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Preschool staff’s working conditions and professional well-being in contexts with high proportions of early second language learners
Mälardalen University, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Health and Welfare.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3037-7568
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis explored the working conditions and professional well-being of preschool staff in Sweden, particularly in settings with a high proportion of early second language learners (L2 learners). The thesis is timely and significant, considering the growing diversity in Swedish preschools and the increasing presence of L2 learners. The research problem is rooted in the unique societal mission of preschool staff, who are pivotal in introducing young children to the Swedish education system and fostering their development and care. They also have a compensatory mission to support children who have less favourable conditions than other children. However, there are indications that the preschool staff are working in a vulnerable context. Preschool staff are among the occupational groups in Sweden exhibiting among the highest frequency of sick leave and are characterized by a significant staff turnover. The preschool staff has also experienced changes within their organisation.  Concurrently, it remains unknown how working in groups with a high proportion of L2 learners (L2 groups) affects the preschool staff. The thesis aimed to understand the specific working conditions in L2 groups and how these conditions impact the professional well-being of preschool staff, defined as the perception of doing a professional and correct job, which included adhering to the curriculum and maintaining positive relationships with children, organisational commitment, and job satisfaction.

The theoretical framework that guided this research was the bioecological systems theory and the Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) model. This framework helped to understand the overall social interactions and working context of the preschool staff, as well as to categorise and define psychosocial working conditions. It emphasises the interplay between job demands, job resources, and professional well-being. The thesis adopted an exploratory sequential design, initially employing mainly qualitative inductive interviews (Study I and II) to map the uncharted territory of the preschool working context, its social interactions, and working conditions in L2 groups. This was followed by a deductive, analytical phase using questionnaires in cross-sectional studies (Study III and IV).

Study I adopted an exploratory sequential mixed-methods design. It explored the preschool staff’s support of children’s engagement in L2 groups, combining qualitative content analysis and independent T-tests. In individual interactions with children, the preschool staff aimed to establish closeness and acknowledge each child's presence. In these respects, no notable differences were observed among preschool staff across different groups. However, disparities emerged in group interactions with children. Preschool staff working in L2 groups encountered challenges in managing routines, imparting values, and facilitating peer learning among children.

Study II focused on preschool staff's experiences of their working conditions in L2 groups, utilising qualitative content analysis based on interviews. Preschool staff working in L2 groups encountered a context that was more complex and challenging compared to their counterparts in L1-groups. This increased complexity primarily stemmed from a lack of adequate organisational resources, difficulties in establishing professional relationships, and constrained opportunities to effectively utilize their educational background and work-life experience. These layers of complexity were experienced to challenge their professional well-being.

Study III utilised a cross-sectional design. It used Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) to examine preschool staff responsiveness and child engagement in relation to child behaviour difficulties and staffing. Behavioural difficulties and lower levels of engagement, characteristics associated with L2 children, were found to be negatively associated with the responsiveness of the preschool staff. Conversely, the responsiveness of the preschool staff exhibited a positive association with child engagement.

Study IV was a cross-sectional questionnaire study. It employed random forests, and quasi-Poisson regression analysis to identify which working conditions predicted preschool staff’s professional well-being in L2 groups. The study extended the analysis from the qualitative phase to a quantitatively analysed context. It was predominantly the job resources, particularly the support from the preschool staff’s principal and colleagues, that most confidently predicted professional well-being. In contrast, job demands such as role conflicts and quantitative demands were less significant predictors. Additionally, individual factors, including formal education and work-life experience, did not significantly predict professional well-being. Likewise, structural factors such as the proportion of L2 learners also did not predict professional well-being.

The findings of these studies highlight the complexity of working conditions in L2 groups and their relationship to professional well-being. They suggest that professional well-being is influenced by a balance of job demands and resources, the quality of relationships with children and their caregivers, and the ability to navigate organisational changes and diversity management effectively. The thesis underscores the need for policy and practice changes to support preschool staff in L2 groups, including enhanced formal education in diversity management, and increased organisational support to reduce job demands and bolster job resources. The proportion of L2 learners itself was not a significant predictor of professional well-being in any study, however. In conclusion, this thesis contributes to a deeper understanding of the unique challenges faced by preschool staff in L2 groups and offers insights for enhancing their professional well-being, which is crucial for the quality of early childhood education and care in multicultural settings.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Västerås: Mälardalens universitet, 2024.
Series
Mälardalen University Press Dissertations, ISSN 1651-4238 ; 401
National Category
Work Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-65672ISBN: 978-91-7485-631-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-65672DiVA, id: diva2:1830800
Public defence
2024-03-22, Gamma och digitalt via Zoom, Mälardalens universitet, Västerås, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and WelfareMälardalen UniversityAvailable from: 2024-01-25 Created: 2024-01-23 Last updated: 2024-02-19Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Challenges to Relational Commitments of Preschool Staff in Supporting Children in Contexts with a High Proportion of Early Second Language Learners in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Challenges to Relational Commitments of Preschool Staff in Supporting Children in Contexts with a High Proportion of Early Second Language Learners in Sweden
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2023 (English)In: Early Education and Development, ISSN 1040-9289, E-ISSN 1556-6935, p. 1-19Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

PurposeUsing COR theory to study developments of health and other key resources in self-employed workers in Sweden over 6 years, this study: (1) explored whether the heterogenous group of self-employed workers contained subgroups with different health trajectories, (2) investigated whether these were more typical for certain individuals (with respect to age, gender, sector, education, employment status), and (3) compared the different health trajectories regarding resource development in mental well-being, business resources, employment status, work ability.

MethodThe study used data from the Swedish longitudinal occupational survey of health (SLOSH) and included participants working as self-employed or combiner (N = 2642).

ResultFive trajectories were identified with latent class growth curve model analysis (LCGM). Two health trajectories with (1) very good, respective (2) good stable health (together comprising 78.5% of the participants), (3) one with moderate stable health (14.8%), (4) one with a U-shaped form (1.9%), and (5) one with low, slightly increasing health (4.7%). The first two trajectories flourish: they maintained or increased in all key resources and were more likely to remain self-employed. Trajectories three and five consist of those who fight to maintain or increase their resources. Workers in the U-shaped health trajectory show signs of fight and flight after loss in health and other key resources.

ConclusionsStudying subgroups with different resource developments over time was suitable to understand heterogeneity in self-employed workers. It also helped to identify vulnerable groups that may benefit from interventions to preserve their resources.

National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Working Life Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-65668 (URN)10.1080/10409289.2023.2188866 (DOI)000950141300001 ()2-s2.0-85150756924 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2016-2020
Available from: 2024-01-23 Created: 2024-01-23 Last updated: 2024-01-25Bibliographically approved
2. Swedish preschool staff’s experiences of their working conditions in child groups with high proportions of early second language learners
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Swedish preschool staff’s experiences of their working conditions in child groups with high proportions of early second language learners
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Preschool staff in general face challenging work conditions, contributing to high turnover and sick leave. This issue may be more complex for staff working in groups with high proportions of early second language learners (L2-groups), compared to those working in groups with a majority of first language learners (L1-groups). Yet, studies focusing on this issue are scarce. This study aimed to explore and describe the organizational and psychosocial work conditions experienced by staff in L2-groups. Through interviews with individual staff and workgroups, followed by content analysis, three themes emerged: perceiving organizational conditions, establishing professional relationships, and using competence. Staff in L2-groups experienced a context that was more complicated and demanding compared to those in L1-groups. This was primarily due to insufficient organizational resources, challenges in establishing professional relationships, and limited ability to use their education and experience effectively. These challenges compromised their professional well-being, and by extension, their psychological and physiological well-being. Addressing these issues necessitates additional resources and a nuanced understanding by policymakers of the unique challenges faced by staff in L2-groups. 

Keywords
Multicultural context, Preschool, Professional well-being, Work environment
National Category
Applied Psychology
Research subject
Working Life Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-65666 (URN)
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare
Available from: 2024-01-23 Created: 2024-01-23 Last updated: 2024-02-06Bibliographically approved
3. Early Second Language Learners, Staff Responsiveness and Child Engagement in the Swedish Preschool Context in Relation to Child Behaviour Characteristics and Staffing
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Early Second Language Learners, Staff Responsiveness and Child Engagement in the Swedish Preschool Context in Relation to Child Behaviour Characteristics and Staffing
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2021 (English)In: Frontiers in Education, E-ISSN 2504-284X, Vol. 6Article in journal (Refereed) Published
National Category
Applied Psychology
Research subject
Working Life Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-65669 (URN)10.3389/feduc.2021.627581 (DOI)2-s2.0-85116450624 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare
Available from: 2024-01-23 Created: 2024-01-23 Last updated: 2024-01-25Bibliographically approved
4. An explorative study of how preschool staff’s working conditions relates to professional well-being in child groups with high proportions of early second language learners
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An explorative study of how preschool staff’s working conditions relates to professional well-being in child groups with high proportions of early second language learners
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Keywords
Multicultural context, Job demands, Job resourses, Working environment, Job satisfaction, Organisational commitment
National Category
Applied Psychology
Research subject
Working Life Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-65667 (URN)
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare
Available from: 2024-01-23 Created: 2024-01-23 Last updated: 2024-02-06Bibliographically approved

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The full text will be freely available from 2024-03-01 08:00
Available from 2024-03-01 08:00

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Finnman Grönaas, Johannes

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