Teaching Essays – Teacher Stress
Teaching Essays – Teacher Stress

Teaching Essays – Teacher Stress

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  • Pages: 16 (4183 words)
  • Published: October 21, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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The issue of instructor emphasis in Hong Kong is a major concern as multiple sources indicate that instructors are currently under significant pressure.

In 2005, a study by the Professional Teacher's Brotherhood revealed that over five symptoms of burnout were experienced by 28% of instructors. This high percentage is worrisome as it can have detrimental effects on both teaching quality and teachers' overall well-being. These situations have persisted for an extended period.

In January 1995, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Brotherhood conducted a study on teacher stress. They distributed 1000 questionnaires randomly to their members and received a response rate of 45%. The study found that 61% of respondents reported experiencing stress related to learning. This stress was primarily caused by factors such as disruptive student behavior, large class sizes, excessive marking, and excessive clerical work.

Recent research suggests that prolonged stress resulting from org


anizational factors can lead to employee burnout. However, there have been limited studies in Hong Kong investigating the connection between work stress and burnout.

The purpose of this survey is to investigate the factors that lead to teacher burnout in Hong Kong, with a specific focus on its three dimensions.

Definition of Burnout

Burnout is characterized by both physical and psychological exhaustion. First introduced by Freudenberger, it was initially employed to describe healthcare professionals who experienced extreme fatigue and mental stress (Byrne, 1994). This implies that individuals deplete their physical and mental resources, ultimately resulting in burnout. Burnout occurs when individuals exert excessive effort or hold unrealistic expectations, leading to prolonged demands from their responsibilities.

Experiencing stress can result in a differentiation between work emphasis and burnout, as stress has both positive and negative impacts. Moderate levels o

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stress can serve as motivation for individuals to exert effort and accomplish their objectives. However, burnout is an undesirable outcome that arises from prolonged and excessive dedication to work. It is considered a chronic response that emerges from continuous prioritization of work.

(Ling, 1995) If an employee is under stress for a long period of time, they may reach a point where they can no longer cope. This leads to feelings of burnout. Machach (1996) defines burnout as a syndrome that includes emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and decreased personal accomplishment (Tony & Lillian, 2007, p.469). These three factors are not separate; they are interconnected. Emotional exhaustion refers to the feeling of having no energy and using up all emotional resources. This can be caused by feelings of frustration and tension in the workplace, resulting in compassion fatigue and an inability to continue their work psychologically and emotionally.

Depersonalization is characterized by a detached and emotionally unfeeling attitude towards colleagues, clients, or people in the workplace. Those experiencing depersonalization may use derogatory language when communicating and may withdraw from interactions with colleagues. When personal achievement is reduced, individuals tend to view themselves negatively and may not appreciate their contributions at work. This can lead to a decrease in job competency and successful interactions with others at work. (Coedes & Dougherty, 1993)
Burnout is a syndrome that affects employees in all industries but is especially common among human services workers.

Hasida and Keren (2007) stated that burnout is most prevalent in occupations that involve attending to others, such as instructors, attorneys, doctors, nurses, social workers, and clinical psychologists. Additionally, Maslach and Jackson (1981) emphasized that professionals in human services often experience intense

interactions with people, which can lead to feelings of anger, embarrassment, fear, or desperation. Dealing continuously with people under these circumstances can result in chronic stress and emotional exhaustion, increasing the risk of burnout. Helping professions face particularly high levels of emotional strain due to consistently addressing other people's issues and requiring emotional involvement and face-to-face interactions in highly charged situations. Cordes and Dougherty (1993) explained that burnout consists of three components. From Maslach's perspective, the first component is emotional exhaustion caused by excessive work demands depleting an individual's emotional resources and leaving them feeling emotionally drained and exhausted.

Depersonalization, the act of distancing oneself from work, is a coping mechanism utilized to manage emotional exhaustion. It serves as an emotional buffer against stress caused by job demands and is a specific response to burnout. Recognizing a discrepancy between one's current attitude towards work and their initial performance expectations leads to reduced feelings of personal achievement.

According to Janssen, Schauffi, and Houkes (1999), there is a belief that individuals may feel inadequate in their ability to care for others and perform their job. In their study, they found a significant positive relationship (r=0.33) between emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, as well as significant negative relationships (r=0.38) between depersonalization and personal achievement. Building on these findings, this current study aims to examine the relationship between these three dimensions of burnout. Two hypotheses have been formulated: the first hypothesis proposes a positive correlation between emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, while the second hypothesis suggests a negative correlation between depersonalization and personal achievement.

Impact of Burnout

Burnout has numerous negative consequences for organizations. These consequences include impaired performance and poor public performance by burnt-out

employees. Additionally, burnout affects individuals' psychological well-being within the organization, resulting in reduced morale, increased absences and tardiness, disengagement from work, as well as physical and emotional health issues. Furthermore, burnout can lead experienced professionals to leave the organization prematurely and choose early retirement, causing a loss of valuable expertise for the organization (Baker, O'Brien ; Salahuddin, 2007; Pines ; Aronson, 1988).

Burnout is linked to various mental and physical health problems. Concerning mental well-being, burnout can result in diminished self-esteem, depression, irritability, weakness, and anxiety (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993). Potential physical health issues include fatigue, insomnia, and worry. The impact of burnout on education quality manifests as a decrease in teacher performance which ultimately lowers the standard of instruction. According to Ioannou and Kyriakides (2007), individuals suffering from burnout display symptoms like physical exhaustion, disillusionment, and a negative attitude towards their work.

Teachers suffering from burnout often display rigid teaching methods and heavily depend on established approaches. Burnout can negatively impact teachers' interactions with others and the overall quality of their relationships. According to Ioannou and Kyriakides (2007), burned-out teachers tend to have poor interpersonal relationships with colleagues and students. Tatar and Yahav (1999) also found that burnt-out teachers are generally less informative, supportive, and accepting of their students' ideas, as well as having fewer interactions with them. The burnout syndrome can influence how teachers perceive their students, often leading to a diminished opinion of their abilities and limited positive feedback for their responses.

According to Abel and Sewell (1999), burnout negatively impacts teacher-pupil resonance and pupil motivation, making it essential to examine the phenomenon among instructors in Hong Kong today. Tam and Mong (2005) defined work

stress as a psychological state stemming from a discrepancy between workers' perceived demands and their coping abilities. Abel and Sewell (1999) adopted a transactional model to define stress, highlighting its dependence on individuals' cognitive assessment of work events and circumstances, as well as their perception of their own coping skills.

The perception of stress is caused by the inability to meet demands, which ultimately threatens the mental or physical well-being of teachers. Numerous studies have investigated the causes of stress in education, with previous factor analysis studies identifying factors such as guidance work, school management, student behavior management, workload and time pressure, and work relationships as sources of stress in Hong Kong. Workload and time pressure are commonly reported sources of stress in Hong Kong, with several studies also noting that teachers experience excessive workload. (Professional Teachers' Union of Hong Kong, 2005) Furthermore, previous research has shown a correlation between work stress and burnout.

According to Capel (1991), individual differences and personality alone cannot predict burnout. This is because burnout is influenced by the lasting effects of stressors arising from the environment. In a study conducted by Kokkinos (2007), the connection between occupational stressors and burnout was examined specifically among primary school teachers.

The study used 63 occupational stressors, which are categorized into 11 subscales including work emphasis, student behavior, managing student misbehavior, decision making, relationships with coworkers, role ambiguity, poor working conditions, assessment of teachers by students, work overload, assessment of teachers, time restraints, and specific learning needs. The study conducted correlation analyses and found that emotional exhaustion and depersonalization were significantly and positively correlated with all occupational stressors. Additionally, work emphasis was negatively correlated with personal

achievement. To measure teacher stress in Hong Kong, the researcher would use the teacher stress scale developed by Hui and Chan (1996), which consists of 20 relevant items selected from a factor analysis of 55 items.

The following study was conducted in a secondary school in Hong Kong, making it more representative for this particular survey as the participants were secondary school instructors in Hong Kong. These findings led to the formulation of the following hypotheses. The third hypothesis suggests a positive relationship between work emphasis and emotional exhaustion. The fourth hypothesis suggests a positive relationship between work emphasis and depersonalisation. The fifth hypothesis suggests a negative relationship between work emphasis and personal achievement.

Guidance work

In addition to teaching students academic knowledge in school, teachers in Hong Kong also have the responsibility to provide guidance for their individual development. According to Kyriacou (2001), many teachers in Hong Kong have been assigned additional duties in school counseling work to enhance the quality of guidance. Consequently, counseling work has become a part of every teacher's workload in Hong Kong.

It is a responsibility of Hong Kong instructors to incorporate guidance work into their occupation. According to Hui and Chan (1996), the Hong Kong Education committees officially endorsed guidance work as a duty of all instructors, promoting a whole school approach to guidance. Guidance work helps students with self-understanding, self-development, and their educational, vocational, and personal-social development. Although it has not been extensively researched yet, the guidance aspect may impose additional workload on teachers as they have extra duties in planning and monitoring whole school guidance programmes.

Therefore, a portion of every teacher's workload would be dedicated to guidance-related tasks.

In Hui and Chan's (1996) survey, it was found that Hong Kong secondary instructors place a strong emphasis on the counseling aspect of their work. This includes assisting students with behavioral, emotional, and learning difficulties, as well as addressing the lack of improvement among students. Additionally, Lam, Yuon, and Mak (1998) pointed out that teachers often encounter difficulties in their counseling work, which can contribute to overall work-related challenges. While no research has specifically explored the relationship between emphasis on counseling work and burnout, it is plausible that two factors may arise from counseling work.

The first point is that guidance work adds to the teacher's workload, while the second point is that guidance work can lead to function struggle and ambiguity for instructors. In terms of workload, counsel work can increase the amount of duties teachers have to handle, which may contribute to burnout. The workload and pressure may exceed expectations, causing teachers to spend more time and energy on their counselling duties and work beyond their regular hours. Additionally, Hui and Chan (1996) explain that teachers may experience role conflict between their guidance and teaching responsibilities, as well as role ambiguity, which can both contribute to stress. According to role theory, each role has a set of expected behaviors, such as teaching being an expected behavior for teachers. Role conflicts arise when two incompatible behaviors are expected from one person. Work role ambiguity occurs when individuals lack clear and consistent information about their rights, responsibilities, and duties (Manlove, 1994).

Lack of clarity in executing occupation undertakings or standards for public presentation ratings can result in function ambiguity. According to a study by Manlove (1994), work

ambiguity is positively associated with emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation, while it is negatively associated with personal achievement. Based on these findings, I have formulated three hypotheses on counsel work and three dimensions of burnout. The 6th hypothesis states that there is a positive association between emphasis on counsel work and emotional exhaustion.

The 7th hypothesis suggests that there is a positive association between emphasis on counsel work and depersonalisation. The 8th hypothesis suggests that there is a negative association between emphasis on counsel work and personal achievement.

School direction and burnout

Cheng and Ng (1994) noted that the implementation of school-based direction began in 1991. This new policy, known as the "school direction initiative," was introduced by the instruction and Manpower Branch and Education Department as a reform of school management in Hong Kong.

This policy and reform focuses on changing the way schools are managed, shifting from external control to school-based management. The goal of this reform is to improve the quality of education and increase the effectiveness of school administration. Under this new policy, each school is responsible for determining its own administrative and management practices. Schools are also responsible for developing and organizing their own educational systems. However, school-based management can be stressful if teachers are unable to participate in decision-making processes. Byrne (1994) identified the lack of decision-making as one of the factors that contribute to stress in schools.

The absence of decision-making abilities in individuals results in a lack of involvement in their work quality. If teachers believe they have insufficient opportunities to participate in decision making, it increases their likelihood of experiencing role conflict and ambiguity. Teacher autonomy

is crucial for instructors in a work setting. When teachers have more autonomy, they experience higher job satisfaction. Autonomy in teaching means teachers can have control over themselves and their work in the working environment.

Teachers have the freedom to make decisions about the appropriate services and activities for their students. They feel a sense of liberty when they have the freedom and opportunities to intervene or supervise their teaching process, such as having autonomy in choosing their own teaching style. Moreover, this liberty also includes the ability for teachers to participate in collaborative decision-making relevant to student services and school policies. Additionally, teachers have the right to create their own rules based on their personal choices. (Pearson & Moomaw, 2005).

According to Maslach, Schaufeli, and Leiter (2001), a lack of freedom is associated with burnout. Schwab, Jackson, and Schuler (1986) also found a correlation between freedom and personal achievement. Through multiple regression analysis, they discovered that a teacher's freedom has a 12% difference in predicting personal achievement. On the other hand, a lack of freedom leads to lower personal achievement. Additionally, a lack of engagement in work makes employees feel like they have little control over important aspects or demands of their job.

In a study conducted by Jackson, Schuler and Schuler (1986), it was discovered that a lack of participation in decision-making led to depersonalization. This is because when individuals feel excluded from the decision-making process, they perceive themselves as being in an uncontrollable situation, resulting in feelings of helplessness and instability at work. To cope with this situation, individuals may depersonalize their relationships with colleagues, clients, or the organization. Additionally, Miller, Ellis, Zook and Lyles

(1990) noted that involvement in decision-making can reduce job-related stress.

There is a negative association between engagement in determination devising and function emphasis, and a positive association between function emphasis and emotional exhaustion. This suggests that participating in determination devising can reduce function emphasis, and when function emphasis is reduced, it can also decrease emotional exhaustion. Therefore, it can be explained that engagement in determination devising may reduce emotional exhaustion. Based on this, I would hypothesize that there is a negative correlation between engagement in determination devising and emotional exhaustion. Pearson and Moomaw (2005) have stated that several researchers have observed that a lack of control or freedom in one's job contributes to burnout.

The feeling of control and freedom includes an employee's ability to understand that they have the opportunity to make decisions about their work schedule and shape the policies that directly impact their work environment. In addition, being involved in decision-making is crucial in relation to burnout. It has been noted that there is a negative association (-0.33) between participating in decision-making and experiencing emotional exhaustion. This implies that when individuals are highly engaged in making decisions, they are likely to experience lower levels of emotional exhaustion.

Based on previous research, three hypotheses have been formulated regarding school direction and burnout. The 9th hypothesis suggests a positive association between emphasis on school direction and emotional exhaustion. The 10th hypothesis suggests a positive correlation between emphasis on school direction and depersonalization. The 11th hypothesis suggests a negative correlation between emphasis on school direction and personal achievement.

Student's behavior direction and burnout

Managing students' behavior in the classroom is an important responsibility for teachers. It is crucial for teachers

to ensure that every student in the classroom has equal opportunities to acquire knowledge. However, in certain situations, some students engage in misbehavior that disrupts the pace of instruction and affects the quality of learning. For instance, when multiple students talk at the same time, it creates noise that hinders other students' ability to gain knowledge in the classroom. Therefore, it is the teacher's duty to prevent such situations that may adversely impact normal instruction.

Hastings and Bham (2003) found that teachers often see student misbehavior as a source of stress, causing them to feel overwhelmed due to the lack of clear patterns or consistent strategies for dealing with various types of misbehavior. Many studies have focused on the connection between teacher burnout and student misbehavior. Bilbou-Nakou, Stogiannidou, and Kiosseoglou (1999) also observed that difficulties in managing disruptive children are a major cause of burnout. Friedman (2001) further noted that teachers view their students as the main source of burnout in their work, attributing it to issues such as discipline problems in the classroom, unsatisfactory achievement, and absenteeism.

Managing student behavior can be a boring task for teachers as it interferes with the instructional process. Student misbehavior can manifest in various ways, such as disrespectful behavior, interruptions, mocking, quarrels among peers, and simultaneous talking, which results in a lot of noise. Kokkinos (2007) conducted a survey that found a positive relationship between managing student behavior and emotional exhaustion, with an R value of 0.53.

There is a positive relationship between managing student behavior and depersonalization, with an R value of 0.33. Additionally, there is a negative correlation between managing student behavior and personal achievement, with an R value

of -0.20. Based on previous research findings, we have formulated three hypotheses regarding the relationship between stress on student behavior management and the three dimensions of burnout. The 12th hypothesis suggests a positive association between stress on student behavior management and emotional exhaustion. The 13th hypothesis suggests a positive association between stress on student behavior management and depersonalization.

The 14th hypothesis suggests that there is a negative association between emphasis on pupil behaviour direction and personal achievement.

Workload and burnout

A high workload is a serious issue for teachers in Hong Kong. According to a study conducted by the Professional Teachers' Brotherhood of Hong Kong (2005), 35.6% of instructors report working overtime for more than 21 hours per week, and 14% of them have to work overtime for over 31 hours each week. The study also mentions that education reform increases the workload for teachers as they have to do many things to keep up with the pace of reform. Education reform requires teachers to dedicate extra time and effort to keep pace with the changes in education.

Chan and Hui (1995) conducted a survey of 415 secondary schools in Hong Kong to explore instructor burnout. The survey revealed that one of the main sources of stress was having an excessive workload. Instructors in Hong Kong have numerous responsibilities, including teaching, administration and clerical tasks, extracurricular activities, and subject and counseling work. Lam, Yuon, and Mak (1998) discovered that the two primary difficulties faced by secondary school instructors were heavy workload and lack of time.

Santavirta, Solovieva, and Theorell (2007) stated that work load refers to the excessive demands placed on individuals under time

pressure, as well as the mismatch between the demands placed on teachers and their ability to cope with these demands. Greenglass, Burke, and Fiksenbaum (2001) showed that work load correlated positively with emotional exhaustion among nurses working in hospitals. This suggests that when nurses have a higher and excessively heavy work load, they are more likely to experience emotional exhaustion.

According to Dr. Moises Salinas (2004), instructors' work overload includes excessive paperwork, large classes consisting of students with varying academic abilities, and tasks that require knowledge beyond their expertise. Meanwhile, Janssen, Schaufel, and Houkes (1999) used the preservation of resources theory to find that emotional exhaustion is primarily connected to job demands like work overload. This research suggests a positive relationship between emotional exhaustion and work overload, while depersonalization and reduced personal achievement are not linked.

I hypothesized that the 15th hypothesis is that there is a positive association between emphasis on workload/time force per unit area and emotional exhaustion.

Work relationship and burnout

Social support has been viewed as useful resources to enable individuals to cope with stress effectively. In relation to this hypothesis, individuals who have supportive social relationships can rely on others to help them deal with stressful situations, resulting in perceiving less stress and being less affected by it. On the other hand, individuals who lack supportive social relationships are more susceptible to the impact of stress. (Russell).

, Altmaier ; A ; Velzen, 1987 ) The quality of work relationship with others may contribute to stress in the workplace. The relationship with one's supervisor, subordinates, and colleagues is a significant source of stress at work. A supportive and nurturing environment within the organization and an

effective support system are essential in addressing burnout. Burnout can be alleviated by having positive work relationships and stronger support systems in place. When individuals have positive work relationships and support from others, their advice and assistance can help decrease tension, provide distance from the situation, and foster a sense of shared responsibility. The stress can be released in this situation, so individuals with social support and strong work relationships are less likely to experience burnout.

According to Pines & Aronson (1988) and Codes and Dougherty (1993), the impact of social support on stress and burnout has been extensively studied in the literature. It has been found that social support acts as a buffer against job-related stress, as it increases individuals' perception that they can manage challenging situations by relying on others for necessary resources. Furthermore, Baker and O'Brien (2007) noted that both supervisor and coworker support have been identified as significant sources of social support, leading to lower levels of burnout in the workplace.

According to Rebecca and Wendy (2007), supervisors and work co-workers can provide support in the form of relevant information and feedback, practical aid, and emotional support for stressful work situations. This support can help individuals have more confidence in handling stress. Teachers who receive social support from supervisors have reported lower emotional exhaustion, more positive attitudes, and greater personal achievement. Cordes and Dougherty (1993) suggest that social support can help individuals redefine negative work situations and enhance their perceived ability to cope with the demands of a stressful workplace. Maslach, Schaufeli, and Leite (2001) argue that social support is one source of job resources, which can act as a buffer against job

demands and burnout. Therefore, this suggests that a lack of social support is linked to burnout.

According to Hasida and Keren (2007), they found that societal support at work had a negative impact on exhaustion and depersonalisation, and a positive impact on personal achievement. Building upon these findings, I developed three hypotheses regarding the relationship between emphasis on work and burnout. The 16th hypothesis suggests that there is a positive association between emphasis on work relationship and emotional exhaustion. Additionally, the 17th hypothesis suggests that there is a positive association between emphasis on work relationship and depersonalisation.

The 18th hypothesis suggests a negative association between emphasis on work relationship and personal achievement.



The sample consists of 44 participants. In terms of gender, there were 20 males and 24 females. All participants were full-time teachers in secondary schools in Hong Kong. In terms of learning experience, 14 participants had 5 years or less of teaching experience, 5 participants had 6-10 years of teaching experience, and 25 participants had 11 or more years of teaching experience. Of the participants, 21 were single and 20 were married.

14 participants have faith in the faith facet, while 28 participants do not have faith.


Teacher emphasis was evaluated using the Teacher emphasis graduated scale developed by Hui and Chan (1996) for Hong Kong teachers. This scale consists of 20 points that measure five dimensions of emphasis, including counseling work, school-based management, student behavior management, workload, and work relationships.

Teachers were asked to rate each point on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 to 5. A rating

of 1 indicates "no stress," a rating of 2 indicates "mild stress," a rating of 3 indicates "moderate stress," a rating of 4 indicates "much stress," and a rating of 5 indicates "extreme stress." Teacher burnout was evaluated using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), which consists of three subscales: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal achievement.

The emotional exhaustion category consists of 9 points, while depersonalization has 5 points and personal achievement includes 8 points. These 22 points are rated on a 7-point Likert-type graduated table, where respondents indicate their level of agreement.

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