Here are my research questions (roughly):
- How does explanatory style relate to issues of teacher attrition, job satisfaction, control, teacher efficacy, and student achievement?
- Does explanatory style predict job satisfaction, professional identity as a teacher, and longevity in the field?
- Does explanatory style subsume teacher efficacy as a predictor of longevity in the field?
In teaching, failure happens often. Lessons fail. Teacher-parent conferences fail. Students fail. The best laid plans of mice and men - and teachers - often go awry. If you teach in a difficult school district where administrators are not supportive, students are not motivated, and your colleagues are not interested in rocking the boat, how are you going to learn to be efficacious in your job? In order to find the silver lining, you need to possess some semblence of optimistic explanatory style to view failure as a challenge rather than an obstacle. The pessimists wilt. The optimists rise.
This observation is backed up by research. In 1987, Peter Schulman and Martin Seligman studied life insurance salesmen to see if optimistic salesman were better at their jobs than pessimistic ones. Seligman had talked with the chairman of Met Life on a plane, and they talked about how insurance sales is a tough business. For every call that is successful, there are 10 that are not. Only those who don't take the "no's" personally and think that the next call might be a "yes" are likely to continue being in the business. Schulman and Seligman found this observation to be true in their research. Optimistic life insurance salesmen stayed in the business longer than their pessimistic counterparts.
Do optimistic teachers stay in the field longer than their pessimistic counterparts? We'll see this fall when I finish my dissertation. I feel optimistic (pun intended) about what I will find.