Study of Burnout in English Language Teachers
Info: 5509 words (22 pages) Dissertation
Published: 11th Dec 2019
Tagged: TeachingMental Health
Generally, individuals who work face to face with people may experience burnout. Burnout can be a primary cause to an individual who suffers from this symptoms and also people around them (Landeche, 2009). Moreover, this syndrome affects people who work in helping professions or other client-centered fields (Schutte, Toppinen, Kalimo, & Schaufeli, 2000).
The idea of burnout was formed by Herbert Freudenberger in 1974 as wearing down or draining out of energy (Freudenberger & North, 1985). In addition, Freudenberger (1974), state that burnout “is not a situation that gets better by being ignored. Nor is it any kind of disgrace. On the opposite, it’s a problem born of good intentions.” Burnout may render people unable to cope with their problems; however, those who are able to cope with their problems of work issues may perform better at their jobs. In the teaching profession, the phenomenon of burnout has often been studied and has globally been well accepted as being problematic and uncertain for teachers (Cherniss, 1995; Guglielmi & Tatrow, 1998).
Folkman (1984) relates burnout with stress; it is a combination of mental and physical symptoms. This psychological react as “long-term exhaustion and diminished interest” and it may take a long period to blow up to the surface. In addition to that, high level of stress for considerable periods of time could increase burnout characteristics including less sympathy and understanding towards students, reduced acceptance of students, failure to set up lessons and a lack of commitment to the teaching profession (Dorman, 2003).
Ingersoll and Smith (2003) mentioned that teacher burnout is often known as a main source of teacher retention phase. At present, teachers in Malaysia are facing extensive pressure from all the changes taking place in the education system due to the Malaysia Plan. About 4 out of 27 Institut Pendidikan Guru Malaysia (IPGM) (Teachers Training Institutes) will focus on teacher training of English language teachers. Besides, the government will assess and monitor the effectiveness of the program constantly and will provide some inventive to empower students with English language (Tenth Malaysia Plan, 2010). This idea has increased ESL teachers’ workload and hence brings about the assumption that their burnout level has also risen.
To make the above statement clearer, the teaching periods had increased from 90 – 240 to 330 minutes a week for primary 1, 2 and 3. Meanwhile, for primary 4, 5 and 6 it has increased from 90 – 210 minutes to 300 minutes a week. The changes also do not exclude secondary schools ESL teachers, whereby their teaching periods had increased from 80 – 200 to 280 minutes a week. Further, literature reports that workload or work tasks have increased and education system transformation, societal changes and multitasking have caused teachers’ work to increase in intensity (Brante, 2009). Moreover, the changes of moral and normative quality of teachers’ work (where teachers are expected to influence students’ lives to a greater level than in the past) also have caused teachers’ work to become more complicated and intense (Brante, 2009).
The complexity of the tiredness situation develops negative job feelings, low professional in self-perceptive and losing of empathy for clients (Maslach & Pines, 1984). According to this characterization, the burnout syndrome consists of three dimensions: emotional exhaustion felt by people who cooperate extensively with other people, depersonalization and diminished personal accomplishment. Emotional exhaustion is indicated by lack of energy and the consumption of a person’s emotional wealth. Depersonalization results in the form of impassiveness and cynicism toward co-workers, clients, and the organization. Finally, diminished personal accomplishment is a tendency to assess oneself negatively (Maslach, 1982; Maslach & Jackson, 1981; Pines & Maslach, 1980). According to Maslach (1976), people who always have interactions with others can undergo consistent emotional pressure.
Burke and Greenglass (1995) suggested that burnout includes three components “that are conceptually diverse but empirically related” (p.188). In this line, Schaufeli and Buunk (2002) consider the occurrence of teachers’ difficulties is characterized in three dimensions, including (1) a physical dimension concerning exhaustion as an external symptom, (2) a mental distancing from regular teacher activities, and (3) a reduced professional effectiveness.
Considering all of these measures which contribute to teacher burnout, the purpose of this study took its shape. The study primarily aims to investigate the level of burnout in a selected group of English language teachers in Putrajaya primary and secondary schools. Additionally, it seeks to find out whether their working experience or teaching level can determine their level of burnout.
1.2 Statement of Problem
Teachers are often physically and emotionally challenged; therefore, they may experience burnout. Teacher burnout has been shown to have negative effects on teacher and student performance (Huberman & Vandenberghe, 1999; Maslach & Leiter, 1999). Here a clear picture can be seen that stresses an important issue in most educational systems today.
Research on elementary school teachers in the United States shows that working experience can influences teacher burnout (Cheek, Bradley, Parr & Lan, 2003). In line with that, research in Malaysia also indicates teachers from different working experience categories suffer varying levels of burnout (Mukundan & Khandehroo, 2009).
Besides, a research in Hong Kong primary and secondary school teachers perceived different level of stress (Alan, Chan, Chen, Elaine & Chong, 2010). Whereas most research carried out in European and North American Countries indicated high levels of burnout among primary school teachers (Mearns & Cain, 2003). In Malaysia, primary and secondary school teachers also suffered from stress (NUTP, 2005).
Demographic factors have been found much related to burnout syndrome among teachers in various studies. Most of the studies focused on age, gender, marital status, education attainment and job satisfaction, but very few focused on working experience among specific subject teachers (Mukundan & Khandehroo, 2009). Moreover, not much studies done in federal administrative centre of Malaysia like Putrajaya. Meanwhile, the education system and administration also has been graded as very outstanding.
Given the relative paucity of research in this area in Malaysia, it is important to study the effect of teachers’ working experience and teaching level on burnout.
1.3 Objectives of Study
The present study is an attempt to determine the level of burnout among a group of English language teachers in a number of primary and secondary schools in Putrajaya, Malaysia. The specific objectives of the study are as follows:
- To determine the level of burnout dimensions of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment among the sample.
- To compare the sample’s burnout levels in reference to their working experience.
- To compare the sample’s level of burnout in reference to their teaching level.
1.4 Research Questions
The research questions of the study are as follows:
- What is the level of emotional exhaustion among ESL teachers in Putrajaya?
- What is the level of depersonalization among ESL teachers in Putrajaya?
- What is the level of personal accomplishment among ESL teachers in Putrajaya?
- Is there a significant difference between high (10 years and above) and low (below 10 years) experienced teachers’ scores of burnout dimensions?
- Is there a significant difference between the ESL primary and secondary school teachers’ scores of burnout dimensions?
1.5 Significance of Study
At this small-scale level, the findings from this study will provide valuable information for both schools (primary and secondary) ESL teachers in Putrajaya. By having this information, teachers and stake holders may realize and more aware of the current situations.
School is a centre in promoting education to students. In educational setting, students relate to many different professionals who assist them in pursuing and achieving their educational goals. Teachers have important roles in the teaching- learning network. Maslach (1976) notes that the teaching career is relatively flat with little opportunity for hierarchical advancement, and regardless of how many hours teachers work, there is very little opportunity for additional pay. Based on this, it is expected that this study will help ESL teachers especially to be more professional in managing their work and to help them to reduce their burnout level. In addition, the study contributes to ESL teachers and administrators’ awareness of the can factors that lead to burnout. This will prevent the teacher from being overly stressed or burnt out at work.
This study looks into the burnout occurrence with relation to working experience among ESL teachers in Putrajaya schools. It also tries to determine primary and secondary school ESL teachers’ level of burnout. It is one of the steps to have ‘healthy’ teachers ensure effective teaching performance. The significance of this study lies on the data collection regarding the burnout and working experience among primary and secondary school ESL teachers in Malaysia. It can lead to a better reduction of stress among the English as Second Language teachers in Putrajaya.
The findings of the study can provide useful information for the decision makers to help the ESL teachers as increased stress levels would affect the education system. Moreover, the administrators also have better understanding of the present educational situation and this will improve teachers’ efficiency in primary and secondary schools in Putrajaya and consequently result in students’ better performance.
1.6 Limitation of Study
This study was limited to primary and secondary school ESL teachers in Federal Territory of Putrajaya only. As such, the findings may not be generalized to all primary and secondary schools ESL teachers in Malaysia.
In addition according to Krejcie and Morgan (1970) the researcher required a sample size of 113. However, only 79 respondents cooperated for this study. The ESL teachers who were excluded in this study were in courses, doing further study, on medical leave and maternity leave and some of them were on personal leave.
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms
Burnout :Freudenberger (1974) defined burnout as one of the chronic exhaustion and frustration resulting from continued commitment to a goal or principle that has unsuccessful to produce a corresponding reward. Within the scope of the present study, burnout refers to ESL teachers’ experience of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment based on the well-known definition by Maslach (1976) as well as Maslach and Jackson (1981).
Emotional Exhaustion : Feelings of being emotionally overextended and exhausted by one’s daily conflict in work. In this study, following Gavrilovici (2007), the term is defined as the lack of passion and the sense of emotional draining by other people among the teachers. As the first dimension of burnout, emotional exhaustion in this study is measured by items like
I feel emotionally drained from my work
Depersonalization: An insensitive and impersonal response toward receivers of one’s concern, care, service or instruction (Maslach, Jackson, & Leiter, 1996). Thus, it can result in the form of impassiveness and cynicism toward co-workers, clients and the organization(Ali & Hamdy, 2005). In this study, it is measured by items like
I feel I treat some students as if they were impersonal objects
Personal Accomplishment : It is defined as feelings of competency and successful achievement in one’s work and one’s self capability in classroom and professional efficacy (Gavrilovici, 2007). In this study, items like
I feel I am positively influencing other people’s lives through my work, helped the researcher measure teachers’ personal accomplishment.
In this chapter the previous studies on burnout and its three dimensions are presented. Next, studies that investigated burnout and its connection with working experience are discussed. The chapter also includes a review of the literature on burnout in relation to teaching levels of primary and secondary schools. Finally, the theoretical and conceptual frameworks of the study are discussed.
2.2 Studies Related to Burnout and its Dimensions
Ideally, the teaching profession should be seen as effect ion of love in work and enthusiastic; however, various studies have shown that today it has been changed as a stressful job (Travers & Cooper, 1996; Kyriacou, 2001; Kyriakides, Campbell & Christofidou, 2002). Moreover, today’s teaching job is quite complicated as teachers have to carry out not only teaching but also matters associated with curriculum, students, parents, the school community and departmental initiatives. According to Smylie (1999), “These are tough times to be a teacher” (p. 59). These issues of distress in the teaching profession may be the culprits for increased burnout levels.
Generally, individuals who work face to face with people may experience burnout. Burnout can be a primary cause to an individual who suffers from this symptoms and also people around them (Landeche, 2009). Burnout in the teaching profession has frequently been investigated and has globally been well accepted as being problematic for teachers (Cherniss, 1995; Guglielmi & Tatrow, 1998).
Burnout was first introduced by Herbert Freudenberger in 1974. It was defined as wearing down or draining out of energy (Freudenberger & North, 1985). Burnout may render people unable to cope with their problems. Those who are unable to cope with their problems of work issues may exhibit a lower level of job performance quality.
Burnout is a sophisticated state of mental strain, the center of which is emotional exhaustion (Maslach & Jackson, 1981). The thought of going to work is a common symptom of emotional exhaustion. Often this can be exacerbated as individuals become frustrated or angry with themselves as they realize they cannot give the same kind of enthusiasm as in the past to the company or administrator. However, New York Magazine stated burnout is “a problem that’s both physical and existential, an untidy conglomeration of external symptoms and personal frustrations” (Senior, 2006).
Burnout results from a form of chronic stress associated with the everyday interactions and close contact with others that is required in people’s work (Pennington, 1992). Teachers are among the people that are highly exposed to burnout because they entertain their students’ every day in school. Teaching line at times can be very dissatisfying and it is a painstaking job (Cikla & Duatepe, 2004).
Most of burnout research that had been done has been limited to the helping profession (e.g., nursing, education, social work); however, the construct is pervasive, cutting across many types of organizations and jobs (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993). In conjunction with that, Stoeber and Rennert (2008) conducted research involving different cultures. They found that school teachers have one of the highest levels of work stress. Societal changes, increased workload or work tasks, education system transformation, change of moral and normative quality of teachers’ work (where teachers are expected to influence students’ lives to a greater level than in the past), and multitasking have caused teachers work to increase in intensity and become more complicated (Brante, 2009).
Burnout can develop negative job feelings, low professional in self-perceptive and losing of empathy for clients (Maslach & Pines, 1984). The burnout syndrome is explained in three dimensions: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and diminished personal accomplishment (Maslach & Pines, 1984). According to Maslach (1976), people who always have interactions with others can undergo repetitious emotional pressure.
The construct of emotional exhaustion imply the thoughts of overtiredness and overextension caused by every day work force, and workplace conflicts. While, depersonalization is referring to the growth of negative feelings and impersonal responses towards the people they works closely which affect the continual relations among helpers (for example, teachers) and clients (for example, students). Reduced personal accomplishment means a loss of self esteem and work accomplishment as a consequence of limited positive feedback and recognition and competency in personal affairs at work (Maslach & Jackson, 1981; Rowe, 1998).
In line with that, Burke and Greenglass (1995) suggested that burnout which includes three components “that are conceptually diverse but empirically related” (p.188). Schaufeli and Buunk (2002) considered the occurrence of teachers’ difficulties is characterized in the three dimensions, including (1) a physical dimension concerning to exhaustion as an external symptom, (2) a mental distancing from regular teacher activities, and (3) a reduced professional effectiveness.
Some studies indicate stress can occur due to the workload increment, mischievous students, parent-teacher relationship issues, misunderstandings among colleagues, no support or very poor school leadership and lack of autonomy (Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2007). The longer a teacher works, the less job satisfaction they exhibit. This paves the way to an increase in emotional exhaustion (EE) and a reduction in personal accomplishment (PA).
Most recognized that teaching profession has one of the largest occupational pressures. Burnout influences most of the teachers at some point of their teaching profession (Cheek, Bradley, Parr & Lan, 2003; Dorman, 2003; Schwab & Iwanicki, 1982). Teachers’ burnout can have consequences for their professions (Wood & McCarthy, 2002). Moreover, when burnout increases in teachers’ profession, it makes them hate their career and it affects their students’ achievement (Dworkin, 1985). Farber and Miller (1981) notable that teachers who experience symptoms of burnout might:
- be less sympathetic with their students
- have low tolerance for frustration
- not plan often or carefully
- consider or plan to leave the profession all together
- report feelings of emotional or physical exhaustion on a frequent basis
- be depressed, irritable, and anxious
From the professional point of view, burnout can lead to a significant fall in teaching performance, frequent absenteeism due to illness and early retirement. Teachers who suffer from burnout may behave rigidly towards their students, and have negative and low expectations of students, and they may feel exhausted emotionally and physically, and show low levels of involvement in teaching or concern for their students (Maslach, 1976; Spaniol & Caputo, 1979; Farber & Miller, 1981).
In the United States, teacher burnout has become a topic receiving national attention (Blase, 1986; Huston 1989). A survey of American literature by Farber (1991) showed that approximately 5-20 percent of all teachers in the United States will be burned out at a given moment in their career.
In Malaysia, the unease over job-related stress, experienced by school teachers, has been raised to a great extent by the National Union of the Teaching Profession or NUTP (Abdul Muin Sapidin, 2005). As it can be observed from the findings of the local research in both primary and secondary schools a considerable proportion of teachers suffer from stress. The teachers who experienced high levels of stress, in each research, included 17.5% (Mokhtar Ahmad, 1998), 21.3% (Mohd Razali Othman & Abd. Mat Abg. Masagus, 1998) and 36.8% (Malakolunthu, 1994). These researchers have reported various factors as the sources of stress in their samples, including students’ attitude, workload, and having to teach poorly motivated students. A research by Mukundan and Khandehroo (2009) found that burnout was evident among Malaysian English teachers at high levels in all dimensions. However, there is a lack of attempt to measure the burnout level involved in ESL teaching in the country.
2.3 Studies Related to Working Experience and Burnout
Teacher development is a dynamic journey. The occurrence of work stress of teachers has increased in recent years. While educators were a strong element in influencing education resolution and encouraged by varies class of people since 30 to 40 years ago, this begin to change particularly starting the mid-70s (Iwanicki, 1983; Gunduz, 2005). Until now, more than 1,000 studies on burnout done by the researchers and it can be considered the “gold standard” research where teachers who have spent many years in the profession also been involved (Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998).
The demographics variables that may influence burnout include the teacher’s age, gender, marital status, education background, working hours, time spent in former workplace, experience, sensitivity of their job and their self perceptions about quality of teaching (Johnson, Gold & Knepper, 1984; Qtd. in Aksoy, 2007, p. 20).
Researchers have found that age and teaching experience are related to teacher stress level (Yahaya, Hashim, & Kim, 2005). Moreover, studies carried out in Malaysia identified several factors contributing to stress and burnt out at work among teachers, such as years of experience in teaching (Mokhtar, 1998), the feelings of responsibility and working environment (Ismail, 1998), the school type and perceptions of inadequate school facilities (Chan, 2006) and use of information technology (Hanizah, 2003).
Moreover, studies have shown that teachers’ burnout often experiences an aggravated phase at some point in the middle of their teaching experience that is about teaching after 15 years or so. This is when teachers may feel frustrated with teaching or working to meet the level of step-down. As a result, they often feel helplessness and fatigue. In American and Australian study found that newer teachers were more likely to experience higher burnout than more experienced ones (Crane & Iwanicki, 1986; Pierce & Molloy, 1990). The relationship between the level of burnout and teaching experience may be explained by the intention that feeling burnout could be reduced as a result of trained maturity.
Attention to the teacher’s experience is also given by Konert (1997). She suggests that better coping skills with students have been developed by more experienced teachers than less experienced teachers, and they might have acquired more realistic expectations over the time about their profession.
Generally, teachers who are less experienced are in need of help from their seniors or experienced teachers. The experienced teachers will try to solve the problem by themselves. However, these teachers also need to sacrifice their time. This indicates experience could also be a crucial factor that can influence burnout. Leong (1995) stated that development of effective methodology to cope with various factors that lead to stress may be handled more effectively by the teacher with more experience.
Studies showed that a teacher without experience is more likely to be an ‘interventionist’ than a highly experienced teacher (Martin et al., 2002). On the other hand, another study shows that an experienced teacher is more likely to be an ‘interventionist’ (Martin et al., 2002). Here the ‘interventionist’ refers to the teachers’ beliefs and attitudes toward classroom management in three broad dimensions which are instructional management, people management, and behavior management with reference to working experience. More research is required to resolve such inconsistencies in previous research findings.
Less experienced teachers may suffer from burnout as a result of a feeling of powerlessness. A teacher who experiences low self-esteem and out-of-the-way from students will not be able to perform well. Shukla and Trivedi (2008) state that, “Burnout is not a trivial problem but it is an important parameter of a major social dysfunction in the work place” (p. 324).
In addition to that, teacher burnout has been shown to have negative effects on teacher and student performance (Huberman & Vandenberghe, 1999; Maslach & Leiter, 1999). Teachers who are confused on their job specifications will develop feelings of depersonalization. Dissatisfaction and increases in tiredness, increases with work pressures, and role conflict (Viswesvaran et al., 1999). Again, less experienced teachers may feel high levels of burnout as they have to cope with the changes in a new environment. Less experienced teachers are more likely to experience burnout and conflict-inducing attitudes towards the students (Sava, 2001).
In a study in southwest United States, 51 elementary school teachers were involved in the study using music therapy techniques to treat teacher burnout (Cheek, Bradley, Parr & Lan, 2003). The results showed that burnout also influences most teachers at some point in their working experiences (Cheek et. al., 2003). A study on the age and years of teaching experience of the agriculture teacher are related to depersonalization scores and no significant relationships were found between years of teaching experience and emotional exhaustion and personal accomplishment (Croom, 2003). Obviously, as teachers grow older and more experienced, they will alleviate coping skills in tendency to treat students in an impersonal manner.
In line with that, teaching competency is an additional determining stressor for less experienced teachers with limited training, as research shows significant differences between the novice and the experienced, the trained and untrained, as well as those with and without full qualifications (Chan & Juriani, 2010). In other words, teaching capability is a factor which causes the teachers who lack training and experience to feel more stressful than the other teachers.
In Malaysia, a study by Mukundan and Khandehroo (2009) indicated less experienced ESL teachers had a higher level of emotional exhaustion as compared to experienced teachers. Such findings imply that less experienced teachers are more responsive to their students than the experienced ones.
In contrast, Hong Kong studies found that no significant difference has been found between teachers with various years of teaching experience in perceived stress level (Alan, Chan, Chen, Elaine & Chong, 2010).
However, connection can be seen from previous study in Turkey. It involves 523 teachers from 50 primary public schools. The researcher sought to find out to what extent teaching experience variables predict burnout among primary school teachers. The results of the study indicated that working experience can be considered as significant predictors of emotional exhaustion dimension of burnout (YalçÄ±n Ozdemir, 2007).
From the literature it may be seen that burnout is a complex issue that should be addressed in reference to working experience. In the present study, another variable which is teaching level and the literature related to it will be discussed.
2.4Studies Related to Teaching Level and Burnout
Studying on the issue of burnout among primary and secondary school teachers is important for the administration and teachers to work together to improve the working environment and reduce the burnout.
In Malaysia, a survey conducted among 9,000 primary, secondary and technical school teachers revealed that 67% of Malaysian teachers suffer from stress (NUTP, 2005).
From a few existing studies in the literature, researchers found primary and secondary school teachers in Hong Kong perceived different levels of stress. Teachers of primary schools perceived a significantly higher level of stress than those in secondary schools. Issues of class cuts and teachers’ career instability could be the main reasons for such results (Alan, Chan, Chen, Elaine & Chong, 2010).
A study on the relationship between primary school teachers’ burnout and some of their demographic variables in Turkish cities found that burnout levels of the teachers are low (Cikla & Duatepe, 2004). By contrast, a study in Antalya, Turkey by Ali (2009) considers the relationship between teachers’ burnout and organizational health in primary schools. The findings show that teachers’ burnout level is low in emotional exhaustion and personal accomplishment and high in depersonalization.
Based on a study conducted on emotion regulation ability, burnout and job satisfaction among British secondary school teachers it was found that a significant relationship exists between emotion regulation ability and a component of burnout, personal accomplishment (Brackett, Palomera, Mojsa, Reyes & Salovey, 2010). However, a study on emotional intelligence and locus of control as predictors of burnout among secondary school teachers in Ondo State, Nigeria indicated that both emotional intelligence and locus of control significantly could predict burnout among secondary school teachers (Akomolafe & Popoola, 2011).
In Malaysia, it was found that English teachers (n=184) teaching in Malaysian primary and secondary schools in Malacca experience burnout at high levels in all three dimensions of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment (Mukundan & Khandehroo, 2009). In addition, in a research project conducted by Segumpan and Bahari (2006) among 1209 teachers from 14 secondary schools in Malacca, it was found that 57.2% of the respondents had high stress levels because of the students’ misbehavior. In contrast, in a study on stress among teachers in secondary schools in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia, it was found that 74% of secondary school teachers experienced low levels of stress (Azlihanis, Nyi Nyi, Aziah, Rusli, & Mohd Rahim, 2009).
Moreover, a study showed that role conflict, role ambiguity, role overload, and lack of administrative support significantly predict burnout among girls’ secondary school teachers in Kinta, Perak (Leong, 1995). In line with that, another study in Kinta, Perak showed that burnout among teachers are significantly related to social support, working environment and role overload. The boys’ secondary school teachers were experience higher level of burnout and teachers from girls’ secondary schools experience low level of burnout (Mohd Puat, 1998).
As it can be seen from the reviewed literature, there is very little research on burnout and the teaching level and hence a need for further studies.
2.5 Theoretical and Conceptual Framework of the Study
Figure 1 shows the theoretical framework for this study. Basically, emotional exhaustion plus depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment will influence burnout. In specific terms, a high score on the emotional exhaustion subscale and a high score on depersonalization subscale and a low score on personal accomplishment subscale will indicate a high level of burnout: (EE + DP) – PA = BURNOUT.
Based on this theoretical framework, the following conceptual framework was proposed (Figure 2):
Figure 2: Conceptual framework
As the figure shows, the independent variables (IV) are working experience of ESL teachers (>10 years and <10 years) and their teaching level (primary and secondary schools). The dependent variables (DV) are emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment which may identify the burnout level among primary and secondary schools ESL
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