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Attitudes and Affect: Daily Emotions and Their Association with the Commitment and Burnout of Beginning Teachers

by Nathan Jones & Peter Youngs - 2012

Background/Context: The increasing number of districts implementing mentoring and induction programs suggests that policymakers are aware of the need to increase the support available to new teachers. The argument underlying many of these programs is based, at least partly, on assumptions about beginning teachers’ emotional responses to their work. Yet while considerable research has studied the effects of induction programs, few researchers have rigorously collected data on how beginning teachers’ affective experiences seem to impact their career plans.

Purpose of the Study: We tested a framework developed in the organizational behavior literature known as affective events theory (AET), which proposes that emotional responses to work, coupled with abstract beliefs about one’s job, can influence overall judgments about job satisfaction. Specifically, we drew on research from education and organizational behavior to test whether mean levels of positive affect, negative affect, skill, and fatigue are associated with intentions to remain in teaching (i.e., commitment to one’s teaching assignment), commitment to one’s school, and levels of burnout.

Research Design: Sources of data in this study include survey data collected at two time points (fall 2007 and spring 2008) from 42 beginning general and special education teachers in three districts in Michigan and Indiana, as well as data collected using the experience sampling method (ESM), a time sampling method for gaining information about individuals’ immediate experiences. The inclusion of both data sources allowed us to capitalize on the richness of the ESM data—which accounts for variation in teachers’ momentary affective states—while also supporting the data with more traditional survey measures.

Conclusions/Recommendations: We found that mean levels of positive affect and skill are positively associated with commitment, even when controlling for prior commitment. Similarly, negative affect and tiredness seem to be predictive of teacher burnout. These results suggest that, by taking account of teachers’ emotional reactions to their work (in addition to features of their work environments), researchers, policymakers, and district administrators will be better positioned to support special and general educators during their early years of teaching.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 2, 2012, p. 1-36
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16240, Date Accessed: 6/13/2021 12:29:05 AM

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About the Author
  • Nathan Jones
    Northwestern University
    E-mail Author
    NATHAN JONES is a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. His research focuses on teacher quality and the sociology of education, specifically the role of policy in shaping beginning special education and general education teachers’ work environments. Recent publications have appeared in Teachers College Record and the AERA Handbook on Education Policy Research.
  • Peter Youngs
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    PETER YOUNGS is an associate professor of educational policy at Michigan State University. His research interests focus on education policy effects on teaching and learning in the core academic subjects. In particular, his work concentrates on state and district policy related to teacher preparation, induction, and professional development in the United States and the effects on teachers’ instructional practices, commitment to teaching, and retention in the teaching profession. He is currently serving as principal investigator for a Carnegie Corporation–funded study of new teachers in Michigan and Indiana school districts. This study employs social network analysis and experience sampling method (ESM) data to better understand how teacher characteristics and school context affect beginning teacher commitment, retention, and effectiveness. He currently serves on the editorial boards for American Educational Research Journal and Teaching and Teacher Education. Recent publications have appeared in Teachers College Record, Educational Administration Quarterly, and Journal of Education Policy.
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