Burnout widespread among Christchurch teachers

30 May 2013

Burnout is widespread among Christchurch teachers more than two years after the earthquakes, a new University of Canterbury survey has found.

Burnout widespread among Christchurch teachers

Dr Joana Kuntz

Burnout is widespread among Christchurch teachers more than two years after the earthquakes, a new University of Canterbury survey has found.

Emotional exhaustion, rather than disengagement with students and the profession, was the main type of burnout experienced by the teachers.

A total of 125 primary, intermediate and secondary teachers across 29 schools in Christchurch completed an anonymous online survey, investigating levels of teacher burnout two years after the February 2011 earthquake.

Teachers experiencing burnout also felt that teaching quality had decreased, UC organisation lecturer Dr Joana Kuntz says. Her research was supported by masters student Amanda Bockett.

"They also reported more frequent and longer absences from work and higher intentions to leave the school and the teaching profession.

"There is a general sense of work overload among teachers, attributed to a perceived increase in administrative duties, increased responsibility for the provision of pastoral care to students, peers and parents, and the off-work demands.

"Teachers who believed their schools showed adequate responses to the disaster environment - updating safety procedures, providing support for students and staff - exhibited lower levels of burnout.

"Most of them felt that student-oriented measures of school support were effective, but there was greater discrepancy, and generally more negative perceptions, regarding the quality of teacher-oriented measures of school support.

"In particular, teachers agreed that even though the immediate response to major events was appropriate in most cases, the system has largely overlooked the long-term effects of disaster exposure and the need for support to assist with new and increased job demands in a post-disaster environment.

"Two years after the earthquakes, stress, burnout and ensuing health effects have reached an all-time high. This finding is consistent with results from similar research conducted in Christchurch across a range of organisations and industries,’’ Dr Kuntz says.

Poor safety resources and procedures, lack of institutional support, poor communication and poor workload management were the main factors responsible for negative perceptions of school responsiveness to the disaster and for higher levels of burnout among teachers.

Perception of community and peer support helped teachers hold a positive outlook in the post-disaster environment.

"Teachers who saw a positive climate among their peers, for instance, helping behaviours among teachers and other forms of support, were more likely to view the earthquakes as a learning and growth experience and to cope with work and non-work demands.

"This suggests that local schools should capitalise on supportive initiatives and promote a positive work climate to aid the recovery process,’’ Dr Kuntz says.

For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168