Getting Personal with Teacher Burnout: A Longitudinal Study on the Development of Burnout Using a Person-Based Approach

May. 01, 2013

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 32, (May, 2013), p. 75-86.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The main purpose of this study was therefore to examine whether the use of a person-based approach could identify patterns of intra-individual change in burnout during the first three years of employment for beginning teachers.

Based on previous findings regarding the stability of burnout and on the trajectories identified by Rudman and Gustavsson (2011), six different types of burnout trajectories were expected to be found:
1. A trajectory for which levels of burnout increased over time.
2. A trajectory for which levels of burnout decreased over time.
3. A trajectory characterized by an initial increase in burnout followed by a decrease.
4. A trajectory characterized by an initial decrease in burnout followed by an increase.
5. A trajectory characterized by low and stable burnout levels.
6. A trajectory characterized by high and stable burnout levels.

The participants were 816 beginning teachers, who were tracked over the first three years of their employment.
Data was collected through using questionnaires.
The outcome variable was burnout and this was assessed using the Scale of Work Engagement and Burnout (SWEBO) (Hultell & Gustavsson, 2010a,b).
The SWEBO consists of two subscales, one measuring burnout and one measuring work engagement.


The results showed that burnout levels were moderately low and stable over time.
However, underlying these levels were seven trajectories, of which six changed significantly over time.
These six trajectories were identified based on previous results describing the development of burnout, which were expected to be found in this study.
Changes in burnout trajectories were associated with concurrent changes in burnout-related variables.

Furthermore, the results show that the person-based approach offers a multifaceted perspective to the development of burnout and that there is a significant amount of individual variation that may be lost when relying on a variable-based approach.
Nonetheless, the results show that a person-based approach provides researchers with a valuable methodological tool for studying and understanding change over time.
This is the key finding of the study, and this is most likely the case independent of the nationality of the study sample or the cultural context.

The results also showed that a turnover intention was positively related to burnout, whereas Teacher self-efficacy (TSE) was inversely related to burnout.
The inverse relationship between burnout and TSE indicates that teachers who do not feel confident in their ability to perform their job are more likely to develop burnout.

Given the stable nature of self-efficacy, ensuring the development of a strong sense of efficacy during education and early in the professional career can be expected to have longstanding positive effects, whereas failure to do so might lead to longstanding detrimental effects.
Two things became apparent in this study:
The first was that indicators of mental and physical health as well as of educational success were related to future levels of burnout.
Individuals with good health and educational success had lower initial levels of burnout whereas those who had poor health and who experienced strain during their education had higher initial levels of burnout.

The second insight was that although the predictors assessed during the final year of education could serve as indicators of future burnout, they did not clearly predict changes in the burnout trajectories. Instead they appeared to be related only to initial levels of burnout.
The results of the variable-based analyses show that during the first three years of employment the beginning teachers were, on average, quite healthy and had moderately low, albeit increasing, levels of burnout.


The authors conclude that the results showed that the majority of the beginning teachers had low levels of burnout, indicating that they coped well with the transition from education to employment.
However, the results also showed that more than one in ten experienced burnout at some point during this period.
Furthermore, the findings revealed that about half of the teachers experienced moderately high burnout or high burnout at some time.
Finally, the results demonstrated that there was an increasing trend in burnout levels, and that nearly one-third experienced moderately high burnout or high burnout in the final wave of measurement.
The problems experienced by many beginning teachers have resulted in the development of induction programs aiming to make the transition from education to employment easier.

Hultell, D. and Gustavsson, J.P. (2010a) "A psychometric evaluation of the Scale of Work Engagement and Burnout (SWEBO)", Work, 37, pp. 261–274

Hultell, D. and Gustavsson, J.P. (2010b). The manual of the Scale of Work Engagement and Burnout (SWEBO) (No. B 2010:1) , Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm. 

Rudman, A. and Gustavsson, J.P. (2011). Early-career burnout among new graduate nurses: a prospective observational study of intra-individual change trajectories. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 48 (2011), pp. 292–306.

Updated: Jan. 13, 2015