'I truly believe this is the best job in the world, but I also think it's an impossible job’
: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis exploring Teacher Resilience in Primary Schools.

  • Sarah Duffield

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Educational Psychology (DEdPsy)


Resilience is a widely researched yet contentiously defined area of psychology. Despite extensive research exploring resilience in children, it is less widely explored in adults at different points of their lives. A multi-dimensional and interactional concept, resilience has been defined as a typical function of human behaviour, emphasising that resilience is a process and less than extraordinary.

Teacher Resilience (TR) is an emerging field of research. Current teaching figures indicate challenges to recruiting and retaining teachers in the UK. Evidence shows that there is a substantial loss in the first five years of teaching, with 33% of teachers leaving the profession entirely before five years in the role. Reasons as to why teachers leave are well documented in the research, yet the reasons as to why teachers might stay are less so. Publications exploring TR suggest that teachers need resilience to manage the day-to-day challenges and stresses of the profession.

This study adopted a phenomenological approach using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Seven semi-structured interviews were completed with primary school teachers with five or more years’ experience. Information related to individual experiences in the profession, perceptions of resilience and factors that had eroded or developed resilience were sought. Findings suggest that teachers conceptualise resilience as multi-dimensional and transitory. Factors related to resilience could be categorised into personal, relational and organisational levels and these could be more broadly related to three areas of knowledge: Belonging, Help-Seeking and Learning. Belonging was found to be critical to other areas, appearing to have a mediating role in the development of resilience.

This study outlines that TR is an important area of research for educational professionals, including Educational Psychologists (EPs). A previous model of TR is developed and implications for schools and EPs are discussed.
Date of Award28 Nov 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorRob Green (Supervisor) & Dan P O'Hare (Supervisor)

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