Examining Elementary Teachersí Risk for Occupational Stress: Associations With Teacher, School, and State Policy Variables
by Richard Lambert, Christopher J. McCarthy, Paul G. Fitchett & Maytal Eyal - 2018
Background/Context: It is widely understood that teachers are plagued by a myriad of challenges that ultimately affect their stress levels, job satisfaction, and effectiveness at work. Teacher stress can lead to burnout, lowered occupational commitment, and an eventual decision to leave the field. An important question for the field is how best to understand which teachers are most vulnerable to stress. This study used Lazarus and Folkmanís transactional theory, which is the dominant model within the stress literature, to examine teachersí stress vulnerability.
Objective: This study examined how elementary teacher appraisals of their classroom environment contribute to their risk for stress in the context of individual, classroom, and school characteristics, as well as state-level policy factors. Further, this study looked at how these factors are associated with teachersí occupational stress, burnout, and commitment to teaching.
Participants: Participants were 11,850 full-time public school elementary teachers (Grades 1Ė5) who responded to the National Center for Education Statistics 2007/2008 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS).
Research Design: Secondary data from the SASS were employed. The Rasch rating scale model was used to form scores on the Appraisal Index (teachersí ratio of experiencing resources versus demands), as well as the Classroom Control and Burnout scales.
Data Collection and Analysis: Multilevel modeling was used. Each model had two levels with teachers nested within the state where they work. Two types of models were estimated using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) software and restricted maximum likelihood procedures. The SASS teacher final sampling weight was then normalized and applied to all analyses within the HLM software. All results were reported with robust standard errors.
Findings: Teachers classified as at risk for stress based on SASS items about classroom demand and resources were found to be more likely to report lower job satisfaction and burnout symptoms, as well as reduced occupational commitment. Professional characteristics, school context, and the policy climate in which teachers work were also associated with teachers being at risk for stress.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Given these connections between occupational stressors, teacher appraisals of the classroom environment, and occupational outcomes, these results suggest that education stakeholders should be mindful of the climate and context in which public policies are enacted.
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