Early childhood educators’ workplace well-being: A case for using self-determination theory to understand and support workplace well-being in early childhood services

Full reference
Jones, C., Hadley, F., Waniganayake, M. & Johnstone, M. (2019). Early childhood educators’ workplace well-being: A case for using self-determination theory to understand and support workplace well-being in early childhood services.  NZ International Research in Early Childhood Education Journal. Special issue presenting early childhood position papers, 22(2), pp. 9 - 17. Retrieved from https://www.childforum.com/research/2019-nz-international-early-childhood-education/1709-workplace-teacher-wellbeing-self-determination.html

PDF copies of articles are available - go to the ChildForum Store page 

Further articles that may interest you are: 


Page 9

Original Position Paper
© ChildForum


NZ Int Reseach ECE journal pic

Early childhood educators’ workplace well-being: A case for using self-determination theory to understand and support workplace well-being in early childhood services

Catherine Jones, Fay Hadley, Manjula Waniganayake and Melissa Johnstone
Macquarie University, New South Wales



Current conceptualisations of Early Childhood (EC) educator workplace well-being are problematic due to large gaps in the workplace well-being literature. Gaps include a dearth of research examining healthy well-being, limited qualitative studies to understand the complexity of workplace well-being and a focus on hedonic well-being (happiness at work) without the inclusion of eudaimonic well-being (meaningful work). Moreover, attention in the literature is mainly given to external conditions influencing well-being such as poor pay and working conditions. This article begins with a critique of EC workplace well-being literature and then provides an argument that asserts Self-Determination Theory (SDT) has the potential to provide a more suitable conceptualisation of EC educator well-being. Key principles of both SDT and Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) are provided to highlight the suitability of using SDT to understand and also support the healthy well-being of those working in prior to school settings in the Australian ECEC context.

Key words: Self-determination theory, well-being, work-place stress, job satisfaction.


Defining early childhood workplace well-being

Defining Early Childhood (EC) Educator workplace well-being is problematic. Well-being is a broad and complex concept and hence difficult to define.  The need for a clearer definition of well-being and a greater understanding of how stressors emerge and why certain conditions act as buffers to poor well-being is needed (Corr, Davis, LaMontagne, Waters, & Steele, 2014; Cumming, 2017; Hall-Kenyon, Bullough, MacKay, & Marshall, 2014) to support EC educator wellbeing.

The majority of studies on EC educator well-being have focused on a deficit model of physical and psychological health that has concentrated predominantly on stress and burnout (Cumming, 2017; Hall-Kenyon et.al., 2014). However, there is evidence in the EC well-being literature of the potential benefits of a more positive focus on well-being (through the lens of positive psychology theorists) in terms of understanding and supporting workplace well-being (Hur & Buettner, 2016; Nislin et al., 2015; Nislin et al., 2016). Moreover, the dominance of quantitative studies in the well-being literature limits a deep understanding of the complexity of workplace well-being. These factors highlight the need for more qualitative methods of data collection and analysis to obtain a rich and in depth understanding of educator workplace wellbeing and enable the development of a more holistic conceptualisation of well-being applicable in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) settings (Corr et al., 2014; Hur & Buettner, 2016). The term ‘educators’ in ECEC centres in Australia refers to all staff who work with children 0-6 years regardless of qualification.


Oops ... you are attempting to view an article or a resource in the member-only area.  

To keep reading, you need to login with your membership login Smile

If this is not one of our 'Educators' or 'Service Provider' articles, then it is most likely a NZ-Int Research in ECE Journal article that can be accessed through a library subscription or a research membership if you are not an educator or service provider.  

Not a member?  Look below ↓ for the click here button ↓   It will take you to the membership page to sign up and choose your own unique username and password.

Are you interested in joining us? 
Become a member and also gain access to our significant online knowledge base 

Membership Options


Who is this for?
Teachers - Student Teachers - Parents
$78.00 one year
$145.00 two years
Your own personal username and password.
Includes access to research library

ECE Service Provider  

Who is this for?
Service providers with one or more licensed ECE services
Starting from $198.00 for one year
Your own unique username and password.
Includes access to research library 

Researcher Membership or
a Library Subscription

Who is this for?
Libraries and organisations $250 annual 
Researchers $145.00 for two years
Access to over 20 years of NZ-International Research in ECE journal issues and articles