Teacher burnout, depressive symptoms, and coping strategies: Their relationship in two samples of teachers

Shelley Carolyn Randall, University of Pennsylvania


There is conceptual confusion about what constitutes teacher burnout, stress, depressive symptoms, and coping. There are varied and overlapping definitions, a high degree of variability in the quality of research, and disagreement as to the relationship between the variables. This dissertation reports a quantitative/qualitative study of the distinctions and relationships among these variables in two school districts, eleven schools, 300 teachers, at elementary, middle school, and high school levels. Standardized measuring instruments (demographic data sheet, Maslach Burnout Inventory, CES-D depressive symptoms scale, and a coping strategy questionnaire), were administered, face-to-face, to a probability sample of 300 teachers; teachers' comments were written down as they filled them out. Extensive qualitative data was collected: entry observations, site observations, interviews with principals, teacher observations. (1) Urban teachers were significantly more burned out on emotional exhaustion and personal accomplishment; urban experienced significantly more depressive symptoms than suburban and the general population. Urban and suburban teachers cited personal problems outside of school and lack of administrative support as stressors; additionally, urban cited job overload and school environments. (2) There were significantly high correlations between some dimensions of burnout and depressive symptoms: (e.g. r =.53, p $<$.001, for emotional exhaustion and depressive symptoms). (3) There were significant differences among the three school levels of teachers. (4) Coping strategies appeared to be a function of the person, quality of interpersonal relationships, and school environment. (5) Correlations between the variables and longevity were confounded by intrapersonal, interpersonal, and environmental factors. Conclusions. The personal quantitative/qualitative approach resulted in unusually high cooperation rates in the target samples: 98% suburban, 93% urban. Having teachers think aloud as they completed the surveys resulted in greater understanding of the variables and measuring instruments. There is more variation in teachers within a school than between schools. Adversity can bind together or divide a teaching staff; a supportive principal can make the difference. Addressing structural and interpersonal aspects of school climate (e.g. policy changes, staff development) can contribute to reduction of stressors contributing to teacher burnout and depressive symptoms, resulting in more productive and healthier learning environments for teachers and students.

Subject Area

School administration|Occupational psychology|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Randall, Shelley Carolyn, "Teacher burnout, depressive symptoms, and coping strategies: Their relationship in two samples of teachers" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9321460.