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Teaching Essays| Teacher Stress

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Teaching
Wordcount: 5393 words Published: 18th Apr 2017

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The problem of teacher stress was a great concern in Hong Kong. As in many media also mention that nowadays teachers are suffers from great pressure.

Professional teacher’s union (2005) has conducted a survey and the results showed that 28% of teachers always have more than five burnout symptoms. The situation is serious as such a high percentage of teachers complained about burnout. It would affect the quality of teaching and the quality of life among teachers. The situations have been for a long time. The professional teachers’ union of Hong Kong (1995) also conducted a survey on teacher stress. 1000 questionnaires were distributed to its members by random sampling method in January 1995, with a return rate of 45 per cent. The results showed that 61 per cent of the respondent found teaching stressful. The main sources of stress are: students’ unruly behavior, large class size, too much marking, too much clerical work and so on.

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Recent research finding has suggested that when worker suffer from prolonged stress of the organizational factor, they are potentially to have burnout. There are few study conducted in Hong Kong to investigate the correlation between work stress and burnout. In this study, I would like to find which stress factor contribute to teacher three dimension of burnout in Hong Kong.

Definition of Burnout

Burnout is a term used to describe people who are physically and psychologically burnout. Burnout is defined originally by Freudenberger to describe health-care workers who were physically and psychologically burnt out (Byrne, 1994). It means people would deplete themselves and when they experience burnout, they would feel their physical and mental resources have been exhaust. The reason to get burnout because people wear out themselves by excessively to strive or reach some unrealistic expectation, so burnout is developed gradually over time as a result of excessive demands derived from task structure.

The concept distinguishes between work stress and burnout is when people have stress. Stress can have negative or positive effects. Positive side is mean that people have average and suitable stress can motivate people work hard and to attain the goal. But burnout is a long term negative result of work stress. Burnout has been viewed as one type of chronic response because of cumulative, long-term work stress experience.(Ling, 1995).If an employee is under stress for a prolonged period of time, he or she may finally come to a situation that he or she no longer cope with it. When individual feel that they are unable to maintain the caring, this finally leads to the feelings of burnout.

“Machach (1996) defines burnout syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment.” (Tony&Lillian,2007, p.469). So emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment is not exist separately, three of them are correlate each other.

Emotional exhaustion refers to the characteristic that individual experience that they seem lack of energy and feeling that their emotional energy is used up. This feeling can be come from that they feel frustration and tension in their workplace, so they appear compassion fatigue that they feel that their emotional and psychologically cannot continue to continue their work. Depersonalization is characterized that display a detached and an emotional callousness and cynical attitude toward their co-worker, clients or people surrounding in their workplace. When people under the state of depersonalization, they may use some derogatory word when communication with other people. They may withdrawal to communicate with other co-worker. When people appear reduce personal accomplishment, the characteristic is they would have a tendency to evaluate oneself negatively, they would not appreciate themselves even though they have contribution at work and even have a decline on feeling job competence and successful achievement in their work and interaction with people at work. (Coedes& Dougherty, 1993)

Burnout is a syndrome that affects employees in all occupations, but is especially prevalent among human services workers. Hasida and Keren (2007) indicated that burnout associate with people which the job is giving care to others . Burnout is occurs most in helping professional such as teachers, lawyers, physicians, nurses, social workers and psychotherapist.

According to Maslach and Jackson (1981), professional staff in human service, they have many opportunities in intense involvement with other people, and this interaction would have chance for staff is charge with feeling of anger, embarrassment, fear or despair. When people who work continuously with people under such circumstances, the chronic stress would leas emotional draining and have risk for burnout. There are more emotional strain is greatest for the individual who work in helping professions because they are constantly dealing with other people and their problems, their work need they have involve their emotion to client’s problem and face-to-face interaction with other people is emotional charged situations.

Cordes and Dougherty (1993) indicated that burnout is a process, the process of burnout is the sequencing of the three components of burnout, Maslach suggested that emotional exhaustion is first developed by the excessive chronic work demands, and this demand would drain individual’s emotional resources, thus individual would feel they lack of emotional energy and feeling of being worn out. Emotional exhaustion would lead ones distant oneself from self from work, so depersonalization may be viewed as a type of avoidance coping mechanism used to cope with emotional exhaustion. Depersonalization seem provide an emotional buffer between individual and the stress induced by emotional demand of the job. Depersonalization is a unique response to burnout.Then when people recognized that their current attitude and their original expectation of performance in the work is discrepancy. Diminish the feeling of personal accomplishment were developed. Individual would feel that their ability is not enough to care other people and perform their job.

Janssen, Schauffi and Houkes (1999) have mentioned that emotional exhaustion is significantly positively related with depersonlization. (r=0.33) And there are significant negatively related between depersonalization and personal accomplishment (r=0.38)

Based on the previous findings, the research question in this study is how three dimensions of burnout are related to each other. The two related hypotheses are formulated. The first hypothesis is there are positive association between emotional exhaustion and depersonalization. The second hypothesis is there are negative association between depersonalization and personal accomplishment.

Consequence of burnout

Burnout has negative consequence on organization, as burnout would affect employee performances.

In organization, burnout would affect people’s psychological factor. It would result in low morale, absenteeism, more frequency of tardiness, work alienation, physical and emotional ill-health, teachers leaving the professional, early job retirement. This factor would make organization loss many experienced and experienced people. (Baker, O’Brien & Salahuddin, 2007; Pines & Aronson, 1988). The burnout have been linked with a variety of mental and physical health problems. The effect of mental health is decrease in self-esteem, depression, irritability, helplessness and anxiety. Physical health problems include fatigue, insomnia, headache. (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993)In the field of influence the quality of education, burnout would decrease the quality of teaching because teacher’s performance’s decline. Ioannou and Kyriakides (2007) indicated that when people experience burnout, they would accompany several symptoms, such as physical depletion, feeling disillusionment, they would develop negative attitude toward the work. Teachers experiencing burnout tend to be dogmatic about their practices and to rely rigidly on structure and routine.

If people suffer form burnout, it would affect their attitude toward others and it would affect the quality of social relationship. Ioannou and Kyriakides(2007) indicated that if teacher suffer form burnout, they would have poor interpersonal relationships with colleague and students. Tatar and Yahav (1999) also indicated that generally burned-out teacher provide significantly less information, less praise, and less acceptable of their student’s ideas, and they interact them less frequently. The burnout syndrome would affect the teacher perception of their student as when people have suffer from burnout, as teacher would lower student’s ability and usually they would provide little positive feedback for students’ answer. Abel and Sewell (1999) also indicated that the consequence of burnout would reduced teacher-pupil rapport and pupil motivation.

Teachers are the key persons in the frontline to ensure the quality of teaching to provide to the next generation. So it is important to investigate the situation of burnout phenomenon of teachers in Hong Kong nowadays.

Work stress

Tam and Mong (2005) indicated job stress means people experience psychological state which is incongruence and misfit between worker’s perceptions of the demands on them and their ability to cope with those demand

Abel and Sewell (1999) used transactional model to defined stress, this model emphasized that stress depends on individual’s cognitive appraisal of events and circumstance at work and the perception of owns ability to cope with. The experience of stress is due to perception of demand and inability to meet this demand, and finally threat teacher’s mental or physical well-being.

Teacher stress

Many studies have been done to identify the causes of stress in teaching. Previous factor analytic studies have identified identify guidance work, school management, student behavior management, workload and time pressure and work relationship is source of stress in Hong Kong. Workload and time pressure are the commonly reported stress in Hong Kong. As in several reports also reported that teachers have to work overload and it is one of the major sources of stress. (Professional teachers’ union of Hong Kong ,2005)

Work stress and burnout

There are many research have done before had indicated that work stress is related to burnout.

Capel.(1991) indicated that individual differences and personality alone can not predict burnout. Because burnout is affected by the long-term impact of stressor come from environmental stressor.

In Kokkinos(2007) measured the relationship between job stressor and burnout in primary school teachers. It used 63 job stressor which have 11 subscales of work stress, it is student’s behavior, managing student’s misbehavior, decision making, relationships with colleagues, role ambiguity, poor working conditions, appraisal of teachers by students, work overload, appraisal of teachers, time constraints, specific teaching demands. This study run correlation analyses, it showed that emotional exhaustion and depersonalization were significantly positively correlated with all job stressor. And work stress was negative correlated with personal accomplishment.

I would use teacher stress scale designed by Hui and Chan (1996) to measure teacher stress in Hong Kong, as this scale is 20 relevant items were selected form the 55 items in factor analysis. This scale have been conducted in Hong Kong secondary school, it is more representative in present study as my target participant is secondary school teachers in Hong Kong.

Based on these finding, I formulate the these hypothesis. The third hypothesis is there are positive association between work stress and emotional exhaustion. The forth is there are positive association between work stress and depersonalization. The fifth hypothesis is there are negative association between work stress and personal accomplishment.

Guidance work

Apart from teaching student academic knowledge in school. Teacher in Hong Kong also have responsibility to guide students in their individual development. Kyriacou (2001) indicated that many teachers in Hong Kong have been given additional duties in school guidance work in order to improve the quality of guidance. As a result, guidance work has become a part of every teacher’s workload in Hong Kong teachers. It is one of the responsibilities that Hong Kong teachers need to do in their routine of job. “In 1990, the Hong Kong Education commissions, a body which defines educational objectives and formulates education policy, formally endorsed guidance work as a responsibility of all teachers, thereby advocate a whole school approach to guidance” (Hui. & Chan,1996,p.201). Guidance work is a process of helping students in their self-understanding and self-development, and facilitate students in their educational, vocational, personal-social development.

Hui and Chan (1996) indicated that guidance aspect of works as a potential dimension of stress, until now it has not yet received much research attention. But it may lead teacher increase their workload as they have additional responsibilities in planning and monitoring whole school guidance programmes. Therefore it would become a part of every teacher’s workload. In Hui and Chan (1996) study, it indicated that guidance-related aspect of work is one of major dimension of stress in Hong Kong secondary teachers, they have most stress on individual guidance work, it includes guiding students with behavior, emotional and learning difficulties, the lack of improvement in students. Moreover, Lam, Yuon and Mak (1998) stated that teachers feel difficulty in guidance work is one of the factor which teacher feel difficulty they encounter in their work.

There is no research conducted on the relationship between stress on guidance work and burnout. But there are two factors are potential emerged from guidance work. The first one is guidance work increase workload to teacher and the other is guidance work may induce role conflict and role ambiguity for teacher. In the workload of guidance work, it may increase their workload as they are given additional responsibilities to plan, formulate and carry out the guidance work may be related to burnout. The workload and time pressure may be out of expectation. Teacher will devote more time and energy to perform their guidance work, it may make them work over time in this aspect.

Futhermore, Hui and Chan (1996) stated that teachers would have role conflict between guiding and teaching because there are different responsibility in guidance role and teacher role, and role ambiguity were other aspects of guidance work which constitute sources of stress for teachers.

Role theory stated that every role would have a set of expected behavior, such as teacher would have expected behavior such as teaching .Role conflicts would induce in the situations which two incompatible behavior are expected to one individual .Work role ambiguity occurs when the persons lack of clear, consistent information which have rights, duties, responsibility of the job (Manlove, 1994). Lack of clarify to perform job tasks or criteria for performance evaluations would lead role ambiguity. Manlove (1994) study proved that there are positively association between work ambiguity and emotional exhaustion there are positive association between work ambiguity and depersonalization and there are negative association between work ambiguity and personal accomplishment.

Based on these findings, I formulate three hypotheses on guidance work and three dimension of burnout. The sixth hypothesis is there are positive association between stress on guidance work and emotional exhaustion. The seventh hypothesis is there are positive association between stress on guidance work and depersonalization. The eighth hypothesis is there are negative association between stress on guidance work and personal accomplishment.

School management and burnout

Cheng and Ng (1994) indicated that the policy of school-based management is started in 1991. It is a new policy “school management initiative” issued by the education and Manpower Branch and Education Department; it is a reform of management in school in Hong Kong. This policy and reform focus on changing schools management style from external control management to school-based management. The purpose of reform is increase the quality of education and increase the effectiveness of management at school. In this new policy, every school’s administrative and management is decided by each school oneself. Every school would responsible for planning and structuring the school’s teaching system. School-based management can be viewed stressful if teacher cannot participate in school-base management.

Byrne (1994) indicated that one of the sources of stressor is lack of decision making in school. Lack of decision making means they lack of involvements in their quality of work life. If teacher perceived that they have not enough in participate in decision making, it would increase their opportunities to suffer from role conflict and role ambiguity.

Teacher autonomy is important for teachers as teacher working in work condition. When teacher contains higher autonomy, teacher would have higher satisfaction of their job. Autonomy in teaching professional means teacher can control themselves and their work in working environment. It include teacher have freedom to make prescriptive professional choice to decide appropriate service and activity to their students. Teacher would experience autonomy when they have freedom and opportunities to interfere or supervision on their teaching process, such as have autonomy to decide own teaching style. Moreover, autonomy also include it can give teacher freedom to participate in some collaborate decision-making which are relevant to the service of student and school policy. And autonomy can give teacher have right to formulate their own rule according to their own choosing. (Pearson & Moomaw, 2005). Maslach, Schaufeli and Leiter (2001) indicated that a lack of autonomy is correlated with burnout. Schwab, Jackson and Schuler (1986) indicated that there are correlation between autonomy and personal accomplishment. It using multiple regression, it find that autonomy of teacher have 12% variance to predict personal accomplishment. In contrast , lack of autonomy would lead to lower the personal accomplishment.

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Lack of participations gives employees a feeling of lack of control over critical aspects or demands of their work. Jackson, Schuler and Schuler (1986) found that lack of participation in decision making was linked to depersonalization. the reason behind is when individual perceived that they lack of participate in decision making, they would feel that they are in condition which is uncontrollable, so they feel helplessness and feel uncertainly of the operation in workplace. In order to cope with the situation, individuals will depersonalize their relationships with co-worker, clients or the organization.

Miller, Ellis, Zook and Lyles (1990) mentioned that participation in decision can decrease the role stress. As there are negative association between participation in decision making and role stress. And there are positive association between role stress and emotional exhaustion. It can explained that people participate in decision making can reduce role stress, and when role stress reduce, it can reduce emotional exhaustion. So it can explained that participation in decision making may reduce emotional exhaustion. I would make hypothesis that there are negative correlation between participation in decision making and emotional exhaustion.

Pearson and Moomaw (2005) indicated that several researcher have noted that lack of control or autonomy in one’s job contribute to burnout. Feeling of control and autonomy include employee can perceive they have opportunity on decision making on work schedule and develop the policies that directly affect their environment at work. Moreover, participation in decision making is significant correlate to burnout.

There are mentioned that there are there are negatively association between participant decision making and emotional exhaustion with r=-0.33. this means that when people have high participation in decision making, they would have lower emotional exhaustion.

Based in previous research, hence, we formulate three hypotheses which stress on school management and three dimension of burnout. The ninth hypothesis is there is positive association between stress on school management and emotional exhaustion. The tenth hypothesis is there is positive correlation between stress on school management and depersonalization. The eleventh hypothesis is there is negative correlation between stress on school management and personal accomplishment.

Student’s behavior management and burnout

Managing students’ behavior in classroom is one of the important responsibilities in teacher’s role, because teacher would perceive that they need to manage student’s behavior in classroom as they must be ensure that every students in classroom have equal opportunities to gain knowledge in classroom. But in some situation, there are some student do some misbehavior to distract the pace of teaching and affect the quality of teaching, such as many student talking at the same time, it would induce much noise which would affect other student acquire knowledge in classroom, so teacher have duty to prevent the situation which have influence normal teaching.

Hastings and Bham (2003) indicated that several researchers found that teachers identify student misbehavior as a source of stress. It would make teachers feel stress as there are no clear patterns or consistent action to handle different type of student misbehavior. Many studies paid attention on the association between teacher burnout and student misbehavior. Bilbou-Nakou, Stogiannidou and Kiosseoglou (1999) also indicated that difficulty in managing disruptive children have been presented as one of the major cause of burnout.

Friredman (2001) indicated that teachers perceive their students as the main source of burnout in their work because of different problems among different problems such as discipline problems in classroom, unsatisfactory achievement, and absenteeism. Teacher feel irksome to handle the student behavior which interfere with the teaching process. Student misbehavior includes disrespect behavior of student. It include students in class interrupt, derisive, quarrel each other, student’s in class all speak at the same time, which makes a lot of noises.

In Kokkinos (2007) study, there are positive relationship between managing student behavior and emotional exhaustion, with r is 0.53. There are positive relationship between managing student behavior and depersonalization, the r is 0.33. There are negative correlation between manage student behavior and personal accomplishment, the r is –0.20.

According to the results of previous studies, we formulate the three hypothesis between stress on student behavior management and three dimension of burnout. The twelve hypothesis is there are positive association between stress on student behavior management and emotional exhaustion. The thirteenth hypothesis is there are positive association between stress on student behavior management and depersonalization. The fourteenth hypothesis is there are negative association between stress on student behavior management and personal accomplishment.

Workload and burnout

Teacher experience high workload is a serious problem in Hong Kong. Professional teacher’s union of Hong Kong (2005) survey show that 35.6% teachers report that they have to work overtime for more than 21 hours per week and 14% of them have to work overtime even over 31 hours each week. It also mentioned that education reform is one of the sources to increase teachers’ workload as teachers have to do many things to keep pace on education reform. Education reform need teacher to do much extra time and effort to match with the pace of education reform.

Chan and Hui (1995) have explored teacher burnout in a study of 415 secondary school in Hong Kong have indicated that one of the major sources of stress was having too heavy workload. There are many duties for teachers in Hong Kong, it includes teaching, administration and clerical work, extracurricular activities and discipline and guidance work. Lam., Yuon and Mak (1998) found that the two major difficulties of secondary school teachers feel the most difficulties in work were heavy workload and insufficient time.

Santavirta ,Solovieva. And Theorell (2007) indicated that workload means people suffer from excessive demands under time pressure, and also mismatch between the demands of teacher and the teacher’s ability to cope with this demands.

Greenglass, Burke and Fiksenbaum (2001) demonstrated that workload was positively associated with emotional exhaustion in hospital nurses. It indicate that when nurse workload has increased and too heavy, they were more likely to experience emotional exhaustion.

Dr. Moises Salinas(2004) indicated that work overload in teacher include teachers experience excessive paper work, oversized classes filled with student of different academic abilities and the need for teachers to complete tasks beyond their knowledge base.

In Janssen, Schaufel and Houkes (1999) use conservation of resources theory, emotional exhaustion was primary associated with job demand such as work overload. It indicated that emotional exhaustion is positively related to work overload, whereas depersonalization and reduce personal accomplishment are not. Hence, i hypothesized that the fifteenth hypothesis is there are positive association between stress on workload/time pressure and emotional exhaustion

Work relationship and burnout

Social support has been seen as useful resources to let individual cope with stress efficiency. In moderating hypothesis, when individual who have supportive social relationship; they are able to rely on others to help them to deal with some problems in stressful situations, so they would perceive less stress and less affected by stress. In contrast, people who lack of supportive social relationships are vulnerable to the effect of stress. (Russell., Altmaier & Velzen, 1987)

The quality of work relationship with others could be one of stress at work. The nature of the relationship with one’s boss, subordinates, and colleagues can be a major source of stress at work. A trusting and caring environment in the organizations and an effective support system is essential in combating burnout. Burnout can be reduced if individual have good work relationship with others and better support systems at work. When individual have good work relation and support from others, people advice and support can act as tension reduction, help people achieving distance from the situation and a sense of shared responsibility. The stress can release in this situation and hence those people have social support and work relationship would have less prone to burnout. (Pines & Aronson, 1988)

Codes and Dougherty (1993) indicated that the effect of social support on stress and burnout have received extensive attention in literature. Social support has been identified have a role to buffer job-related stress. Social support can make individual has perception that they can cope with the situations by increasing their perception that others will provide the necessary resources. Greater perceived social support from co-workers or supervisor is associated with lower reported levels of burnout

Baker and O’Brien (2007) indicated that supervisor and coworker support are important sources of social support, relating to lower level of burnout in the workplace. Rebecca and Wendy (2007) indicated that supervisors and work colleagues are able to provide support in the form of relevant information and feedback, practical assistance and emotional support relevant to the stressful work situation, it can help individual can have more confidence in solving stress. Teachers with receive social support from supervisors reported less emotional exhaustion, more positive attitudes and greater personal accomplishment.

Cordes and Dougherty (1993) indicated that social support may cause the individual to redefine the bad situation at work and enhance the individual’s perceived ability to cope with the demand induced by the stressful workplace.

Maslach, Schaufeli and Leite (2001) indicated that social support is one source of job resources; they indicate that job resources can acts as buffer effect from the process of job demand and burnout. In this result, it indicated that lack of social support is linked to burnout.

Hasida and Keren(2007) mentioned that social support at work were negatively related to exhaustion, depersonalization and positively related to personal accomplishment.

Base on these findings, I formulated three hypotheses on stress on work relationship and burnout. The sixteenth hypothesis is there are positive association between stress on work relationship and emotional exhaustion. The seventeenth hypothesis is there are positive association between stress on work relationship and depersonalization. The eighteenth hypothesis is there are negative association between stress on work relationship and personal accomplishment.



The sample consists of 44 participants. In the aspect of gender, 20 were male and 24 were female. They were all full-time teaches in secondary school in Hong Kong. In the aspect of teaching experience, 14 participants have 5 years or less teaching experience, 5 participants have 6-10 years teaching experience, 25 participants have 11 years or more teaching experience. 21 participants are single and 20 are married. In the religion aspect, 14 participants have religion and 28particpants have no religion.


Teacher stress were assessed using the Teacher stress scale designed by Hui and Chan (1996) for Hong Kong teachers. There are 20 items which have five dimension of stress. It is stress on guidance work, school-based management, student behavior management, workload and work relationship. Teacher were requested to rate each item on 5-point scale ranging from 1to 5. 1 means “no stress”, 2 means “ mild stress”, 3 means “moderate stress”, 4 means “much stress”, 5 means “extreme stress”

Teacher burnout were assessed using Maslach burnout inventory. The three subscales of the MBI are emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment. Emotional exhaustion includes 9 items. Depersonalization contains 5 items, and personal accomplishment include 8 items. The 22 items are rated on a 7 –point-likert-type scale on which the respondent indicates how often a feeling has been experienced ranging from 0 (never) to 6 (everyday). 0 means “never”, 1 means “a few times a day, 2 means “monthly”, 3 means “a few times a month”,4 means “every week” , 5 means “a few times a week” and 6 means”everyday”

(Abel & Sewell, 1999; Maslach & Jackson, 1981)

The scoring of MBI using .Lau, Yuen and Chan (2005) indicated that scores of the MBI subscales is using the normative distribution, high if they fall into the upper third portion of the normative distribution average if they fall into the middle third and low if they fall into the lower third. As this study sample size is quite small, it would not representative to analysize using normative distribution. So I would use scoring based on the study in Lau, Yuen and Chan (2005) study. As their study was conducted in


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