Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1161-9568

Year of Publication

2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Education Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Joseph Ferrare

Second Advisor

Dr. Wayne D. Lewis

Abstract

Professional burnout refers to the development of negative emotions, cynical thoughts, and physical and mental exhaustion as a response to stressors associated with one’s career. Within the teaching profession, professional burnout has been associated with an increase in teacher attrition. In an effort to promote a positive school environment where teachers feel supported and committed to the profession, many administrators have implemented structured collaborative opportunities within their buildings.

While personal relationships within the school network can provide a mitigating effect against professional burnout, the possibility exists that teacher leaders can be overcentralized and negatively impacted by the maintained relationships. By potentially forcing centralization on critical team members and emphasizing them as the “go-to” person for collaboration, schools may be inadvertently putting their best at risk for burnout.

Using a mixed-methods design, the following study investigates the perceived benefits and constraints of centrality within the school network on reported burnout. The social networks at four elementary schools were analyzed to determine the level of connectivity for each certified staff member. Participants were asked to identify the colleagues with whom they collaborate. Using Social Network Analysis, the level of centrality (as measured by number of network connections both received and directed) was calculated for each participant based on number of network ties both received and directed. Centrality scores were included with previously identified variables associated with teacher burnout including level of perceived stress, perception of school environment, principal support, and other demographic data in a series of hypothesis tests to assess the relationship between network connectivity and reported burnout. A series of semi-structured interviews were conducted with a selection of participants to further explore the impact of network connections on participant burnout.

The results of this exploratory study found that not all collegial relationships are beneficial. A significant positive relationship between number of collaborative ties directed toward a teacher and their depersonalization score on the Maslach Burnout Inventory was identified, indicating that individuals who are frequently identified as a collaborator report higher burnout. The findings from this study produce a unique perspective on collaboration within the school network. As has been reported previously, level of connectivity within the school network as measured by the number of teachers one can identify as collaborators appears to mitigate (or not significantly increase) a teacher’s risk of professional burnout. However, being identified as a collaborator by a large number of teachers (in-degree) significantly increases one’s risk for depersonalization behaviors.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2018.448

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