Jennifer Shapka


Research Classification

Affective and Emotional Development
Cognitive Development
New Technology and Social Impacts

Research Interests

Technology, Media, Social Media, Adolescents, Cyberbullying, Self-regulation, Online Privacy

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Research Methodology

School-based data collection
Experience Sampling Method


Master's students
I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.

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Postdoctoral Fellows

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Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Adolescence 2.0 : an examination of basic need satisfaction and well-being in a socio-technological world using latent profile transition analysis (2023)

No abstract available.

Young adult cyber violence: an investigation of the associations with vulnerable experiences, attachment patterns, problematic internet use, limerence, and internalizing symptoms (2023)

No abstract available.

Participatory design in the special education classroom: designing technology with educators for students with autism spectrum disorder (2022)

No abstract available.

A mixed-method study exploring the relationship among resiliency, cyberbullying, and cyber-victimization with youth mental health and academic achievement (2021)

No abstract available.

Cyberbullying in Tanzania:adolescents' experiences and the psychosocial factors influencing coping strategies (2017)

No abstract available.

An Ecology of Technology: Infants, Toddlers, and Mobile Screen Devices (2016)

Within a bio-ecological systems framework, this study explored the presence and use of mobile screen devices (MSDs) within family homes of infants born into a Digital Age. A mixed methods approach was used to gather and analyze data from an online questionnaire completed by 292 Canadian parents with a child birth to three years old, as well as from home-based observations and interviews with 28 families. There were three research questions: (1) How do the presence and use of MSDs relate to factors of the family environment? (2) Do parent knowledge and beliefs predict the reasons that parents provide MSDs to their children? and (3) Do parent knowledge and beliefs predict how much time a child spends using MSDs? Results for question 1 found MSDs to shape the physical, social, and psychological family context. On average, families owned 6 MSDs, the parent used MSDs for 7 hours per day, and 60% of children directly used an MSD. Themes of concerns about technology included impacts on the child, the parent and family, and society. Parents’ beliefs about MSDs for children were more negative than positive, and child MSD products were negatively evaluated. On measures of developmental knowledge and parenting sense of competence, scores were average and above average, respectively. Results for question 2 found that child age, maternal education, the number of MSDs, the interaction of positive MSD beliefs with the number of MSDs and the interaction of maternal education with parenting sense of competence predicted parents’ provision of their MSD to their child. Results for question 3 found that child age, number of family MSDs, and positive beliefs in MSDs for children were predictors for child use of MSDs, while child age, maternal education, parent time using MSDs, and knowledge of development predicted the amount of time children used MSDs. The complex interplay between sociodemographics, parent provision of MSDs to infants and toddlers, and parent knowledge and beliefs that form a climate of new demands for parents in their child-raising roles is discussed in terms of implications for developmental researchers and practitioners working with infants, toddlers, and/or their caregivers.

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Explaining the Academic Achievement and Well-Being of Adolescent Immigrants and Refugees in British Columbia (2016)

The aim of this dissertation was to gain a better understanding of the variations in academic achievement and well-being of foreign-born adolescents in British Columbia (BC) by way of two studies. Leveraging administrative data from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Study 1 looked retrospectively at a population-based cohort of foreign-born adolescents in BC over the course of their high school years (Grades 10-12), in comparison to a random sample of their Canadian-born peers. The objectives of Study 1 were to (a) characterize their academic achievement and MSP-reimbursed mental health service utilization trajectories during high school, (b) identify assets and risks predicting their academic achievement and MSP-reimbursed mental health service utilization trajectories, and (c) identify the relationship between academic achievement and MSP-reimbursed mental health service utilization. Using a researcher-collected sample of foreign-born adolescents in BC, Study 2 investigated assets and risks in the academic achievement and psychological well-being of adolescents who are new to BC, with a focus on factors of adaptation associated with three overarching groups of predictors, (a) academic attitudes, (b) cultural orientation, and (c) social support. Utilizing Group-based Trajectory Modeling, Study 1 identified that foreign-born adolescents in BC followed a range of academic and MSP-reimbursed mental health service utilization paths. By way of multinomial logistic regression, Study 1 subsequently identified a number of assets and risks that helped to explain the probability of membership in each trajectory. Study 2 utilized path analysis and found that a number of factors associated with academic attitudes, cultural orientation, and social support were predictive of psychological well-being and academic achievement for foreign-born adolescents in BC. As expected, a number of assets and risks as well as cumulative assets and risks associated with migration and adaptation experiences were found to be powerful predictors of the variation in academic achievement and well-being for foreign-born adolescents in BC. The results support moving away from a one-size-fits-all understanding of the impact of migration on adolescent development. The utility of contextualizing migration experiences to gain a better understand of who is most likely to struggle or succeed is discussed.

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Online therapy : client and counsellor experiences (2014)

Online therapies have begun to gain recognition as therapy that is conducted via the internet, using text or audio/visual tools to connect the client and therapist (Hanley, 2012; Murphy & Mitchell, 1998). Unfortunately, research has not kept up with the rate of uptake in online therapy services. The present study investigated the experiences of therapists and clients who had engaged in online therapy during the past 12 months. Two studies were conducted, using narrative and thematic analysis to extrapolate the main themes across participants’ narratives. The first involved six female clients and focused on the ways in which individuals construct their online therapy experience. Themes emerging from Study 1 include: accessibility, convenience, affordability, time to think, reflect and respond, autonomy and control, and the qualities of the counsellors. Study two examined the ways in which four online therapists storied their experiences of engaging in online therapy. Themes from Study 2 that described practitioners’ online therapy experiences included: convenience, therapeutic alliance, online counselling skills, assessing client suitability, reaching diverse clients, assessing client satisfaction, legal and ethical concerns: client identity, privacy and confidentiality, and, personal and professional goals. Findings also suggested that the different mediums of communication (e-mail, instant message, and videoconference) offered unique benefits and challenges. Recommendations for clinical practice, limitations and future directions are discussed.

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Understanding Teacher Well-Being and Motivation: Measurement, Theory, and Change Over Time (2014)

Teacher well-being and motivation play important roles in teacher and student experiences at school. When teachers are faring well and feeling motivated to teach, they are more effective in their teaching, leave the profession less often, and promote motivation and achievement among their students. In this dissertation, three studies that investigated teacher well-being and motivation were conducted with the aim of advancing our understanding of the two constructs, as well as how they can be promoted among teachers. Study 1 involved conceptualising, developing, and testing the Teacher Well-Being Scale, which measures three factors of teacher well-being: workload well-being, organisational well-being, and student interaction well-being. Among a sample of 603 practicing teachers, results revealed that the new measure functioned similarly across the different demographic groups in the sample and that the three factors of well-being related as expected with other constructs (stress, job satisfaction, and flourishing). Study 2 involved elaborating and testing an explanatory model of teacher well-being, motivation, job satisfaction, and affective organisational commitment that was based in self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985, 2002). Using the same sample as Study 1, structural equation modelling provided support for the model’s main relationships. In addition, there were some unexpected findings that provide directions for future research (e.g., a double-sided view of autonomy revealing that it can be associated with positive and negative types of motivation). Study 3 involved examining growth curve models of change in teacher well-being and self-efficacy for teaching over two to three months. Among a sample of 71 practicing teachers, the findings showed that teacher well-being was stable over time, whereas self-efficacy for classroom management increased (the other two types of self-efficacy that were examined, self-efficacy for student engagement and instructional strategies, did not change over time). Findings also revealed the significance of the basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness) in predicting teacher well-being and self-efficacy. Taken together, the three studies help to improve our understanding of the highly important variables of teacher well-being and motivation. Implications of the findings for both research and practice are discussed.

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Social responsibility on the Internet : a socio-ecological approach to online aggression (2009)

This series of three studies examined online aggression. More specifically, using a socio-ecological lens, this work assessed the interplay among individual, peer, parental, and school factors on Internet aggression. Study I used existing data to compare traditional bullying with online bullying. This study revealed that adolescents view the construct of online bullying and victimization differently from its traditional counterpart. In addition, this work highlighted some of the similarities and differences among these forms of aggression. Study II used a mixed-method approach to examine some of the individual predictors of online aggression. Through paper and pencil questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, this work further elucidated the differences between online aggression and traditional bullying. Specifically, adolescents defined online aggression in terms of the method used for aggressing online rather than the role they played in aggressive situations. In addition, significant gender and age differences were found. Interview data also indicated that online aggression was primarily reactive in nature, as opposed to proactive, and that adolescents use both confrontational and non-confrontational aggression online. In keeping with the socio-ecological approach, Study III examined some of the parental and school factors that influence online aggression. Results from this work showed that it was not parental monitoring or limit-setting around Internet use that reduced the likelihood that participants engaged in online aggression, rather it was the amount of child self-disclosure. Directions for future research and intervention/prevention are discussed.

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The reciprocal nature of the relationship between parenting and adolescent problem behaviors (2009)

This research is comprised of three separate studies which utilized adolescent self-report data from the Canadian National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY). The first study evaluated the factor structure and the equality of measurement properties of three parenting behavior scales (i.e., Parental Nurturance, Parental Rejection, and Parental Monitoring) over a four-year period and found that the factor structure of the NLSCY parenting behavior scales did not show a good fit across three age groups. Revised models for Parental Nurturance and Monitoring were tested and confirmed, however, these models exhibited only configural invariance over time. The second study examined the factor structure and the equality of measurement properties of three problem behavior scales (i.e., Indirect Aggression, Direct Aggression, and Property Offence) across gender and three adolescent age groups (10-11, 12-13, and 14-15 years). This study found support for the structure of the three problem behavior scales, but failed to provide evidence for measurement invariance across groups. All three scales achieved configural invariance across gender and age groups. In addition, the Indirect Aggression scale achieved loading invariance across gender and for the 12 versus 14 year-olds; whereas the Direct Aggression scale exhibited loading invariance for only the 10 versus 12 year-olds. The third study investigated the reciprocal relationship between parental nurturance and adolescent aggression (both indirect and direct aggression) over a four-year period and found that, for girls, parental nurturance at age 10 was associated with both indirect and direct aggression at age 12. For boys, parental nurturance at age 12 was associated with both aggressive behaviors at age 14. The implications of these results for the measurement of parenting and problem behaviors and for the examination of the reciprocal influences in transactional models are discussed, with suggestions for future research.

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Validation of multilevel constructs : methods and empirical findings for the Early Development Instrument (2009)

A growing number of assessment, testing and evaluation programs gather individual measures but, by design, do not make inferences or decisions about individuals but rather for an aggregate such as a school, school district, neighbourhood, or province. In light of this, a multilevel construct can be defined as a phenomenon that is potentially meaningful both at the level of individuals and at one or more levels of aggregation. The purposes of this dissertation are to highlight the foundations of multilevel construct validation, describe two methodological approaches and associated analytic techniques, and then apply these approaches and techniques to the multilevel construct validation of a widely used school readiness measure called the Early Development Instrument (EDI). Validation evidence is presented regarding the multilevel covariance structure of the EDI, the appropriateness of aggregation to classroom and neighbourhood levels, and the effects of teacher and classroom characteristics on these structural patterns. To appropriately assess the multilevel factor structure of the categorical EDI items, a new fit index was created. A good-fitting unidimensional model was found for each scale at the level of individual students, with no notable improvements after taking clustering into account. However, at the class and neighbourhood levels of aggregation, the physical and emotional EDI scales did not show essential unidimensionality. Teacher and/or classroom influences accounted for between 19% and 25% of the total variance. EDI emotional scores were higher for teachers with graduate training, while communications scores were higher for younger teachers. Teachers tended to rate students more absolutely, rather than relative to other children in the class, when class size was small. These results are discussed in the context of the theoretical framework of the EDI, with suggestions for future validation work.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Exploring the influence of offline and online social support on lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths' subjective well-being (2020)

The growing popularity of the Internet has significantly impacted how youth socialize. For example, social networking websites have become established as “social tools” that facilitate peer relations. Previous research has examined the extent to which those who have a relatively large number of friends in-person (i.e., high offline support) versus those who have fewer friends (i.e., low offline support) are differentially impacted by social networking opportunities. According to recent findings, those with higher offline support use online communicative tools to enhance their existing relationships (i.e., the Rich Get Richer hypothesis). However, research has not examined the possibility that youth who are marginalized, such as those who identify as lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB), use the Internet to enhance their social connectedness, thus compensating for lower levels of offline support (i.e., Social Compensation Theory). The current study examined whether online support moderated the relationship between offline support and well-being differentially for heterosexual and LGB-identifying youth. Findings indicated that overall, offline support was associated with greater ratings of well-being while online support was associated with lower ratings of well-being. Furthermore, it was found that offline support was most strongly associated with well-being for LGB-identifying youth who were highly active online. The results of this study suggest that online support does not compensate for offline support for either heterosexual or LGB-identifying youth. These findings point to the urgency of finding alternative ways to promote in-person support networks for LGB-identifying youth.

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Exploring the relationship between parenting styles, attitudes towards sexuality, and adolescent pornography consumption (2020)

The objective of the current study was to explore parents’ perceptions about the influence of pornography consumption on adolescent sexual development. Additional factors that may impact parents’ perceptions about adolescent pornography consumption were also examined, including parenting style, age, gender, ethnicity, education level, religious beliefs, and beliefs about sex and sexuality. Data was collected from 500 participants who had adolescents between the ages of 13-18 years, through an online survey. Findings indicated that parents who practice more authoritative child rearing styles perceive pornography to be more harmful for their adolescent(s). As well, the strength of the relationship between authoritative parenting, and the belief’s that pornography is harmful for adolescents changed as a function of permissiveness. Conversely, parents who exercise more authoritarian parenting styles believe pornography to be less harmful for adolescents. In addition, as permissive attitudes increased for our authoritarian parents, beliefs that pornography is harmful for adolescents decreased. Our results imply that permissive sexual attitudes, and various predictors such as age, gender, ethnicity are important moderators of the association between parenting styles and perceptions about adolescent pornography consumption.

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Attachment to mobile phones: an examination of university students' mobile phone use within an attachment theory framework (2019)

With the increasingly ubiquitous use of mobile phones in modern culture, particularly among university students, recent research has focused on the behaviours, characteristics, and effects of mobile phone use, with the evaluation of addictive features largely dominating work in this area. Given the lack of consensus regarding the etiology and standard measure of this addiction model, the objective of this study was to explore the possibility of an alternative framework for understanding university students’ relationships with their mobile phones (i.e., that of attachment theory rather than addiction). To this end, data was collected from 403 undergraduate participants (between the ages of 18-25, who owned a smartphone with at least one active social media account) recruited from two large Canadian universities. Participants responded to an online questionnaire including measures of sociodemographic information (e.g., gender, ethnicity, mobile phone use), adult attachment dimensions, mobile phone attachment, problematic mobile phone use, and their device’s perceived relationship-facilitating function. Findings indicated that, overall, participants were forming some degree of attachment to their mobile phones, and that this was particularly true for those higher in attachment anxiety. Further, attachment anxiety was found to be related to characteristics of problematic mobile phone use, and this relationship was mediated by features of mobile phone attachment. Thus, results from this study supported the use of an attachment theory framework for understanding what has typically been conceptualized as mobile phone addiction (i.e., there was an indirect relationship between attachment anxiety and problematic mobile phone use through participants’ attachments to their mobile phones). As the first study to examine the relationship between mobile phone attachment and problematic mobile phone use, findings from this work have important implications for understanding university students’ relationships with their mobile phones, while offering insight into some of the alarming behaviours that have emerged alongside increasing mobile phone use.

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Intentional and unintentional injuries: an analysis of child and youth injuries as body, mind, and context for the determination of intent (2019)

This study involved the analysis of child and youth injury-event descriptions that were provided by adult household members to the USA’s National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) during 2006-2010. The goal was to see if and how injury-events were described differently by injury-event type (intentional vs. unintentional) and point-of-view (parent vs. non-parent) based on linguistic features, and to note whether such features were an expression of experiential and interpersonal processes from the physical, psychological, or contextual domains. The linguistic analyses also included a query of proxy estimates of deceit to allow for the tracing of potential covert mentions of awareness intent. Findings from this study indicated that the language-use patterns for intentional injury-event descriptions included greater linguistic detail that set them apart from other types of injury-event descriptions, including unintentional, and were more similar to non-parent provided injury-event descriptions. The same was the case for the trialed proxy estimates of deceit. The utility of identifying language-use patterns provides added means to inform the eventual development of a supplementary intentional injury query rubric for use by helping professionals –alongside their existing practice– in disciplines that have an intentional injury intervention and prevention mandate. It is anticipated that the proposed linguistic method of inquiry will contribute to filling the knowledge gap noted in the intentional maltreatment injury (IMI) literature concerning the need to make more accurate the complex process of determination of intent when children and youths present with an intentional injury that is not visibly obvious or severe, and the injury-event is described as if it was unintentional.

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The interplay of social media use, social support, and self-regulation in adjusting to university (2019)

The current research examined the characteristics of post-secondary students who use social media, their motivation for using social media and its relationship to university adjustment, as well as the moderating role played by self-regulation, socio-demographic variables, and social support. A total of 403 undergraduate students from two Canadian universities participated in this research, answering questions pertaining to motivations for social media use, social and academic adjustment to university, self-regulation, social support, and socio-demographics. Results show that four motivations for social media use emerged: self-promotion, entertainment, socialization, and university-related. Motivations for social media use were similar across platforms, regardless of socio-demographics, social support, and self-regulation, highlighting the universality of social media. Further findings indicate that the relationship between self-promotion motivations for social media use and social adjustment was moderated by social support, self-regulation, academic performance, and age; whereas there was not relationship between self-promotion and academic adjustment to university. Socialization motivations for social media use was positively linked to social adjustment to university. Self-regulation moderated the relationship between academic adjustment and both socialization and university related motivations for social media use. Lastly, there were no significant relationships or interactions between entertainment motivations for social media sue and either social or academic adjustment to university. As we move into an increasingly technological world, it is important to understand the nuances of how and why emerging adults are using social media to ensure adaptive patterns of internet use, including successful adjustment to university. This work further points to the need to better understand motivations for social media use, in particular, self-promotion motivations, and their impact on the university experience.

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Adolescent Online Risk-Taking: An Experimental Analysis of Posting Behaviour (2015)

The purpose of this experimental study was to investigate online risk-taking behaviour among adolescents. A total of 189 adolescents were given an online self-report questionnaire containing 20 examples of possible online posts. Half of the participants were presented with an application prior to the questionnaire that provided relevant, in-the-moment information about how their posts might be used and seen by others, and the other half were given an irrelevant Internet facts application. The likelihood of posting online content was assessed based on the type of post (emotionally evocative versus personal information), the nature of the post (public versus private), the gender of the participant (boy, girl), the type of app received (PostFire versus GhostFire), as well as the interaction of these variables. Results showed that while boys and girls were more likely to report that they would post or send content privately than publicly, girls were even more likely than males to report that they would send all types of information privately. Findings indicate that adolescents, particularly girls, are unlikely to discriminate between types of content online when privately messaging with others.

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Contextual Identities: Narratives of Self-Identified Shy Adolescents' Close Friendship Experiences in Online and Offline Settings (2015)

As the Internet has evolved over the past decade, adolescents now tend to communicate with existing offline friends instead of strangers. However, a particular profile of shy and introverted users seems to prefer communicating with online-exclusive friends. This qualitative study aimed to explore how self-identified shy adolescents constructed their identities through their narratives of close friendships in online and offline settings. With a focus on “contextual identities”, I examined how the context may influence identity construction and social processes, as well as how continuity and change across the online-offline divide surfaced in the narratives.Six female adolescents aged 14 to 18 years were recruited, where online interviews were carried out using an adaptation of Arvay’s (2003) reflexive collaborative narrative method. The narratives were analyzed with a holistic-content approach by Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, and Zilber (1998) to preserve the unique voice of each participant. This was followed by a cross-case analysis (Stake, 2006) that yielded the following six findings: (1) Adolescents constructed a reticent identity through enacting a generalized worldview of an untrustworthy social environment, due to experiences of broken trust or perceived rejection. (2) Adolescents presented a self-concept of diffidence and insecurity through recounting childhood experiences that undermined their development of competence and autonomy. (3) Adolescents constructed a shy self-concept through identifying personal deficits in relation to societal referential standards, and concurrently constructed role identities that put themselves in positions of strength. (4) Trust, as a main factor in overcoming the fear of self-disclosure, was more easily established in online autonomous dyadic interactions than in offline settings where group structures and norms limited the freedom to be themselves. (5) Online affordances built social competence by providing a scaffold for overcoming the fear of self-disclosure and replicating offline social practices which accelerated intimacy development. (6) Shy identities seemed contextualized to the general offline interactional experience, but these could change over time with new positive experiences in offline settings via increased self-confidence or self-acceptance. These findings, together with educational implications and future research, are discussed.

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Development and Validity Assessment of a Measure of Social Information Processing Within an Online Context among Adolescents (2015)

The Online Social Information Processing scale (OSIP) is a measure with 116 items that was developed based on the Social Information Processing model (SIP). The OSIP measures six social information processing skills, with a focus on how these skills are used in the face of online aggression. This goal of this study was to examine the validity of the OSIP for measuring how adolescents processed social information in online settings. After developing the items, to collect validity evidence, experts’ evaluation, as well as adolescents’ assessment through a think aloud protocol methods, was used. Evidence for validity from the item development emerged through content definition, test specification, and item editing. Evidence from expert evaluation is related to the construct of the test items in terms of alignment with the content domain and language appropriateness. Finally, evidence from student assessment came from using a think aloud protocol, which helped evaluate the language of the test items, as well as helped me understand how engaging adolescents found the measure.

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Aboriginal Health Education Programs: Examining Sustainability (2011)

No abstract available.

Playing with technology: mother-toddler, interaction and toys with batteries (2010)

To investigate play with electronic toys (battery-operated or digital), 25 mother-toddler (16-24 months old) dyads were videotaped in their homes playing with sets of age-appropriate electronic and non-electronic toys for approximately 10 minutes each. Parent-child interactions were coded from recorded segments of both of the play conditions using the PICCOLO checklist. Mean scores for each play session were compared and the result showed significantly lower means in the electronic toys condition for three of the four sub-scales of the PICCOLO. Family demographic and play pattern data were collected via self-report questionnaire. Results indicated that the play experiences of toddlers were compromised by the lower quality of parent-child interaction during joint play with electronic toys. The potential impact on early child development and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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Social and Emotional Learning and School Climate: Predictors of Teacher Stress, Job Satisfaction and Sense of Efficacy (2010)

The aim of this study was to investigate whether social and emotional learning and school climate have an impact on teacher stress, job satisfaction, and sense of efficacy. The sample included 664 public schoolteachers from suburban, rural, and remote areas of British Columbia and Ontario in Canada. Participants completed an online questionnaire about teacher outcomes, school climate, and social and emotional learning. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses showed that positive school climates significantly predicted lower teacher stress, increased teacher job satisfaction, and increased teacher sense of efficacy. Of the school climate variables, student relations played the most significant role in predicting better teacher outcomes. Other significant variables were collaboration among staff, school resources, and input in decision making. For social and emotional learning, the findings demonstrated that stronger beliefs and integration of social and emotional learning predicted greater job satisfaction and increased teacher sense of efficacy; however, certain social and emotional learning variables also predicted increased stress. Of the social and emotional learning variables, comfort with and regular implementation of social and emotional learning in the classroom, the support and promotion of social and emotional learning , and the integration of social and emotional learning across the school predicted better outcomes for teachers, whereas commitment to improving social and emotional learning provided mixed results. Implications for practice and research are discussed.

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