Educational Research/studies

Burnout may be contagious among newer teachers: study

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East Lansing, MI – Less-experienced teachers are more likely to experience burnout if co-workers feel the same way, suggests a recent study from researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Virginia.

The researchers surveyed data from 171 teachers who had taught for less than four years and 289 more-experienced teachers who were their mentors or close colleagues. The results showed a strong connection between burnout among the inexperienced teachers and school-wide burnout.

“If you are surrounded by people who are downcast or walking around under a pall of burnout, then it has a high chance of spilling over, even if you don’t have direct contact with these folks,” Kenneth Frank, study co-author and Michigan State professor, said in a July 10 press release.

Schools should provide better resources for inexperienced teachers, such as proper classroom materials, support staff, improved professional development and more preparation time, study lead author Jihyun Kim said.

“These resources are critical not only for reducing teacher burnout, but also for closing gaps in students’ learning,” Kim said in the release.

Frank pointed to stress from certain educational policies – such as evaluations based on test scores, merit pay and a lack of input on which students are placed in their classes – as a reason for burnout.

“If school administrators and policymakers are serious about promoting retention and reducing burnout among novice teachers, they should be aware not just of the curriculum they are advocating, or their rules and policies for teachers,” he said. “They should also attend to how the organizational culture in their schools can have direct effects on burnout levels of their faculty.”

The study was published online May 11 in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education.

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