, usually the management (Kath, 2005). Notwithstanding that teachers imputed likely failure of change to the management in this study, they also reported to be satisfied with their supervisors at the same time (Yim, 2015). This somewhat contradictory situation indicates that school leaders are not the people whom the cynicism is targeted at, as they are not largely responsible for deciding educational changes. Decision making on education reform in Malaysia is a highly centralised affair (UNESCO, 2013), with relatively little participation from principals and teachers (Hallinger, 2010). The country has one of the most centralised education systems in the world (The World Bank, 2013), and teachers are aware their school leaders have no jurisdiction on educational policies as principals are only responsible for implementing the policies (Malakolunthu, 2010). The Ministry of Education acknowledges this shortcoming, as the MEB 2013-2025 promises to ease control and allow autonomy for schools in operational decision making, curriculum implementation and budget spending. These decision rights will be given to schools that achieve minimum performance criteria (MOE, 2013).
Findings also confirmed the inverse relationship between cynicism toward change and job satisfaction (Abraham, 2000; Arabaci, 2010; Johnson & O'Leary-Kelly, 2003). Job satisfaction may be alleviated when change cynicism is addressed. As cynicism toward changes come about through work experiences (Abraham, 2000; Wanous et al., 2000), employees who fail to see improvement in their jobs from proposed changes may direct their resentment toward the job itself and become dissatisfied. Hence, teachers' job satisfaction can improve if the changes proposed in the MEB 2013-2025 bring about improvements it purports to produce. Besides, cynicism toward change partially and significantly mediates the relationship between work factors and teachers' job satisfaction. To the best of our knowledge, this is new information which adds to the knowledge base of existing literature in the Malaysian context.
Practical implications of this study suggest that the management have to reveal or chart the change progress to teachers by constantly updating them on the change outcomes. According to attribution theory, there are two types of attributions responsible for causing cynicism: external attribution which is related to situational context and (or) internal attribution caused by within-person factors. Empirical evidence has found external attribution to have a larger influence on job satisfaction (Polat & Gungor, 2014), and situational factors that involve change can be given precedence when managing change. Instead of announcing comprehensive change results at the end, small successes may be revealed continually to imply positive directions of change. In addition, attribution theory also noted that self-serving bias, a tendency for people to blame external factors or others for negative outcomes can contribute to cynicism. This implies that if teachers are to be involved extensively in the change process, there are no ‘other people' to blame in the event of a negative outcome, because they have to take ownership of the outcome concerned. With their involvement, teachers will be able to see things from the management perspective, understand the rationale for decisions made, and actions taken (Wanous et al., 2000).
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|Authors: Joanne Sau-Ching Yim (corresponding author) is a lecturer at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, Malaysia. She holds an MPhil in Social Science and is currently undergoing her doctoral training. Her research areas include perceptions and attitudes of teachers and students in primary schools, secondary schools, and higher education institutions.|
Priscilla Moses is an Assistant Professor at University Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia. She holds a PhD in Educational Technology. Her research interests are ICT in teaching and learning, technology acceptance, ICT integration in education, and e-learning.
Please cite as: Yim, J. S. C. & Moses, P. (2016). Work factors and teacher satisfaction: The mediating effect of cynicism toward educational change. Issues in Educational Research, 26(4), 694-709. http://www.iier.org.au/iier26/yim.html