A new research study evaluates the effect of stress on middle school teachers, and how the stress influences teacher effectiveness and student learning.
“Teaching is a highly stressful occupation,” said lead researcher Teresa McIntyre, Ph.D. “Teacher stress affects various aspects of teacher health and may influence how effective teachers are in the classroom, with potential consequences for their students’ behavior and learning.
“I started to research the literature on stress and teachers in the U.S. and found very little information. There was no comprehensive study of teachers’ stress or even an audit of the percentage of teachers who are stressed. I saw a void here and a need to study.”
The study will start in the 2011-12 school year and follow 200 seventh-and eighth-grade social studies, science or math teachers in 20 Hosuton middle schools in and thousands of students over a three-year period.
“Middle school is probably the most difficult level to teach because student-teacher interactions are more difficult during this time, and this kind of difficulty in teacher-student interactions is a major source of stress for teachers at this level,” McIntyre said.
“For students it’s a time of adolescence and many changes developmentally, and that is going to affect the dynamics of learning, as well as the social relationships and climate in the classroom. It’s going to affect the teachers as well. Our premise is that if the teacher is stressed, their behavior will be different with students, and they will perform differently with students.”
McIntyre conducted a pilot study in the Greater Houston area in 2010 that indicated that at least one-third of middle school teachers may be significantly stressed.
Researcher will use an innovative real-time approach to assessing stress and teacher effectiveness. Teachers will be asked to self-report on a Teacher Stress Diary using an iPod Touch platform, and teacher effectiveness ratings will be documented via an iPad.
Data will be collected on students in the teachers’ classroom using teacher stress diaries, archival school records and observational ratings.
“With this study we will be able to get a more dynamic picture of how teachers respond to stress in real time,” McIntyre said.
“Teachers will be able to report their emotions – positive, negative; how their cognitive functions are affected by stress; and what’s happening at the moment in terms of social interactions, social conflict, demands on the job, the time pressure and whether they feel they are in control of their situation.
“They also report on effectiveness in instruction and classroom management, and on their student’s behavior in the classroom.”
McIntyre said the larger contribution of the study is to take the pulse of the educational system and see what’s happening in challenging economic times and to evaluate what impact this has on teachers and students.
“The study addresses a key issue in contemporary education: how to improve teacher quality in the face of increasing demands in the education system; it is all about supporting teachers, students and school administrators at a time of depleted resources,” she said.
Researchers believe the insights gained from the study will help school districts implement strategies to lower teacher stress and thus improve teacher effectiveness and student behavior and learning.
Source: University of Houston