Leeds Beckett University
ANarrativeInquiryIntoTeacherStressUsing AWittgensteinianLens-BEASTALL.pdf (1.37 MB)

A narrative inquiry into teacher stress using a Wittgensteinian lens

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posted on 2022-07-27, 08:53 authored by Elizabeth BeastallElizabeth Beastall

Recent data reported via popular news media and teacher union surveys suggests that a significant number of teachers are overworked, stressed and unable to cope with the demands of the job, leading to what is now commonly referred to as a ‘teacher crisis’ of retention and recruitment. Academic studies regarding teacher stress are largely dominated by research into teacher agency, resilience and the impact of power, surveillance and accountability on policy and practice in neoliberal education environments. While these are clearly important, there is little academic research specifically focussing on the teacher’s voice, in relation to teacher stress.

This study provides a detailed qualitative understanding of this ‘teacher crisis’ by using a narrative inquiry methodology to collect accounts, over several interviews, from nine teachers who share a common discourse. Their stories were analysed using a lens based on Wittgenstein’s language-games concept to go beyond what was simply being said and explore the layers of meaning. Language-games facilitate meanings, through the conversations and communications that form an individual’s network of discourses. Using this lens makes it easier to identify how the constant shifts in the various discourses of teachers’ lives are negatively affecting teacher agency and identity which can lead to experiences of stress, to differing degrees. 

This study draws attention to the subordination of the social aspects of being a teacher and notes the impact of policy that reduces time for collaboration and peer support. In particular, it argues that policy makers and senior leaders take care to address the wellbeing of teachers by taking a closer look at the distinctive aspects of policy and practice, particularly in terms of surveillance and accountability, which can result in teachers lacking agency, feeling isolated, overworked and overly scrutinised.


Qualification name

  • PhD


Stephen Newman; Caroline Bligh

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


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