Professional and emotional coping among early career teachers

Year: 2013

Author: Richardson, Paul, Watt, Helen, Devos, Christelle

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teaching is increasingly recognised as a complex, demanding career, and teachers report higher levels of stress and burnout than other professionals. Burnout results from prolonged work-related stress and manifests as physical and emotional exhaustion; Maslach and Jackson (1981) developed a widely-used measurement comprising emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and reduced personal accomplishment. A complementary construct of "wornout" was proposed (Stephenson, 1990) for teachers who reduce their work engagement to cope. How do beginning teachers cope, with what consequences for their wellbeing? Are there empirically discernable different styles of coping among beginning teachers, including wornout, and do they differentially impact emotional wellbeing? Longitudinal data come from 612 Australian beginning teachers (78% women) from the ongoing FIT-Choice project (, who completed primary / secondary teacher education (ns = 253, 359), entered into teaching, and were currently teaching (n = 525) / on a temporary break up to 8 years later. Using a typological approach we identified 6 coping styles, which had significant consequences for their wellbeing as measured by levels of general depression, stress and anxiety. Wornout and (path to) Burnout types exhibited poorest, (healthy) Ambitious and Diligent types moderate, and Good health and Sparing types the most positive levels of wellbeing. More men were in Sparing and Good health; more women in (healthy) Ambitious, Diligent and (path to) Burnout, 2(5, 504) = 11.14. No differences occurred for secondary / primary strand; teachers on a temporary break were over-represented in Wornout, and under-represented in (healthy) Ambitious, Good health and Sparing, 2(5, 506) = 16.49. Our findings speak to new possibilities for supporting beginning teachers through professional development opportunities targeting effective vs. risky coping strategies; differentiation of burnout and wornout offers new directions to the study of "at risk" beginning teachers.