Research

High Teacher Stress Leads to Poorer Student Outcomes

High levels of job-related stress are more common among teachers than previously thought, according to a new study, and may be affecting student outcomes.

Keith Herman, a professor in the College of Education at the University of Missouri, studied 129 teachers with 1,817 students in grades K-4. Herman used latent profile analysis to group participants into four categories defined by stress level, coping and burnout. Only 7 percent of the participating teachers were classified as low stress, high coping and low burnout. The other three were all characterized by high levels of stress and the majority, 60 percent, had high levels of coping and low levels of burnout. Half as many, 30 percent, showed moderate levels of coping and burnout and 3 percent showed low levels of coping and high levels of burnout.

"It's no secret that teaching is a stressful profession," said Herman, in a prepared statement. "However, when stress interferes with personal and emotional well-being at such a severe level, the relationships teachers have with students are likely to suffer, much like any relationship would in a high stress environment."

Herman and his team then compared the outcomes for students against the different profile types of their teachers and found that students whose teachers were high stress, low coping and high burnout had the poorest outcomes.

"It's troubling that only 7 percent of teachers experience low stress and feel they are getting the support they need to adequately cope with the stressors of their job," Herman said in a news release. "Even more concerning is that these patterns of teacher stress are related to students' success in school, both academically and behaviorally. For example, classrooms with highly stressed teachers have more instances of disruptive behaviors and lower levels of prosocial behaviors."

Herman suggested that screening processes to identify teachers in need of support to avoid burnout may help, along with initiatives designed to promote mental health, but said that individual coping strategies are only a start.

"We as a society need to consider methods that create nurturing school environments not just for students, but for the adults who work there," Herman said in a prepared statement. "This could mean finding ways for administrators, peers and parents to have positive interactions with teachers, giving teachers the time and training to perform their jobs, and creating social networks of support so that teachers do not feel isolated."

The full study, "Empirically Derived Profiles of Teacher Stress, Burnout, Self-Efficacy and Coping and Associated Student Outcomes," is available at journals.sagepub.com.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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