A phenomenological study of the career satisfaction of four successful, female, elementary teachers

Date of Completion

January 1991


Education, Administration|Education, Adult and Continuing|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




This study identified variables that four successful, satisfied, female, elementary teachers associated with their own career satisfaction. Current literature on teacher career satisfaction tends to focus on the negative aspects of teaching and how the profession might be changed to increase teachers' career satisfaction. This study responds to the challenge outlined by prominent leaders in the field to disclose the joys, opportunities, and rewards of teaching. Additional knowledge about the positive aspects of teaching is needed to improve the image of teaching and to assist teachers in their development of career satisfaction.^ This study views career satisfaction as an experience of work, embedded in personal and sociological contexts. The study used in-depth interviews and phenomenologic data analysis as primary methods to examine and describe the work-experience of the study's sample. Additional data, collected through structured activity journals and quantitative measures of teacher satisfaction and social integration supplemented phenomenologic analysis.^ The study's respondents scored highly in the Teacher Satisfaction Survey and were selected from an initial sample pool of female elementary teachers recognized for successful teaching through a state program. Respondents were also in mid-career, and mid-life.^ The study offers detailed descriptions of these teachers' experiences of career satisfaction. Eighteen common patterns across respondents suggest significant similarities among them. Models that explain the career satisfaction of each respondent and a model of common attributes of their satisfaction are offered. Idiosyncratic findings challenge some assumptions in the current literature regarding correlates of teacher career satisfaction.^ Teacher career satisfaction emerges in this study as a subjective, personal experience of work. Even in their commonalities, these respondents differ with respect to the degree to which factors impact their career satisfaction. The respondents also differ with respect to the ways these common factors interact to create their individual patterns of career satisfaction. This study reveals that teacher career satisfaction, for this group of teachers, related more closely to their perceptions of personal efficacy than on conditions of their work environment.^ Finally, seven implications are outlined, and eight recommendations for additional studies to expand knowledge in this area are offered. ^