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What Is Teacher Burnout?

What is teacher burnout? Teacher burnout is a critical issue in today's school environment.

Teacher burnout is a critical issue that has gained increasing attention within the field of education. It refers to a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion experienced by educators, resulting from prolonged exposure to stressors in the workplace.

This phenomenon has significant implications for both teachers and their students, affecting job satisfaction, mental health, and overall educational outcomes.

In this article by Jake Biggs, he will delve into the concept of teacher burnout, explore its causes, consequences, and highlight preventive strategies, supported by relevant references.

Understanding Teacher Burnout

Teacher burnout is characterised by a combination of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation (also known as cynicism), and reduced personal accomplishment. Emotional exhaustion involves feeling drained and overwhelmed, both physically and emotionally, due to the demands of teaching.

Depersonalisation manifests as a sense of detachment and negativity towards students and colleagues. Reduced personal accomplishment refers to a diminished sense of efficacy and competence in one's teaching abilities. These components together form the core of the burnout experience (Maslach & Leiter, 2016).

Causes of Teacher Burnout

Several factors contribute to the development of teacher burnout:

  1. Workload and Time Pressure: Teachers often face high workloads, including lesson planning, grading, administrative tasks, and extracurricular activities. Time constraints can result in exhaustion and compromised effectiveness (Klusmann et al., 2016).

  2. Lack of Autonomy: Limited decision-making authority and rigid curricular requirements can undermine teachers' sense of autonomy and control over their work, leading to frustration and disengagement (Van Droogenbroeck et al., 2014).

  3. Student Behavioral Issues: Dealing with challenging student behavior can be emotionally draining. Continuous exposure to disruptive behaviors can erode teachers' emotional resources (Grayson & Alvarez, 2008).

  4. Administrative Pressures: Conflicting demands from administrators, such as meeting performance targets or implementing new teaching methodologies, can contribute to burnout by creating a sense of professional incongruence (Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2017).

  5. Lack of Support: Inadequate support from colleagues, administrators, and parents can exacerbate burnout. A lack of recognition and appreciation can lead to feelings of isolation and detachment (Kyriacou, 2001).

Consequences of Teacher Burnout

The consequences of teacher burnout extend beyond the individual educator and impact students and the educational system as a whole:

  1. Diminished Teaching Quality: Burned-out teachers often struggle to maintain high teaching standards, leading to reduced learning outcomes for students (Hakanen et al., 2006).

  2. High Turnover Rates: Burnout increases the likelihood of teachers leaving the profession prematurely, contributing to teacher shortages and instability in schools (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011).

  3. Negative School Climate: Burnout can lead to strained relationships among colleagues and between teachers and administrators, fostering a negative school environment (Hultell & Gustavsson, 2011).

  4. Impact on Student Well-being: Burnout-related detachment and emotional exhaustion can affect the emotional well-being and engagement of students, hindering their academic success (Roeser et al., 2013).

Preventive Strategies:

Addressing teacher burnout requires a comprehensive approach:

  1. Supportive Work Environment: Schools must foster a culture of support and collaboration. Encouraging open communication and providing resources for professional development can alleviate burnout (Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2017).

  2. Workload Management: Schools can implement strategies such as effective time management training, reducing non-teaching tasks, and promoting a balanced workload (Klusmann et al., 2016).

  3. Autonomy and Decision-making: Allowing teachers to have a say in curriculum design and teaching methodologies empowers them and reduces feelings of powerlessness (Van Droogenbroeck et al., 2014).

  4. Mental Health Support: Providing access to counseling services and promoting self-care practices can enhance teachers' ability to cope with stress (Kyriacou, 2001).

  5. Exercise, Stress Management, Nutrition and Sleep: Exercise, stress management, nutrition and sleep are the pillars of health and wellbeing. Providing education, resources and recommendations is fundamental to prevent burnout.

Teacher burnout is a complex issue with far-reaching consequences for educators, students, and the education system as a whole. Understanding its components and underlying causes is crucial for devising effective strategies to prevent and mitigate burnout.

By creating supportive work environments, managing workloads, and addressing teachers' mental health, educators can be better equipped to provide quality education and foster positive learning experiences for their students.


  • Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (2016). Understanding the burnout experience: Recent research and its implications for psychiatry. World Psychiatry, 15(2), 103-111.

  • Klusmann, U., Kunter, M., Trautwein, U., Lüdtke, O., & Baumert, J. (2016). Engagement and emotional exhaustion in teachers: Does the school context make a difference? Applied Psychology, 65(2), 321-358.

  • Van Droogenbroeck, F., Spruyt, B., & Vanroelen, C. (2014). Burnout among senior teachers: Investigating the role of workload and interpersonal relationships at work. Teaching and Teacher Education, 43, 99-109.

  • Grayson, J. L., & Alvarez, H. K. (2008). School climate factors relating to teacher burnout: A mediator model. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(5), 1349-1363.

  • Skaalvik, E. M., & Skaalvik, S. (2017). Dimensions of teacher burnout: Relations with potential stressors at school. Social Psychology of Education, 20(4), 775-790.

  • Kyriacou, C. (2001). Teacher stress: Directions for future research. Educational Review, 53(1), 27-35.

  • Hakanen, J. J., Bakker, A. B., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2006). Burnout and work engagement among teachers. Journal of School Psychology, 43(6), 495-513.

  • Ingersoll, R. M., & Strong, M. (2011). The impact of induction and mentoring programs for beginning teachers: A critical review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 81(2), 201-233.

  • Hultell, D., & Gustavsson, J. P. (2011). Factors affecting burnout and work engagement in teachers when entering employment. Work, 38(4), 383-396.

  • Roeser, R. W., Skinner, E., Beers, J., & Jennings, P. A. (2013). Mindfulness training and teachers' professional development: An emerging area of research and practice. Child Development Perspectives, 7(2), 160-164.

What is teacher burnout?

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