The relevance of the Learned Helplessness model for South Africn educators in a transforming education system.
The transformation of education in South Africa has prompted much literature on the increasing pressure and workload on teachers. Relatively little is known, however, about the potentially harmful psychological effects of this transformation. This study aims to investigate the Learned Helplessness (LH) model as a potentially relevant explanatory model for teachers’ experiences of powerlessness and helplessness in the face of educational transformation. Levels of LH were correlated with the teachers’ perceptions of job satisfaction, social support and depression. The sample for the study consisted of 89 school teachers - 40 teachers from historically black,township schools and 49 from historically white, suburban schools. Generally, the results suggest that the suburban teachers are experiencing significantly higher levels of LH, as measured by lower levels of optimism and hopefulness, than township teachers. While the LH model seemed to be a relevant explanatory model, this study provided some evidence that its application in the South African context may require further understanding. Although lower levels of depression were found for the suburban group, these results suggest discrepancies and are inconclusive.Higher levels of job satisfaction and social support were found for the suburban group. While the variables of job satisfaction and social support appear to be implicated in the LH process, the exact nature o f their relationship remains unclear. This research provides the basis for further investigation into the support and needs of teachers in the process of transformation.