Towards a Model of Psychological Wellbeing for Teachers of English for Academic Purposes in Hong Kong

Project: Research-related funding

Project Details


Attention devoted to wellbeing has mainly focused on learners, and, while this is an uncontested area, parallel attention to teacher wellbeing remains comparatively low. Teachers are key stakeholders of language education and their wellbeing needs to gain more traction. There has been a growing interest within the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) but this work remains much under-developed in comparison with the strides made by general education. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to care for the professional well-being of teachers and to understand their psychology more clearly in order to support them. This has been evidenced by a recent surge of investigations which have examined teachers’ coping strategies in the transition to online teaching (e.g. MacIntyre et al, 2020; Moorhouse, & Konhke, 2021; Wong & Moorhouse, 2020). Yet, teacher wellbeing is usually invisible from professional discourses and SLA research (Mercer, 2021).

Mainstream education has produced a reasonable body of research which has examined teacher wellbeing in connection to phenomena such as stress and burnout and has demonstrated that teachers who enjoy a higher sense of wellbeing usually teach to higher standards and their students perform better (Caprara et al, 2006). However, the case of language teachers deserves its own research arena because, as suggested by Benesch (2017), Mercer and Kostoulas (2018) and Mercer (2021), language teachers deal with specific factors and stressors which belong uniquely to the domain of language education (e.g., language anxiety, intercultural demands, complex identities).

In particular, this study focuses on English for Academic Purposes (EAP) in Hong Kong universities. The rationale for choosing this sector of language education concerns (a) the ever-growing provision of EAP in all Hong Kong universities as a result of the post -1997 era (Choi & Adamson, 2020; Poon, 2021), and (b) the fact that for over 20 years the Hong Kong EAP scholarship has focused on phenomena other than psychology, least the concept of well-being. Importantly, following Mercer’s (2021) call for ecological investigations of wellbeing, we adopt a multi-stakeholder approach with a view to obtaining not only a subjective and individual conceptualisation of wellbeing, but also a social (Benesch 2017) understanding of the construct. In other words, in order to examine the notion of ‘living well’, we must investigate this from a socially situated perspective, thereby recognising the viewpoint of those who make up the ecology of EAP in Hong Kong higher education.

This study is guided by the following questions:
RQ1- How does the senior management team of this language centre understand and promote EAP teacher wellbeing?
RQ2- How does the middle-management team of this language centre understand and promote EAP teacher wellbeing?
RQ3- How do teachers of this language centre understand and sustain their wellbeing?
Short titleKHD 100,300 / £9,240
Effective start/end date1/09/2131/08/23

Collaborative partners

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education


  • teacher wellbeing
  • English for academic purposes
  • Hong Kong


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