Stress Management to Enhance Teaching Quality and Teaching Effectiveness: A Professional Development Framework for Teachers

Stress Management to Enhance Teaching Quality and Teaching Effectiveness: A Professional Development Framework for Teachers

Elizabeth Hartney
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0204-3.ch007
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Teaching has been identified as one of the most stressful professions, with a high attrition rate resulting from teacher stress and burnout. This chapter addresses the problem of how to enhance teaching quality and effectiveness by providing teachers with professional development in stress management, specific to the stressors of teaching. Existing research has clearly identified the key stressors for teachers, and evidence-based stress management approaches have been shown to be effective in mitigating teacher stress and improving teaching quality. However, there is little evidence that such professional development approaches have become integrated into the teacher training or continuing professional development curricula for teachers. Consequently, the aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of how teaching quality can be improved with a professional development framework of targeted approaches in stress management, which are aligned with the needs of individual teachers and whole schools.
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The term “stress” has entered our everyday language and taken on a variety of meanings. For the purposes of this chapter, therefore, it is helpful to define what the discipline of psychology defines as stress. The term “stress” is commonly used to describe an unpleasant internal state, often triggered by external sources or “stressors;” for example, occupational stress arising from a difficult work environment. This description fits with early definitions of stress based on the body’s response to threat or danger, known as the “fight or flight” response (Cannon, 1932), through a process of alarm and exertion to escape or fend off an attack (Selye, 1956). Although Selye’s early work identified two types of stress -- distress (negative stress) and eustress (positive stress) -- the overwhelming focus of the stress and stress management literature to date, has been on the consequences, avoidance, and reduction of distress.

As research into stress and its effects has accumulated, so has the negativity with which stress is viewed. Not only does physiological research frame stress in terms of a response to imminent harm, it also evidences that stress causes direct and indirect damage to physical health. Numerous studies have confirmed Selye’s original hypotheses concerning the harmful effects of stress on the body. As a result, stress is implicated as a cause or a precipitating factor in numerous diseases, ranging from everyday health problems such as the common cold (Cohen, Tyrrell, & Smith, 1991) and the healing of wounds (Marucha, Kiecolt-Glaser, & Favagehi, 1998) to life-threatening conditions, such as coronary heart disease (Kivimaki et al., 2002) and cancer (Laudenslager, Ryan, Drugan, Hyson, & Maier, 1983). Additionally, the evidence shows that stress directly or indirectly triggers a variety of mental health problems, ranging from common conditions such as depression (Shu Mi et al., 2015) and anxiety (Wiegner, Hange, Björkelund, & Ahlborg, 2015), to rare mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder (Weiss et al., 2015) and schizophrenia (Corcoran et al., 2003). Over the longer term, exposure to stress is implicated in the majority of physical and mental disorders (Sapolsky, 2004).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Distress: An internal state of negative stress, which is unwelcome, uncomfortable, or exceeds the capacity of the individual experiencing it to cope.

Burnout: A state of exhaustion, loss of concern for others, and reduced performance resulting from extended exposure to professional stressors beyond the individual’s capacity to cope.

School Climate: A holistic term, capturing the essential qualities and character of a school, including its norms, goals, values, relationships, teaching quality and effectiveness, organization and environment. A positive school climate promotes learning and supports students and staff in performing optimally, through strong leadership and inclusion of parents, experts, and the community.

Stress: An internal state of physical and psychological stimulation, which may be harmful or beneficial, depending on the interpretation and response of the individual experiencing it.

Eustress: An internal state of positive stress, which promotes creativity, problem solving, and optimal performance.

Rustout: A state of boredom, fatigue, frustration, and dissatisfaction resulting from under-stimulation at work.

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