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J Happiness Stud

DOI 10.1007/s10902-017-9903-9

RESEARCH PAPER

Self-Efficacy, Emotions and Work Engagement Among


Teachers: A Two Wave Cross-Lagged Analysis

Irena Burić1 • Ivana Macuka1

 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Abstract The aim of this study was to examine the reciprocal relations between teachers’
work engagement and their emotions, both positive and negative, and experienced in
relation to their students, by implementing a two-wave panel design. The predictive role of
self-efficacy with respect to teachers’ emotions and work engagement was also explored.
The study included a sample of 941 teachers from various state schools in Croatia. A cross-
lagged analysis demonstrated the reciprocal nature of the relationship between emotions
and work engagement. Teachers who reported higher levels of positive emotions of joy,
pride and love at first time point, tended to be more engaged in their work at subsequent
assessment. The association between negative emotions and work engagement showed the
opposite direction—teachers who experienced more anger, fatigue, and hopelessness in the
first measurement point, were also less engaged at second time of assessment. Furthermore,
teachers who were more engaged in their work in the first time point, also reported about
lower levels of negative emotions but higher levels of positive emotions 6 months later. At
last, teachers with higher perceived self-efficacy are more engaged in their work, experi-
ence more joy, pride and love, and less anger, fatigue and hopelessness, towards their
students. However, these effects did not hold upon control of baseline levels of emotions
and work engagement.

Keywords Self-efficacy  Emotions  Work engagement  Teachers

& Irena Burić


buric.irena@gmail.com; inekic@unizd.hr
Ivana Macuka
imorand@unizd.hr
1
Department of Psychology, University of Zadar, Obala kralja Petra Krešimira IV. br. 2,
23000 Zadar, Croatia

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I. Burić, I. Macuka

1 Introduction

In the context of the teaching profession, stress and job burnout are indicators of teachers’
occupational well-being that have been studied most (Kyriacou 2001; Hakanen et al.
2006). However, although it is true of many teachers that they experience serious levels of
strain and burnout at their workplace, many teachers are satisfied, enthusiastic and highly
engaged in their jobs (Roth et al. 2007; Schaufeli et al. 2009). Teacher engagement is
important not only for teachers, but also for students, parents, schools and the educational
system in general. An engaged teachers can be described as a teachers who are happily
energetic, committed to the learning goals they set for their students, enthusiastic about
teaching and the course material, persistent when faced with obstacles, attentive to their
students’ needs, and absorbed in their work. It can be expected that such teachers have
greater potential to achieve positive learning outcomes for their students and to raise
educational quality in general. Obviously, research on antecedents and consequences of
teacher engagement is equally important as research on teacher burnout as a negative
element of teachers’ occupational lives.
In this study we focused on exploring the reciprocal relations between teachers’ work
engagement and emotions they experience in relation to their students. Traditionally,
teachers’ emotions have largely been neglected in contemporary psychological literature
(Sutton and Wheatley 2003). However, empirical evidence gathered in the last several
years and from other fields (e.g. sociology, education) clearly indicates that emotions are
core components of teachers’ lives (Schutz and Zembylas 2009). Since work engagement
is defined as a positive affective-motivational state of work related well-being (Leiter and
Bakker 2010), examining the reciprocal link between teachers’ affective experiences (i.e.
emotions) and work engagement seems important from both theoretical and empirical
point of view. In addition, we aimed at investigating the role of self-efficacy in predicting
emotions and work engagement of teachers. In order to address these issues, we conducted
a study implementing a two-wave panel design.

1.1 Defining Teachers Emotions and Work Engagement

Work engagement is affective-motivational construct defined as ‘‘a positive, fulfilling,


work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigour, dedication, and absorption’’
(Schaufeli et al. 2002, p. 74). Vigou-r refers to high levels of energy and mental resilience
while working, the readiness to invest effort and persist in tasks even when faced with
difficulties; dedication refers to strong involvement in one’s work and experiencing a sense
of significance, enthusiasm, inspiration and challenge, while absorption is characterized by
full concentration and engrossment in the work, whereby time passes quickly (Bakker et al.
2008). Studies have shown that work engagement is related to a variety of positive out-
comes both at individual and organizational level, such as higher work performance, better
health, and higher commitment to organizational goals (Innstrand et al. 2011; Bakker and
Demerouti 2008).
Teachers’ emotions are viewed as a variety of human emotions in general and thus can
be conceptualized as multicomponent, synchronized changes in affective, cognitive,
motivational, expressive and physiological processes (Schuman and Scherer 2014).
Although emotions are typically defined as short-lived and relatively intense episodes, they
can also be conceptualized as relatively stable in time, or in a more trait-like manner
(Rosenberg 1998). At the trait level, emotions are seen as individual differences in the

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Self-Efficacy, Emotions and Work Engagement Among Teachers…

average frequency with which they are experienced in daily life (Wood et al. 2008). For
example, a teacher may feel joy because of accomplished class goals on the particular
school day, or a teacher may feel joy while teaching in general. Since aggregation of
emotional reaction over time may have stronger influences on job attitudes and behaviour
(Weiss and Cropanzano 1996), in this study we focused on the assessment of emotions as
relatively stable experiences, i.e. in a more trait-like manner, in attempt to reveal stronger
relationships with work engagement.
Emotions experienced by teachers in the classroom may be triggered by a variety of
stimuli. For example, teachers experience positive emotions like joy, satisfaction and
pleasure when students learn and make progress, or when they are responsive, cooperative
and undisruptive. On contrary, teachers’ anger and frustration are most often related to
students’ misbehaviour or lack of classroom discipline, while sadness may be related to
poor home life of some of their students (for review, see Sutton and Wheatley 2003). In
this study we focused on six emotions that teachers experience in relation to their stu-
dents—joy, pride, love, anger, hopelessness and fatigue that were previously recognized in
the literature as frequent and personally important to teachers (Chang 2009; Frenzel 2014;
Kelchtermans 2011; Hargreaves 1998; Sutton and Wheatley 2003). Emotions such as these
are proposed to impact both students and their learning and achievement (Gläser-Zikuda
et al. 2013; Pekrun and Linnenbrink-Garcia 2014) as well as teachers and their cognitive
(i.e. attention, memory, thinking and problem solving) and motivational processes (i.e.
intrinsic motivation, attribution, efficacy beliefs, and goals) (Sutton and Wheatley 2003).

1.2 Reciprocal Link Between Emotions and Work Engagement

The link between work engagement, as affective-motivational construct, and positive


emotions can be viewed through the lens of broad-and-build theory (Fredrickson
1998, 2001). According to this theory, distinct positive emotions (such as joy, love, pride
or contentment) broaden people thought-action repertories and build their enduring per-
sonal resources (such as self-efficacy and resilience) which in turn may promote well-
being, adaptive functioning and future experience of positive emotions. In explaining the
reciprocal link between work engagement and positive emotions, work engagement can be
seen both as initiator and direct or indirect outcome of positive emotions. First, individuals
who feel engaged in their work are considered to be in a pleasant situation which elicit
positive emotional states. Second, frequent experiences of positive emotions at work may
directly lead to a more persistent, positive affective state, i.e. work engagement. Moreover,
positive emotions can also increase work engagement indirectly by building personal
resources such as self-efficacy, resilience or hope (Salanova et al. 2010) which have a
strong motivational potential and are important predictors of work engagement (Bakker
and Demerouti 2008).
There is an empirical evidence to support all hypothesized directions of causation in the
work engagement-positive emotions link. For example, individuals who are in general
more engaged in their work are also more likely to experience momentary states of
enthusiasm and engagement (Xanthopoulou et al. 2008, 2012), as well as positive job-
related emotions (Ouweneel et al. 2012a). Also, higher levels of individual and collective
positive emotions such as enthusiasm, satisfaction and comfort, predicted higher levels of
employees’ work engagement (Salanova et al. 2014). Finally, experience of positive
emotions was found to indirectly, through hope, affect levels of vigour, dedication, and
absorption across days (Ouweneel et al. 2012). Guided by outlined theoretical propositions
and the results of the previous studies, the following hypothesis is formulated:

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I. Burić, I. Macuka

H1 Positive emotions (namely joy, pride, and love) and work engagement would be
reciprocally related to each other: positive emotions would positively predict work
engagement over time, and vice versa.
However, negative emotions and their relation to work engagement have not been
directly in the focus of researchers. Negative affect has been unreasonably neglected in
studies of work engagement and has primarily been limited to the investigation of negative
occupational well-being, such as burnout (Carson 2006; Chang 2009). However, it has
been suggested that engaged employees are characterized by high positive affect and to a
somewhat lesser degree by low negative affect (Schaufeli et al. 2001). Furthermore,
according to Kahn (1990), in order to become engaged in an activity, individuals must have
psychological availability which includes the emotional, cognitive, and physical resources.
Negative affect may reduce psychological availability and thus diminish work engagement.
Moreover, negative emotions experienced at work may contribute to a more negative
overall appraisal of the job and stimulate avoidant behaviour, which is the opposite of the
‘approach oriented behaviour facilitation system that produces persistence and resilience
characterizing engagement’ (Gorgievski and Hobfoll 2008, p. 3). Even though empirical
evidence regarding the relationship between emotions and work engagement is lacking,
research conducted within control-value theory framework and in the context of students’
achievement emotions and their relation to various motivational constructs, clearly indicate
that negative emotions tend to have adverse impact by impairing interest in learning and
intrinsic motivation, reducing available cognitive resources and facilitating reliance on
external guidance (Pekrun et al. 2004; Pekrun 2006). Furthermore, it was proposed that
these motivational constructs and students’ achievement emotions are linked by reciprocal
causation over time which can consist both positive and negative feedback loops. (Pekrun
2006). Extrapolating these propositions to the link between teachers’ emotions and work
engagement, it can be assumed that experience of higher levels of negative emotions at
work would probably reduce their engagement. However, an opposite direction of cau-
sation is also possible. Since less engaged teachers also have lower levels of energy and
mental resilience, are less ready to invest effort and persist when faced with difficulties,
and are less likely to experience sense of significance and enthusiasm towards their job,
they would probably experience more strain and more negative emotions. This assumption
is partially supported by previous studies that focused on the relationship between work
engagement, burnout and psychopathological symptoms (Innstrand et al. 2011; Hakanen
and Schaufeli 2012). Regarding the link between negative emotions and work engagement,
the following hypothesis is postulated:
H2 Negative emotions and work engagement would be reciprocally related to each other:
negative emotions (namely anger, hopelessness and fatigue) would negatively predict work
engagement over time, and vice versa.

1.3 Teachers’ Self-Efficacy as Antecedent of Work Engagement


and Emotions

Self-efficacy can be defined as a ‘‘belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the
course of action required to produce given attainments’’ (Bandura 1997, p. 3). Self-efficacy
belongs to the class of positive self-evaluation constructs which reflect an individual sense
of the ability to control the environment and impact upon it successfully (Hobfoll et al.
2003). According to Bandura (1997), expectations of self-efficacy determine whether
individuals would initiate an action, how much effort they would invest and how long they

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Self-Efficacy, Emotions and Work Engagement Among Teachers…

would persist in the face of obstacles and failures. In other words, a person with higher
levels of self-efficacy would choose more challenging tasks, invest more effort, demon-
strate higher persistence when faced with obstacles, and more easily maintain commitment
to their goals (Schwarzer and Hallum 2008).
Indeed, according to most prominent model of work engagement, i.e. job demands-
resources model (Bakker and Demerouti 2008), self-efficacy was postulated to be one of
the main personal resources in predicting work engagement. It was proposed that positive
self-evaluations, such as self-efficacy, positively predict goal-setting, motivation, perfor-
mance, career ambition and job satisfaction (Judge et al. 2004). Individuals with higher
levels of positive self-evaluations are more likely to be intrinsically motivated and pursue
their goals which leads to higher performance and satisfaction (Bakker and Demerouti
2008) indicating a positive role of self-efficacy in determining work engagement. Research
clearly indicates that employees with higher levels of personal resources (namely, self-
efficacy, self-esteem, resilience) are also more engaged in their work (Xanthopoulou et al.
2009; Llorens et al. 2007; Salanova et al. 2006). In this study we focused exclusively on
teachers’ self-efficacy, even though there are also other theoretically important personal
(e.g. optimism, resilience, self-esteem or active coping style etc.) and job resources that are
relevant in explaining work engagement construct (Bakker and Demerouti 2008). There
were several reasons for such a decision: (1) inclusion of all or most of the theoretically
important personal and job resources would make this research design too complex; (2) we
decided to take an individual perspective in examining teachers’ work engagement by
focusing on personal variables; and (3) self-efficacy, as such personal variable, was chosen
due to its straightforward and conceptually well-established predictive power of in
explaining both work engagement and teachers’ emotions.
The association between affective processes and perceived self-efficacy was clearly
established in the literature. It was suggested that emotional arousal and emotions represent
both a source of information about one’s performance and a filter through which efficacy
information is viewed (e.g. which information is seen as salient and how is it interpreted;
Bandura 1977; Kavanagh and Bower 1985). Moreover, self-efficacy can predict or cause
emotions. Self-efficacy impacts affective processes through its effects on attention and
appraisal of environmental demands, actions that would be taken, and the ability to control
and regulate negative emotions (Chemers et al. 2001). For instance, since higher levels of
self-efficacy lead to more effective problem solving, an experience of positive emotions is
more likely. On the opposite, individuals who see themselves as less self-efficacious,
experience more distress and negative emotions such as anxiety, depression and help-
lessness (Bandura 1997; Luszczynska et al. 2005; Schwarzer and Hallum 2008). Finally,
since contemporary perspectives on human emotions postulate that self-related and situ-
ational cognitive appraisals are their proximal antecedents (Scherer et al. 2001), the role of
self-efficacy in shaping such appraisals should not be dismissed. For instance, in the
context of stress, self-efficacy is viewed either as a personal resource or a vulnerability
factor. People who believe in their capabilities to master environmental demands also
interpret them as less threatening and more challenging while perceived self-efficacy
represent their resource factor. On contrary, people who have low self-efficacy expecta-
tions, are more prone to self-doubts and anxiety, and appraise themselves as less capable to
cope with environmental demands, thus making low self-efficacy as a vulnerability factor
(Jerusalem and Scwarzer 1992). Based on these propositions, the final research hypothesis
is postulated:

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H3 Self-efficacy would positively predict positive emotions and work engagement, and
negatively predict negative emotions.

1.4 The Present Study

To sum up, the aim of this study was to examine the proposed reciprocal relations between
teachers’ positive (namely joy, pride, and love) and negative emotions (namely anger,
fatigue, and hopelessness) experienced in relation to their students, and work engagement
by implementing a two-wave panel design. However, we go beyond the hypothesized
reciprocal relations between emotions and work engagement, and include teacher self-
efficacy as an important personal predictor of both teachers’ emotions and work engage-
ment. It is important to note that we operationalised teacher self-efficacy as a job-specific
disposition, i.e. as a belief in teachers’ own capabilities to organize and execute certain
actions that should lead to successful accomplishment of a specific task in the context of
teaching (Tschannen-Moran et al. 1998), since such specific beliefs, as opposed to more
general dispositions, should have a greater power in the explanation of work-related
emotions and engagement.

2 Method

2.1 Participants

The study was conducted on a convenient sample of teachers. Participants were subject
teachers employed in 118 state schools located in various parts of Croatia. In the first wave
of data collection (autumn, 2015), a total number of 1976 teachers completed the survey.
(Of all the teachers contacted across the various schools, approximately 50% of them
agreed to participate in the study). In the second wave of data collection (spring 2016), the
total sample was reduced to 941 teachers, comprising those teachers who filled in ques-
tionnaires at both time points and who could be matched according to the anonymous code
known only to them. Thus, the final sample consisted of 941 teachers–544 teachers were
engaged in the upper-level primary education programme (teaching children aged 11–15),
while 399 of them were engaged in teaching children aged 15–18 years who attended the
secondary education programme. Full variability according to subject taught was achieved
at both educational levels. At the first time point of the study, the teachers were, on
average, 41.53 years old (SD = 10.13) and had 14.87 years of teaching experience
(SD = 10.84). Of these teachers, 157 were male, 777 were female, and 7 did not indicate
their gender. Nonresponse analysis through independent t tests revealed that teachers who
participated in the study at both time points had slightly higher levels of joy
(t(1974) = 4.75, p \ .01) and pride (t(1974) = 2.95, p \ .01) at Time 1. However, both
effects were small (Cohen d’s were .21 and .13, respectively) and unlikely to seriously bias
our results. Moreover, the participants did not differ on the basis of other study variables.

2.2 Procedure

This study was implemented with the assistance of school psychologists. They were
contacted by members of the research team in autumn 2015 and kindly requested to invite
teachers from their schools to participate in the study. Upon the informed consent of the

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school principal and teachers, questionnaires (each in its own envelope) were sent via the
postal service to the schools and distributed to the teachers. The completed questionnaires
were returned 2 weeks later, again via the postal service. The same procedure was repeated
in spring 2016, creating a time lag of approximately 6 months between the two mea-
surement points. It should be noted that participation in the study was voluntary and
anonymous. Teachers were informed in a cover letter about the confidentiality of the
information they were sharing, as well as the importance of their contribution to the study.
Their responses, obtained at the two time points, were matched by specially-created codes
that had meaning only to them.

2.3 Measures

Emotions experienced by teachers in relation to students, i.e. joy, pride, love, anger, fatigue
and hopelessness, were measured by the Teacher Emotion Questionnaire (TEQ; Burić
et al. 2017). Teachers responded to the items of all the emotion scales by indicating their
level of agreement on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly
agree). It is important to note that teachers were instructed to rate how they usually feel in
relation to their students, aiming at the assessment of emotions in a more stable trait-like
manner.
Work engagement was assessed by the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES:
Schaufeli and Bakker 2003), which measures three dimensions of the work-engagement
construct, namely vigour, dedication and absorption. UWES consists of 17 statements
which describe feelings one can have in relation to one’s job. Participants rated how often
they feel in the described way at their work on a 7-point scale ranging from 0 (never) to 6
(always/every day).
Self-efficacy was measured by the Teacher Self-efficacy Scale (Schwarzer et al. 1999)
which contains 10 items that assess the job in relation to four major areas: (a) job
accomplishment, (b) skill development on the job, (c) social interaction with students,
parents and colleagues, and (d) coping with job stress. Participants responded on a 4-point
scale ranging from 1 (not at all true) to 4 (exactly true).
It should be noted that all emotion and work-engagement scales were measured at two
time points, while teacher self-efficacy was assessed only once, in autumn 2015. Number
of items per scale, sample items, and reliability coefficients for both measurement points
are presented in Table 1.

3 Analysis

As a preliminary step, correlational analysis between the study variables was conducted.
First, the correlations of gender and working experiences with study variables were cal-
culated. Female teachers reported somewhat higher levels of all analyzed emotions and
more experienced teachers reported slightly more joy, pride and love. However, these
correlations were, although mostly statistically significant (probably due to large sample
size and good statistical power of this research), quite small explaining up to 1.69% of
variance. Since these effects were small and unlikely to bias our results, variables of gender
and working experience were excluded for main analysis.
Based on the obtained pattern of correlations between different emotions of the same
valence and dimensions of work engagement (see Table 2), a measurement model

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I. Burić, I. Macuka

Table 1 Number of items, sample items and reliability of all scales used in the study
Scale n a a Sample item
(T1) (T2)

Joy 5 .85 .87 I am happy when I manage to motivate students to learn


Pride 6 .87 .87 I feel like a winner when my students succeed
Love 6 .84 .89 I feel warmth inside me when I just think about my students
Anger 5 .79 .81 Some students make me so angry that my face goes red
Fatigue 7 .91 .92 When I finish lessons, I feel numbed
Hopelessness 7 .86 .86 It seems to me that I cannot do anything to get through to some
students
Vigour 6 .88 .91 At my work, I feel bursting with energy
Dedication 5 .82 .85 I find the work that I do full of meaning and purpose
Absorption 6 .80 .83 When I am working, I forget everything else around me
Teacher self- 10 .83 – When I try really hard, I am able to reach even the most difficult
efficacy students

containing three latent variables was specified (and subsequently tested) in the following
manner: the positive emotions of joy, pride and love were specified to load on a single
factor labelled positive emotions; the negative emotions of anger, fatigue and hopelessness
were specified to load on a single factor labelled negative emotions; and vigour, dedication
and absorption were specified to load on a single factor labelled work engagement. There
are several reasons for such an approach: 1) moderate to high correlations between dif-
ferent emotions of the same valence and between different dimensions of work engage-
ment were revealed; 2) similar pattern of correlations between subset of emotions of the
same valence, as well as dimensions of work engagement, with external variables was
established; and 3) forming the latent variables would make the interpretation of the main
results more parsimonious and straightforward. To test whether a certain degree of mea-
surement invariance (configural and metric) holds over the two time points, CFA models
only with the variables measured at Time 1 and Time 2 were tested.
Reciprocal relations between emotions and work engagement were examined by means
of cross-lagged SEM analysis. We proposed and tested four possible mechanisms under-
lying the relationships between the constructs examined: (1) stability model, which
included the autoregressive effects over time of each latent variable (positive emotions
1 ? positive emotions 2; negative emotions 1 ? negative emotions 2; work engagement
1 ? work engagement 2), correlations among variables measured at the same time point,
and correlations between the same manifest variables measured at different time points; (2)
causal model, which is the same as the stability model with the addition of cross-lagged
effects (positive emotions 1 ? work engagement 2; negative emotions 1 ? work
engagement 2); (3) reverse-causation model, which is the same as the stability model with
the addition of reversed cross-lagged effects (work engagement 1 ? positive emotions 2;
work engagement 1 ? negative emotions 2), and (4) reciprocal model, which is a com-
bination of the causal and reverse-causation models. Finally, since self-efficacy was
measured only at Time 1, this variable was introduced into the best-fitting model as a
predictor. More precisely, both positive and negative emotions and work engagement,
assessed at both time points, were regressed on self-efficacy measured at Time 1. It is
important to note that teacher self-efficacy was treated as a manifest variable.

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Table 2 Correlation coefficients, descriptive statistics and reliabilities of study variables
Self-Efficacy, Emotions and Work Engagement Among Teachers…

* p \ .05 ** p \ .01

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I. Burić, I. Macuka

Measurement and structural analysis were conducted using Mplus 6 (Muthén and
Muthén 1998–2010) and the maximum-likelihood estimation method. Full-information
maximum-likelihood procedures (Byrne 2001) were employed to compensate for the
missing data. The quality of model fit was assessed by comparative fit index (CFI), Tucker-
Lewis index (TLI), root-mean-square error of approximation (RMSEA) and standardized
root-mean residual (SRMR). To compare the full- versus partial-mediation model, v2
difference test was calculated. For the RMSEA, values B.05 are taken to reflect a good fit,
values between .05 and .08 an adequate fit, and values between .08 and .10 a mediocre fit,
while values [.10 are not acceptable (Browne and Cudeck 1992). For CFI and TLI, values
above .90 are indicative of satisfactory fit, while values above .95 are considered excellent
fit (Hu and Bentler 1999). For comparison of the nested models, DCFI \ .01 and
DRMSEA \ .015 (Chen 2007; Cheung and Rensvold 2002; Vandenberg and Lance 2000)
or v2 difference test were used.

4 Results

Correlation coefficients and descriptive statistics of the analysed variables, across both
time points, are shown in Table 2. As can be seen, correlations among the variables
examined were in line with the hypotheses. Higher levels of self-efficacy were related to
higher levels of positive emotions and work engagement, and lower levels of negative
emotions, measured at both time points. Furthermore, higher levels of work engagement
were related to higher levels of positive emotions, and lower levels of negative emotions,
across the two measurement points.
To test whether a certain degree of measurement invariance holds over the two time
points, CFA models only with variables measured at Time 1 and Time 2 were tested.
Residual correlations between the same variables measured across the two time points
were also specified. Such an unconstrained model fitted the data well: v2 = 364.40,
df = 112, p \ .01, CFI = .981, TLI = .975, RMSEA = .049 (90% CI: .043–.055),
SRMR = .052, indicating configural invariance over time. In the next step we tested
whether the assumption of metric invariance holds over time (i.e. invariance of factor
loadings from Time 1 to Time 2). The following results were obtained: v2 = 512.70,
df = 121, p \ .01, CFI = .971, TLI = .964, RMSEA = .059 (90% CI: .053–.059),
SRMR = .079. On the basis of the proposed criteria of DCFI and DRMSEA, it can be
concluded that a sufficient amount of metric invariance was achieved (DCFI = .01 and
DRMSEA = .01).
Table 3 contains fit indices of the models tested in cross-lagged analysis. When com-
pared to the stability baseline model, the causal model, with cross-lagged effects from
positive and negative emotions measured at Time 1 to work engagement measured at Time
2, provided better fit to the data (v2diff = 24.77, df = 2, p \ .01). Also, when compared to
the stability model, the reverse-causation model, with cross-lagged effects from work
engagement measured at Time 1 to positive and negative emotions measured at Time 2,
also demonstrated better fit to the data (v2diff = 28.96, df = 2, p \ .01). The reciprocal
model, specified as a combination of the causal and reverse-causation models, turned out to
be a better-fitting model than the stability model (v2diff = 48.73, df = 4, p \ .01), causal
model (v2diff = 23.97, df = 4, p \ .01) and reverse-causation model (v2diff = 19.77,
df = 4, p \ .01). At last, teacher self-efficacy was introduced as predictor of all other

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Self-Efficacy, Emotions and Work Engagement Among Teachers…

Table 3 Fit indices of tested models


Model v2 df CFI TLI SRMR RMSEA (90% CI)

Stability model 487.08** 117 .97 .96 .07 .06 (.053, .063)
Causality model 462.31** 115 .97 .97 .06 .06 (.051, .062)
Reverse-causation model 458.12** 115 .97 .97 .06 .06 (.051, .062)
Reciprocal model 438.35** 113 .98 .97 .05 .06 (.050, .061)
Reciprocal model ? self-efficacy 458.07** 125 .98 .97 .05 .05 (.048, .059)

** p \ .01

variables in the reciprocal model, which proved to be the best-fitting one. This final model
also demonstrated a sufficient fit to the data and is depicted in Fig. 1.
As is evident from Fig. 1, positive emotions and work engagement, as well as negative
emotions and work engagement, were reciprocally related to each other. Work engagement
at Time 2 was positively predicted by positive emotions (b = .13, p \ .001) and negative
emotions (b = -.08, p \ .01) reported at Time 1. Also, work engagement measured at
Time 1 positively predicted positive emotions (b = .10, p \ .01) and negatively predicted
negative emotions (b = -.14, p \ .001) assessed at Time 2. Self-efficacy, as expected,
positively predicted both positive emotions (b = .41, p \ .001) and work engagement
(b = .53, p \ .001), but negatively predicted negative emotions (b = -.38, p \ .001)
reported at Time 1. However, when controlling the effects of prior levels of these three
latent variables (measured at Time 1), self-efficacy failed to predict emotions and work
engagement assessed at Time 2. Furthermore, correlations between latent variables (pos-
itive emotions, negative emotions and work engagement) within the same temporal point
were in line with the correlational analysis, as well as the hypotheses. Finally, all three
latent constructs showed satisfactory levels of stability across the time interval of
6 months.

positive .63** positive


.41** emotions1 emotions2
.10**

.37** .46**
.13 **

.53** .60** work


self- work -.16**
efficacy1 engmt.1 engmt.2

-.12 ** -.08 **
-.36 **
-.31 **
-.14 **

-.38 ** negative negative


emotions1 .67** emotions2

Fig. 1 Final reciprocal model with self-efficacy as a predictor of emotions and work engagement
(N = 1976). For the sake of clarity, measurement part of the model and correlations among the same
variables measured at two time points were not presented

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I. Burić, I. Macuka

5 Discussion

The aim of this study was to examine the reciprocal relations between work engagement
and emotions that teachers experience in relation to their students. Moreover, we aimed at
investigating the predictive value of self-efficacy of teachers in predicting their emotions
and work engagement. In order to test the study hypotheses, a two-wave panel design was
implemented.
The results obtained were generally in line with the hypotheses. Teachers’ positive
emotions and work engagement were reciprocally related to each other. As expected,
teachers who generally experienced more joy, pride and love towards their students at the
first measurement point were also more engaged in their work at the subsequent mea-
surement point, even after controlling for prior levels of positive emotional experiences.
This result is in line with the proposition that positive emotions generally facilitate
approach behaviour (Cacioppo et al. 1999) and broaden cognitive functions, which is
important for building personal resources that consequently lead to work engagement
(Salanova et al. 2010). Also, this result confirms the propositions of broad-and-build theory
(Fredrickson 1998, 2001) which served as a theoretical background for exploring the link
between positive emotions and work engagement. In other words, teachers who experience
more positive emotions of joy, pride and love while working and interacting with their
students, are consequently more enthusiastic while working, feel more confident when
facing obstacles, and find more personal meaning in their work—i.e. they are more
engaged in it. However, the opposite is also true: teachers who were more engaged in their
work at the first assessment point subsequently experience more positive emotions at the
second time point, even after controlling for prior levels of work engagement. This finding
is in line with the proposition of positive emotions as an outcome of work engagement,
since positive emotions are more likely to be facilitated when people are pleasantly
involved in their work (Salanova et al. 2010). Finally, these results are in line with previous
study linking positive emotions, self-efficacy and activity engagement among teachers
(Salanova et al. 2011).
Even though negative affect was not previously considered as an important factor in the
study of positive motivational states such as work engagement, the results of this study
pinpoint that negative emotions should also be treated as important in understanding work
engagement. Teachers who experienced more anger, fatigue and hopelessness in relation to
their students at the first time point reported less vigour, dedication and absorption in their
work at the subsequent measurement—i.e. they were less engaged in their work as
teachers. This is true even after controlling for prior levels of negative emotions. This
result is in line with the hypothesis that negative emotions stimulate avoidant and with-
drawal behaviour, which is opposed to the core motivational feature of work engagement.
It is not surprising that teachers who are unhappy while working are also less prone to
engage in it more than they are obliged to. However, it seems that the opposite is also true:
low work engagement leads to more negative emotions at work. This result can be best
explained by the fact that less engaged individuals also have lower levels of energy and
mental resilience, and are less ready to invest effort and persist when faced with diffi-
culties, which makes them more prone to experience of negative emotions. Finally,
according to some authors (Maslach and Leiter 1997; González-Romá et al. 2006), work
engagement can be seen as an opposite to construct of burnout since vigor and dedication
are considered to be direct opposites of exhaustion and cynicism, respectively, the two core
dimensions of burnout. Many research has demonstrated that burnout has adverse effects

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on psychological health by increasing ones negative affective experiences such as anxiety


and depression (Hakanen and Schaufeli 2012; Toker and Biron 2012). If we consider work-
engagement as an opposite construct of burnout, the role of work engagement in predicting
subsequent negative emotions is quite expected both from empirical and theoretical point
of view.
Teachers who perceive themselves as more efficacious with respect to the demands of
their work, are also more engaged in it. This finding fits well within the model of work
engagement, which postulates that personal resources such as self-efficacy, self-esteem and
resilience are of key importance in facilitating work engagement (Bakker and Demerouti
2007). Moreover, these results are in line with previous studies (e.g. Gorgievski and
Hobfoll 2008; Avey et al. 2010). However, after controlling for baseline levels, self-
efficacy measured at the first time point failed to predict subsequent work engagement
assessed 6 months later, which is contrary to the results of studies that found positive
cross-lagged effects from self-efficacy to work engagement (e.g. Avey et al. 2010; Xan-
thopoulou et al. 2009). Similar results were found for emotions, too. Teachers with higher
levels of self-efficacy also experience more joy, pride and love towards their students, but
less anger, fatigue and hopelessness. And although these results are in line with similar
studies conducted at student level (Pekrun et al. 2011, 2004), self-efficacy lost its pre-
dictive value after controlling for baseline levels of teachers emotions.

5.1 Limitations and Directions for Future Research

In order to more accurately understand the obtained results, several limitations of this
research should be mentioned. First, the findings of this study could potentially be biased
by common-method variance in such a way that the effects are inflated to a certain extent,
since all variables were assessed via the same method, viz. self-reports. Although full panel
design, which controls the baseline levels of the study variables, minimizes the effect of
common-method bias (Podsakoff et al. 2003; Doty and Glick 1998), future studies should
attempt to assess these constructs by other methods (e.g. supervisor’s ratings of work
engagement). Second, even though the examination of cross-lagged effect provides some
insights into the causal sequence of the study variables, strictly speaking, such design
cannot prove causation. Third, in order to gain fuller insight into the nature of relations
between self-efficacy, emotions and work engagement in the teaching profession, a full
panel design is needed (i.e. assessment of self-efficacy at both time points). Fourth, due to
the fact that participation in this research was voluntary, and nearly 50% of initially
contacted teachers declined to participate in it in the first place, questions such as ‘‘Who are
those teachers who agreed?’’ and ‘‘Are they different, and in what way, from their col-
leagues who did not fill in the questionnaire?’’ remain unanswered. Next, although par-
ticipation in this study was anonymous, and special effort was made to assure the teachers
that their responses would be treated with strict confidentiality (e.g. matching participants
through specially-created codes known only to them, emphasizing the confidentiality in the
cover letter, and returning questionnaires in closed envelopes), we cannot exclude the
possibility of giving socially desirable answers. The teaching profession implies both
emotional work and emotional labour (Oplatka 2009; Schaubroeck and Jones 2000), since
it is bounded with certain emotional rules (e.g. avoiding too strong and negative emotions,
and expression of positive emotions) which could stimulate teachers to distort their true
feelings regarding their students and their work. As can be seen from Table 2, the means of
the study variables are shifted to higher values on scales measuring positive emotions and
work engagement, and to lower levels on scales measuring negative emotions. This could

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I. Burić, I. Macuka

indicate either that teachers in this study are those whose occupational well-being is at high
levels, or that they were responding in accordance to the emotional rules of their profes-
sion. In either case, the range of results is probably restricted to some extent, which could
attenuate the strength of the relations among the constructs analysed. Finally, the ratio
between female and male teachers was quite unbalanced (83% teachers were female)
which, even though reflects the true gender distribution of Croatian teachers, also makes
the investigation of moderating effects of gender on analysed relationships problematic.
Thus, future studies should explore possible moderating effects of demographic variables
(e.g. gender, tenure etc.) on the relationships between teachers’ self-efficacy, emotions and
work engagement.

6 Conclusions

To sum up, the results of this two-wave study, with a lag of 6 months, demonstrated the
reciprocal nature of the relationship between emotions and work engagement. Teachers
who reported higher levels of positive emotions of joy, pride and love at first time point,
tended to be more engaged in their work at subsequent assessment. The association
between negative emotions and work engagement showed the opposite direction—teachers
who experienced more anger, fatigue, and hopelessness in the first measurement point,
were also less engaged at second time of assessment. Furthermore, teachers who were more
engaged in their work in the first time point, also reported about lower levels of negative
emotions but higher levels of positive emotions 6 months later. At last, teachers with
higher perceived self-efficacy are more engaged in their work, experience more joy, pride
and love, and less anger, fatigue and hopelessness, towards their students. However, these
effects did not hold upon control of baseline levels of emotions and work engagement.
The results of this study may have important implications for both theory and practice.
First, this research highlights the importance of inclusion of emotional variables, especially
those of negative valence, in understanding teacher motivation. Obviously, positive and
negative emotions experienced at work may be seen both as an antecedent and an outcome
of work engagement and as such should not be neglected in future studies. Second, these
results suggest that in order to sustain positive occupational well-being, strategies aimed at
building personal resources (e.g. job-specific self-efficacy or adaptive coping and emotion
regulation) may have a beneficial effect in promoting positive emotions and work
engagement, as well as reducing adverse job-related affective experiences.

Acknowledgements This work was supported by the Croatian Science Foundation (Grant No. 5035).

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