The Perception Educators Have of their Leader’s Support and their Own Perceived Level of Burnout

The Perception Educators Have of their Leader’s Support and their Own Perceived Level of Burnout

Gregory C. Petty (University of Tennessee, USA) and Cherie Barnett Gaines (Lincoln Memorial University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2181-7.ch028
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Effective instructional systems deal with many challenges; perhaps the greatest is technological change. However, perhaps more insidious to instructional effectiveness is the detrimental effects of instructor burnout. Maintaining a high energy classroom and keeping up with the rapid changes brought about by classroom technology, particularly the internet, can affect even the strongest teacher. This chapter explores the effects of burnout as perceived by instructors and balanced with their perceptions of the support they receive (or do not receive) from their leaders. This study of the interpersonal relations between instructional leaders and their instructors gives an insight into the importance of proactive leadership on effective teaching. Leaders utilizing technologies to improve tomorrow’s workforce must not forget the human element in the classroom. With this study, the authors offer some guidelines leaders can use for more effective leadership practices.
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Several factors have led to the deterioration of workers’ occupational health in the last forty years of the 20th century (Sparks, Faragher, & Cooper, 2001). These trends have led to worker burnout in the beginning of this century and are well documented in the literature (Cox, Griffiths, & Rial-Gonzalez, 2000; Petty, Lim, & Zulauf. 2007; Sparks, et al., 2001). Of these factors, burnout of teachers is the highest among workers in other human services and white collar jobs (Hakanen, Bakker, & Schaufeli, 2006).

Burnout is a tripartite syndrome consisting of the constructs of emotional exhaustion (EE), depersonalization (DP), and reduced feelings of personal accomplishment (PA) (Azeem & Nazir, 2008; Law, 2010; Yong & Yue, 2007). Teachers in the midst of burnout are in a “state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long-term involvement in situations that are emotionally demanding” (Harrison, 1996, p. 25). This chapter explores the relationship between teacher burnout and perceived principal/leader support.

The combination of the constructs of burnout and leader behaviors (i.e., supportive, directive, and restrictive) are the basis for the chapter. To investigate these issues, 305 instructors were selected from 9 public schools in the Southeastern United States. Of these subjects, 282 returned completed surveys for a 92% return rate. Instruments utilized were the Maslach Burnout Inventory for Educators Survey (MBI-ES), and the Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire—Revised for Middle School (OCDQ-RM).

Some individuals handle stress in healthy ways, however, instructor burnout is one result of an individual’s unhealthy response to long-term work stress (Yong & Yue, 2007). Instructors in the midst of burnout are in a “state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long-term involvement in situations that are emotionally demanding” (Harrison, 1996, p. 25). Burnoutis mainly manifested n individuals who appraise situations as particularly stressful, acknowledging that what may be stressful for one individual is not necessarily stressful for another (Azeem & Nazir, 2008; Law, 2010; Yong & Yue, 2007).

Attrition of instructors is becoming more prevalent, and availability of effective instructors is waning for a variety of reasons, one of which is burnout (Ghorpade, Lackritz, & Singh, 2007; Lambert, McCarthy, O’Donnell, & Wang, 2009; Yong & Yue, 2007). Instructors have cited many reasons for this shift. When instructors were asked to rank several occupations (e.g., teacher, physician, clergy, judge, funeral director, politician, banker, and such) in terms of contribution to society, they ranked themselves first in contribution and last in prestige (Elam, 1989). Hart (1992) further discovered that the most promising instructors left the profession expressing a lack of confidence that the school would consistently reward good instructors. In light of these facts, instructors and successful leaders must be aware of the factors that provide job satisfaction for effective instructors so they are provided an environment that encourages them to put forth their best efforts, take chances, and remain in the classroom, providing a positive learning experience to the students. While a negative work climate does not necessarily result in teacher burnout, research findings have indicated that there is a relationship between negative work climate and burnout (Azeem & Nazir, 2008; Ghorpade et al., 2008; Yong & Yue, 2007).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Stress: A demand which an individual finds taxing on one’s personal self, sometimes endangering one’s physical well-being if not handled with effective strategies.

Collegial Teacher Behavior: Supportive of open and professional interactions among teachers (Hoy, 2005).

Committed Teacher Behavior: Directed toward helping students develop socially and intellectually (Hoy, 2005).

Personal Accomplishment: A dimension of burnout associated with feelings of competence, high self-efficacy, and sense of achievement; reduced personal accomplishment often indicates burnout (Fives et al., 2007; Maslach et al., 1996; Kokkinos, 2007).

Restrictive Principal Behavior: Not supportive; hindering teacher work rather than helping (Hoy, 2005).

Core Curriculum Classes: Classes in a school that are mandated and evaluated, specifically language arts, math, science, and social studies.

Emotional Exhaustion: A dimension of burnout which includes the feeling of having given all that one can, all of one’s energy and focus, into the task of teaching and having finally run out of resources; often characterized by feeling extremely overextended and drained of energy (Fives et al., 2007; Maslach et al., 1996; Kokkinos, 2007).

Middle School: For the purposes of this study, a middle school is defined as one in which the school includes students in seventh grade and at least one other contiguous grade.

Burnout: A state of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment often resulting from the conditions of work (Azeem & Nazir, 2008; Egyed & Short, 2006; Maslach et al., 1996).

Directive Principal Behavior: Rigid and domineering (Hoy, 2005).

Principal: The chief administrator of the school. For the purposes of this study, only the principals, not assistant principals or other administrators, are included.

Disengaged Teacher Behavior: Lack of meaning and focus for professional activities (Hoy, 2005).

Depersonalization: A dimension of burnout in which a teacher develops negative feelings and cynicism toward students and perhaps even the school community; ultimately may affect the students’ care and instruction (Fives, Hamman, & Olivarex, 2007; Maslach et al., 1996; Kokkinos, 2007).

Organizational Climate: A series of internal psychological characteristics that differentiate one organization from another and that affects the behaviors of members of an organization (Xiaofu & Qiwen, 2007); often includes levels of principal power behaviors and teacher behaviors.

Supportive Principal Behavior: Helpful, providing constructive criticism and a positive example through hard work (Hoy, 2005).

Perceived: The way an individual feels about a situation, whether those personal feelings are backed by evidence or not; in this case, focusing on the support of the principal.

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