Teacher burnout as related to explanatory style

Elizabeth Ann Herrington Smith

Abstract

Greater numbers of teachers are suffering from varying degrees of burnout. Teachers are suffering physical and mental exhaustion from job-related stress. What can be done to alleviate this situation? Can a change in a teacher's way of viewing and explaining life's circumstances or a teacher's explanatory style reduce the symptoms of burnout? Does being optimistic rather than pessimistic in perceiving the situations of life relieve burnout? According to Seligman (1990), it does. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of the variable of teacher burnout and the subset composing burnout and the variable of explanatory style and the subset composing it. The subjects in the study were 59 teachers who are members of the Mississippi American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, who responded to a questionnaire made up of the Maslach Burnout Inventory and the Attributional Styles Questionnaire as well as an open-ended question on the main causes of teacher burnout in Mississippi. A bivariate correlation was used to test the hypothesis. There was no significant correlation found between burnout and explanatory style; but the statistics were in the anticipated direction of a positive correlation between teacher burnout and a negative explanatory style. Approximately half of the teachers involved showed varying degrees of burnout through the scores on the Maslach Burnout Inventory Educator Survey. Their answers to a question asking for the three main causes of teacher burnout in Mississippi, however, would lead the researcher to believe that burnout is prevalent among Mississippi public school teachers.