Secondary school pupils' perceptions of burnout among teachers

Moshe Tatar*, Vered Yahav

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background. Numerous studies examined teachers' self-reports concerning their occupational burnout. Given that pupils are in a prime position to assess teachers' burnout, due to their intensive daily contact with their teachers and because some of pupils' behaviours can induce stress, the present study focuses on a relatively unexplored topic, namely the meanings that adolescents attach to burnout among their teachers. Aims. This study was aimed at examining pupils' perceptions regarding burnout among their teachers, and to investigate the possible recommendations that the pupils would suggest to different constituents of the educational system for coping with burnout among teachers. Sample. A total of 297 Israeli secondary school pupils (approximately 57% girls and 43% boys) studying in 12 tenth grade classes (mean age 15 years 8 months, SD= 0.42 years) participated in this study. Methods. A questionnaire dealing with pupils' perceptions of burnout among teachers was administered. It included four sections. The first part asked for background of the pupils (sex and age). Next, pupils were asked an open-ended question in which they need to describe the most salient behaviour of a burned-out teacher in the classroom and to indicate the proportion of burned-out teachers among those teaching them. The third section consisted of a list of 14 items describing potential characteristics of burned-out teachers. The respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which, in their opinion, each of the descriptors characterised burned-out teachers. In addition, pupils were asked three open-ended questions in which they were required to describe the most salient way for (a) the students, (b) the teachers themselves and (c) the school principal to cope with teachers' burnout. Results. Findings showed that the most frequently mentioned characteristics of burned-out teachers were: teachers who 'feel that working with pupils for a full day is an oppressive effort', 'feel wiped out at the end of a teaching day', 'feel that teaching is turning them into impatient persons' and 'feel that teaching frustrates them'. No differences were found between girls' and boys' perceptions of burned-out teachers: both emphasise the psychological exhaustion of teachers as the most salient characteristic of burnout among teachers. Pupils suggest that the better ways for coping with this phenomenon include a more positive behaviour of the pupils themselves towards teachers, that burned-out teachers quit their jobs and that better work conditions be offered to them by the educational authorities. Conclusions. Our findings allude to the importance of analysing interactional phenomena like burnout among teachers from the perspectives of different actors in the school arena and allow us to broaden our understanding of pupils' perceptions of teachers. Suggestions for further research and for the development of methodological refinements are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)457-468
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1999


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