Printer Friendly

Special Education Teacher Stress: Coping Strategies.


Little is known about stress perception and perceived coping mechanisms used by special educators. This article presents a study with 211 special educators to determine how they deal with stress. Participants completed a survey reporting stressors and coping skills. Special educators reported stress in their positions. Increased caseloads, multiple roles, pressures for student achievement, student behavior, and worries about the existence of their positions can cause this stress. In general, the findings indicate that special educators experience work-related stress that interferes with their quality of work. Most special educators employ adaptive strategies in dealing with stress. In addition to presenting the study results, this article presents implications for school administrators and teacher educators that can increase special educators' understanding about job stress and its relationship with work manageability.

Keywords: Teacher stress, coping strategies, special educators, teachers, stress


In line with the overall decline in teacher employment, the field of special education is still facing shortages and unfilled teaching positions (Dewey et al., 2017). As reported by the U.S. Department of Education, roughly 8.4% of the nation's teachers left the field in the academic year of 2003-2004 (Dillion, 2007; Westervelt, 2016). More recently, Carver-Thomas and Darling-Hammond (2017) reported that teacher attrition in the United States is about twice as high as in high-achieving countries such as Finland, Singapore, and Canada. They further pointed out that 90% of open teaching positions in California were created by teachers who left the profession, with about two-thirds of them leaving due to dissatisfaction with teaching. Another study that differentiated teachers who planned to stay from those who planned to leave found that participants who planned to stay had higher job satisfaction and adequate time and energy to complete paperwork. Teachers who planned to depart indicated they left to pursue another career, or because they were dissatisfied (Albrecht, Johns, Mounsteven, & Olorunda, 2009). The problem with teacher retention goes far beyond aging out through retirement, as nearly one-third of all new teachers leave the field after just three years due to dissatisfaction, acceptance of better paying jobs (e.g., administrative positions), or career diversion (Dillion, 2007; Ingersoll & Perda, 2007). Unfavorable working conditions and/or school climate are cited as reasons for attrition and difficulty filling open positions in high-needs schools (Berry, Rasberry, & Williams, 2007).

Workload Manageability and Stress

Despite working hard, teachers are not finding job satisfaction (Watson, Harper, Ratliff, & Singleton, 2010), and as a result are leaving the profession (Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2017; Ingersoll, 2012). Research indicates that the job of the special educator is difficult, demanding, and more stressful than that of general educators (Bettini et al., 2017). Special educators face increasing or large caseloads, lack of clarity in their roles, lack of administrative support, excessive paperwork, feelings of isolation and loneliness, and minimal collaboration with colleagues (Albrecht et al., 2009; Cancio & Conderman, 2008; Futernick, 2007; Kaff, 2004; Katsiyannis, Zhang, & Conroy, 2003; Prather-Jones, 2011; Schlichte, Yssel, & Merbler, 2005). In a study with novice teachers, Bettini et al. (2017) found that workload manageability influenced the teachers' career intentions and predicted emotional exhaustion, indicating a relationship between job commitment and stress. Using the conservation of resources (COR; Hobfoll, 2011) theoretical framework, their study suggested that overwhelming workloads may reduce the energy level of new teachers, reduce engagement in responsibilities, and leave them burnt out and less committed to the profession. COR theory assumes that individuals are faced with limited resources of time and energy, and in response to prolonged periods of high demands and low resources, they demonstrate reduced energy and do not complete responsibilities (Hobfoll, 2011).

Consequences of Stress

Wong, Ruble, McGrew, and Yu (2017) examined consequences of teacher stress and related burnout on teacher/student behavior and found that stress influenced teaching quality and student engagement. They reported that teachers who were stressed were more likely to leave the profession. When teachers were provided with enough instructional support to ensure high teaching quality and student engagement, as well as emotional support to monitor students' long-term progress, they were more likely to experience reduced work-related stress (Wong et al., 2017).

Additional consequences reported in the literature associated with special education teacher stress and burnout include: (a) decreased feelings of accomplishment (e.g., they are not meeting the needs of students, they feel less successful in dealing with crisis intervention; Embich, 2001; Pullis, 1992; Stiver, 1980; Zabel & Zabel, 1982), (b) difficulty with personal or professional relationships (e.g., they isolate themselves due to work overload, they do not collaborate with colleagues, they do not socialize with colleagues in or outside work; Maslach & Jackson, 1984; Pullis, 1992; Stiver, 1980; Sweeney & Townley, 1993; Wrobel, 1993), (c) neglect of other responsibilities, (e.g., they find inadequate time to complete paperwork, their management of skills lessens, their structure and consistency diminishes; George, George, Gersten, & Grosenick 1995; Zabel & Zabel, 1982), and (d) emotional exhaustion (e.g., they are extremely tired after work, they no longer participate in hobbies, they do not socialize with friends after work). When teachers do not find sufficient coping resources to deal with their stress, they may experience a loss of enthusiasm and motivation, and may no longer find meaning in their work (Matheny, Gfroerer, & Harris, 2000).

Stress and Burnout

According to Wong et al. (2017), burnout is often considered an outcome of chronic stress. In operationalizing the measures of these terms, stress is an immediate effect of specific stressors (e.g., difficult student), whereas burnout is a long-term natural consequence (McCarthy, Lambert, Lineback, Fitchett, & Buddouh, 2016). Maslach, Schaufeli, and Leiter (2001) identified three dimensions of stress/ burnout: (1) emotional exhaustion, (2) depersonalization, and (3) lack of personal accomplishment. Emotional exhaustion occurs when an individual has depleted emotional resources and experiences a lack of energy and fatigue. Depersonalization means distancing oneself from others, particularly from students with whom teachers must interact in the performance of their jobs (Maslach et al., 2001). A decline in personal accomplishment results from a reduced sense of efficacy and devaluation of one's work. Work overload, social conflict, and insufficient personal resources, including coping skills, are associated with these dimensions of burnout (Maslach et al., 2001).

Most research has focused on identifying stressors for teachers and less on identifying coping strategies that may assist them in managing their stress productively so that they feel less burnt out. Recently, Brunsting, Sreckovic, and Lane (2014) updated the literature on special education teacher working conditions by reviewing 23 studies that included a quantitative measure of burnout. They found that limited teacher experience, student disability, role conflict, role ambiguity, and limited administrative support contributed to special education teacher burnout. The authors suggested that future research needs to provide a better understanding of interventions and coping strategies to alleviate teacher stress and burnout that result from these challenges.

Coping Mechanisms

The effectiveness of teachers' coping techniques affects their health, well-being, and commitment to teaching. According to Betoret (2006), teachers who have access to coping resources are less likely to report burnout than those with fewer coping resources. Coping mechanisms can reduce the effects of stressors by changing one's emotional state during a stressful situation, or by eliminating or reducing the source of stress (Lazarus, 1993). It is a process of constantly modifying cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are exceeding the capacity and resources of the person (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Stoeber and Rennert (2008) categorized various coping strategies into two types, active and avoidant coping. People who view potential stressors as challenges, not as threats and losses, show a preference for active coping, not avoidant coping. With effective coping strategies, teachers can problem solve, access social-emotional support, and gain mastery in teaching, which can further enhance the enjoyment of work (Parker & Martin, 2009). Since limited research exists on special educators and their coping, we drew from research that focused on how other helping professionals cope with their stress. Research on nurses indicates that their engagement and persistence in performing a specific behavior or task is dependent on their level of perceived capacity, which in turn influences their choice of activities and the amount of effort and time they will invest in the task, despite hurdles, opposition, and challenges (Jordan, Khubchandani, & Wiblishauser, 2016). These findings suggested that capacity can be increased by effective coping resources in a supportive environment that contributes to professional growth.

As mentioned before, when special educators are overwhelmed with the stressors they face, they may choose to leave the field of special education (Katsiyannis, et al., 2003; Prather-Jones, 2011), which may be viewed as avoidant coping. Currently, researchers are interested in gauging the ways special educators engage in active and adaptive coping, while they are in the profession.

Facilitators of Active Coping

In addition to well-accepted methods of active (adaptive) coping (i.e., exercise, meditation, free-time activities) research shows that a support network of educators, particularly where mentoring is involved, can provide a mechanism by which new teachers cope productively with stress (Beltman, Mansfield, & Price, 2011; Castro, Kelly, & Shih, 2010). In addition to the emotional support that can emerge from a relationship with an understanding colleague, the sharing of vital teaching tips and behavioral management advice from an experienced educator can be critical. Networking with other professionals via membership in well-respected professional organizations can result in mentorship, emotional support, and effective training in teaching tips and behavioral management.

While contrasting the roles of general and special educators, Jones, Youngs, and Frank (2013) suggested that colleagues can serve as important sources of support for special educators in navigating various responsibilities. Informal support from mentors and colleagues is associated with increased commitment among novice special educators. When special educators view themselves as a part of a professional community, they are more likely to access important resources (Jones et al., 2013). Professional organizations also provide a myriad of opportunities for professional growth by offering, among others, conference workshops, publications, networking, webinars and blogs. Such professional development, whereby teachers learn new techniques with which to impart academic knowledge and ways to effectively communicate that knowledge through behavior management, has been cited as an important contributor to teacher resilience and retention (Anderson & Olsen, 2006; Beltman et al., 2011). Membership in a professional organization, therefore, can provide a vital link to the support that is needed (Madsen, 2010) to help a special educator deal with stress, and thereby promote his or her retention in the field. An important issue to address, therefore, is how current special educators are dealing with pressures that accompany their jobs, and if they are adopting healthy or unhealthy ways for dealing with stress.

The Study

This article presents the findings of a survey designed to explore the ways in which special educators express and cope with their stress. The theoretical framework that guided this study was COR that assumes special educators work in demanding situations with limited resources; and without sufficient coping resources to deal with their stress, they may experience emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of personal accomplishment (Alarcon, 2011). Thus, it was important to examine ways in which special educators respond to work-related stress. Based on this framework, the following research questions were addressed:

* How do special educators express their stress?

* What are the strategies special educators utilize to cope with the stress they encounter in their educational settings?

* Of these coping strategies, which ones are adaptive to lower the amount of stress while at the job?



The survey was sent by e-mail to special education teachers in Ohio, Illinois, Texas, and Arizona in the fall of the 2016-2017 academic school year. Four sets of emails were distributed to a sample pool of 512 special education teachers. For this pool of teachers, the lead author contacted four special education directors of urban school districts and asked them to send the e-mail to special educators in their districts. Survey responses were submitted by 211 special education teachers resulting in a response rate of 41%. One hundred and eighty-two (87%) who indicated they were endorsed or licensed in the area in which they were currently teaching, responded to the survey. Convenience sampling was used to secure participants for the study. Supervisors in school districts were asked to send e-mails to special educators in their district. Participants' demographics are reported in Stress Instrument Development

The questionnaire consisted of 50 items in five clusters. The five clusters ascertained teachers' responses regarding their work setting: (a) satisfaction with various aspects of the job, (b) feelings experienced concerning the job, (c) self-descriptive statements, (d) how the teachers cope with the stress of the job, and (e) demographic information. The development of the survey items was drawn from three sources. First, survey questions were adapted from a survey by Cancio, Albrecht, and Johns (2013) to assess the effects of administrative support of teachers of students with EBD related to stress. Second, items were developed by examining variables identified in the literature that contribute to stress, burnout, and attrition of teachers of students with disabilities (Maslach et al., 2001). Third, the authors drew from more than a hundred years of collective experience as special educators and 20 years as researchers on this topic. After the authors' review, the survey was pilot tested with a group of 28 teachers of students with disabilities in Northwest Ohio in the following settings: elementary school, middle school/junior high school, high school, and separate facility schools for students with disabilities (Cancio, Mathur, Estes, Johns, & Larson, 2017). The teachers responded to the items, provided feedback on the clarity of the items and the time it took to complete the questionnaire, and made suggestions for improvements. As a result of the pilot study, wording and survey items were further modified and refined. A full text of the survey can be obtained from the first author.

Instrument Content

Part one. The first section of the survey, consisting of six questions, asked respondents to make judgments about various aspects of their jobs. The scale asked the respondents to respond on a four-point Likert-type scale ranging from "1" (very dissatisfied) to "4" (very satisfied). Representative items in this section included "I value my position", "I have difficulty with my position," and "I have positive relationships with colleagues."

Part two. The second section, consisting of five questions of the survey, asked respondents to express feelings about their jobs. The scale asked the participants to respond to the same four-point Likert-type scale as in part one. Representative items in this section included: "Does work make you tense?", "The amount of work you must get done interferes with how well it gets done," and "Your work causes you a great amount of stress."

Part three. The third section had eight questions and asked respondents the extent to which the following might describe them. The scale asked the respondents to respond to the same four-point Likert-type scale as in parts one and two. Representative items in this section included: "I do not sleep well," "I have a lot of headaches," "I feel tired," and "I miss a lot of time from work."

Part four. The fourth section consisted of 16 questions and asked respondents what strategies they use to cope with stress at work. The scale asked them to respond to the same four-point Likert-type scale as in parts one through three. Representative items in this section included: "I listen to music," "I talk to my supervisor when stressed," "I exercise," "I am involved in professional organizations," "I use alcohol," and "I use tobacco products."

Part five. The fifth section had 15 questions and asked for demographic information. Representative items in this section asked questions regarding gender, age, ethnic background, endorsement in area of teaching, grade level at which participants are teaching, numbers of students in their classroom, classroom type, and their students' disabilities.


The anonymous survey was available via the Internet through Survey Monkey, an online survey tool, from September 2016 to November 2016 through a link included in an email to potential respondents (described in the Participants section). The survey was completed only one time by participants. The setting in Survey Monkey did not allow the participants to repeat the survey. At the end of the posting period, the electronic collection of responses was imported to the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software program for statistical computations.

Analytic Strategy

Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) are data reduction techniques used to account for measurement error and extract latent variables. EFA tells how many latent factor(s) are in the data, and CFA shows how well the latent factor(s) fit the data. For an extended overview of these concepts, please refer to Wang and Wang (2012). The CFA of the data indicated that keeping the items Q7-Q19 resulted in a unidimensional construct that fit the data well according to the fit statistics (RMSEA = 0.115, CFI = 0.972, TLI = 0.966, WRMR = 0.917), according to traditional cutoffs to a three out of the four fit statistics (RMSEA < .08, CFI > .9, TLI> .9, WRMR < 1; Wang & Wang, 2012). All analyses were done using Mplus 8.0 (Muthen, & Muthen, 1998-2017). The EFA was run on the data to determine the number of factors that can be extracted from the data and for isolating items that do not add to the overall factor, and thus are candidates for deletion. The general principles delimited in Worthington and Whittaker (2006) were followed while theoretical considerations were also used for decision making of item retention. Once an EFA was performed, a CFA was done to obtain fit statistics for the proposed model. Once the psychometric properties of the construct(s) were established, a structural equation model (SEM) was employed with the covariates that regressed on the latent variable. As we were interested in describing what was observed in the analysis, we employed simultaneous regression (where all the covariates are included at once) so we could see how the variables performed in the presence of each other (Wang & Wang, 2012). Multigroup analyses were also conducted to study the differential effects of the strategies across different types of teachers. The covariance coverage (the percentage of missing data for each pairwise comparison between variables) is quite low in this analysis especially with the indicators of the construct (< 5% missing), making missing data less of a concern in this analysis. Missing data is handled in Mplus by the Full Information Maximum Likelihood (FIML) technique that has been shown to be more effective in dealing with missing data than other techniques such as listwise deletion (Little & Rubin, 2014).


The results of participants' ratings on the stress scale and coping strategies indicate that participating teachers rated the feeling of being tired because of work as one of the highest indicators of stress (M = 3.62; SD = 1.21). Teachers carrying their school problems home received the next highest rating (M = 3.27; SD = 1.34). Among the coping strategies, the two items that received the highest mean ratings were seeking support from family, friends, and colleagues (M = 3.66; SD = 1.21) and listening to music (M = 3.52; SD = 1.24).

The EFA indicated that a one factor was appropriate according to the eigenvalues, scree plots, and model fit statistics. Results indicated keeping the items Q7-Q19 resulted in a unidimensional construct that fit the data well, according to a majority of the fit statistics ([chi square] = 133.225, p = 0.000, MSEA = 0.115, CFI = 0.972, TLI = 0.966, WRMR = 0.917), according to traditional cutoffs to a three out of the four fit statistics (Wang & Wang, 2012). The factor loadings and communalities are found in Table 3.

Although some of the factor loadings were below the cutoff (.32), (e.g., "Q18--I have high blood pressure," "Q19--I miss a lot time from work"), they were still retained according to the theoretical context coverage. As the data were considered categorical and there were some floor effects in the data, reliability statistics such as omega or Cronbach's alpha can be misleading and thus were not calculated (Raykov & Marcoulides, 2011).

The SEM and multi-group are found in Tables 4-6. As seen in Table 4, in the overall SEM where no grouping of teachers was done, dancing was the only strategy that statistically predicted lower stress (B = -0.176, [beta] = -0.212, p = 0.002). This does lend support to the predictive validity of measure, as dancing is theorized to decrease stress. (Brauninger, 2012) Because stress is a latent variable and thus has no natural scale, the easiest interpretation is for the standardized Beta ([beta]) (Muthen, & Muthen, 1998-2017). Thus, for every one standard deviation increase a teacher reported in dancing, their stress score was predicted to be .212 standard deviations lower. Other coping strategies of counseling, eating, use of prescription medication, use of alcohol, and use of recreational drugs predicted an increase in stress (all p < .05). Nevertheless, as this was not a randomized controlled trial, causal claims should not be made, even with caution.

Table 5 shows the results from a multigroup SEM where the groups are determined by the level of experience of the teachers (<5 years of teaching are considered inexperienced; Billingsley, 2004). The only statistically significant result detected in this analysis was that eating was associated with increased stress for experienced teachers (B = 0.237, [beta] = 0.393, p < 0.001).

Table 6 shows the results from a multigroup SEM where the groups were determined by whether a teacher had a self-contained classroom or not. Teachers of self-contained classrooms reported dancing (B = -0.278, [beta] = -0.268, p = 0.02) and being a member of a professional organization as coping strategies that reduce stress (B = -0.198, [beta] = -0.19, p - 0.04), while eating was a predictor for higher stress (B = 0.175, [beta] = 0.278, p = 0.004). Those teachers not in a self-contained classroom did not have any significant predictors of stress. As five tests were run on the same data, a Bonferroni correction is appropriate. The adjusted alpha was (.05/5 =.01), thus only those coefficients that had a p-value of .01 or less should be considered significant.

Two other multigroup analyses were run, but they did not converge; one analysis was run where the groups were defined by age (<35 is considered young), but there were very few of the teachers considered young and thus the model did not converge. Another attempt was to group the teachers by whether they had licensure of any kind versus none. Only 29 teachers had no license, thus the model did not converge.

The results of the study indicated that most of the special education teachers surveyed value their positions (94%), have positive relationships with their colleagues (89%), and are committed to their field (81%). Many of them also indicated that they carry their school problems home with them (63%), their work makes them frustrated (57%), they feel tired (78%), and the amount of work they have interferes with how well they perform their job (61%). Their work was related to a great deal of stress for them. In addition, most of the special educators surveyed use adaptive coping strategies to deal with their stress on a day-to-day basis.


Teacher stress has had a significant impact on retention of special education teachers (Albrecht et al., 2009; Billingsley, 2004; Brunsting et al., 2014; Cancio et al., 2013). The purpose of this study was to explore the source of stress and to identify coping strategies special education teachers use to deal with this stress. The study indicated that special education teachers feel tired, and their work causes them a great deal of stress, which also interferes with their quality of work (Bettini et al., 2017). Consistent with COR theory, prior studies investigating workload manageability and career intentions have found that when teachers view their workloads to be manageable, they are more likely to plan to continue teaching (Albrecht et al., 2009; Bettini et al., 2017). When teachers find their workloads less manageable, and more stress-producing, they are more likely to plan to quit and to experience emotional exhaustion, as they feel they have depleted their energy and are no longer able to give of themselves emotionally (Maslach & Jackson, 1981, p. 99).

In the analysis of coping strategies, this study found that listening to music and feeling supported by family and friends were the most commonly used adaptive coping strategies (Stoeber & Rennert, 2008). Dancing was the only strategy identified that statistically predicted lower stress. Other coping strategies including counseling, eating, use of prescription medication, use of alcohol, and use of recreational drugs, predicted an increase in stress. Interestingly, eating was associated with increased stress for two groups of teachers: experienced teachers and teachers from self-contained classrooms. Perhaps the experienced teachers are no longer able to balance the long hours that their heavy workload requires with other more adaptive leisurely activities, such as exercise, yoga, etc. Future research needs to address how consequences of stress and coping strategies for stress seem to change with age and experience.

Findings related to self-contained classroom teachers, including those who serve students with EBD, indicate that involvement in professional organizations such as Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), and Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders (CCBD) is associated with reduced stress. Unfortunately, as far as the current researchers know, the degree of impact on stress reduction by belonging to professional organizations has not been investigated previously. Teachers who belong to these organizations may feel they are provided with a support system that provides them with assistance through camaraderie, resources, and staff development. These findings support the COR theory that suggests that social and collegial support is a resource that can reduce the effects of high demands on teacher stress and attrition (Alarcon, 2011). For special education teachers who teach in self-contained settings, being a part of a larger professional community may be associated with reduced stress (Jones et al., 2013). Perhaps these teachers feel isolated and seek benefit in finding support from their colleagues.

This study suggests that, in general, special educators are engaged in active coping strategies (Greer & Greer, 1992; Pines & Aronson, 1988). In active coping strategies, people attempt to change the source of stress, or themselves. They are able to engage in leisurely activities such as dancing, and accessing social-emotional support through family, friends and colleagues (Parker & Martin, 2009). In contrast, in maladaptive coping strategies, people avoid or deny the source of stress (Stoeber & Rennert, 2008). Although counseling, eating, and using prescription medicine, alcohol and recreational drugs were found to be predictors of stress, these coping strategies were not commonly adopted by the participating special educators. As suggested by these findings with a small sample size, there is a need to further explore how to reduce stressors for special educators.

Limitations of the Study and Suggestions for Future Research

Caution should be exercised when interpreting the results of this study. First, this was an exploratory study, and thus the survey instrument was not tested for test-retest reliability, which limits the generalizability of the results. Evaluation of the reliability of the survey was limited to 28 teachers who participated in a pilot study. Test-retest reliability should be examined using larger groups of reviewers who are demographically matched, if future use of this survey instrument is considered. In replicating the study, assurances of reliability and validity would strengthen confidence in generalizing the results obtained.

Second, convenience sampling diminished the generalizability of the study. This also weakens the case for the sample's representativeness to the total population of special education teachers. Future research should involve a stratified random sample of all special education teachers to improve the representativeness of the sample and the generalizability of the study. A second research need may be to investigate special education teachers who work with students who have specific types of disabilities (e.g., students with ED/EBD, LD, ID/ CD) to determine if these teachers are vulnerable to different levels of stress, or if different coping strategies are more effective to these categories of teachers.

Additionally, the results of the regression are exploratory and should not be considered as the final word in causal reducers (or increases) of stress. Further work, where a randomized control trial would be necessary, should be done to see if an intervention (e.g., dancing) reduces stress.

The findings of this study suggest that future research should focus on investigating research-based strategies designed to assist special education teachers to cope with stress and to find differences in strategies that are more beneficial to special education teachers in rural versus urban communities. More research is needed to find out about how the consequences of stress and coping strategies for stress seem to change with age and licensure. More research is needed with novice special education teachers as they tend to be more at risk for leaving the field than veteran teachers (Bettini et al, 2017; Castro et al., 2010; Anderson & Olsen, 2006).

The study provides information about how a small group of special educators reduces stress. Implications exist for administrators in schools to provide professional development on how teachers can reduce work-related stress to curtail attrition. Teacher educators also have a responsibility to provide information on teacher stress in teacher preparation courses in order to give teachers the skills to deal with stress and burnout in an effective manner.


This study provides important information for special education teachers who want to decrease their stress and have longevity in their careers. Replacing teachers of students with disabilities is not easy. Therefore, it is in the best interests of special education teachers and their school district administrators to acquire strategies to curtail stress on the job. Special educators who view themselves as stress-free are more likely to engage in effective classroom practices, experience greater job satisfaction, improve their instructional capacity, and positively impact student achievement. School district administrators who hope to keep competent teachers should proactively search for the means to minimize and alleviate stressors and encourage faculty to participate in those activities. The findings of this study imply that districts need to engage in continuous evaluation of their special education teachers' job satisfaction (e.g., increased pressure for high test scores, increased workload and paperwork, student concerns, and personnel issues), in order to provide them with the most effective support. Some other implications are that school districts and administrators need to provide staff development on how to deal with stress in the workplace adaptively. In addition, higher education faculty in special education need to address stress, burnout, and attrition in their methods courses. Clearly, a satisfactory teacher workforce benefits the achievement levels of its students.

Edward J. Cancio

The University of Toledo

Ross Larsen

Brigham Young University

Sarup R. Mathur

Arizona State University

Mary Bailey Estes

University of North Texas

Bev Johns

MacMurray College

Mei Chang

University of North Texas


Alarcon, G. M. (2011). A meta-analysis of burnout with job demands, resources, and attitudes. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79, 549-562. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2011.03.007

Albrecht, S., Johns, B., Mounsteven, J., & Olorunda, O. (2009). Working conditions as risk or resiliency factors for teachers of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. Psychology in the Schools, 46, 1006-1022.

Anderson, L., & Olsen, B. (2006). Investigating early career urban teachers' perspectives on and experiences in professional development. Journal of Teacher Education, 57, 359-377. /0022487106291565

Beltman, S., Mansfield, C., & Price, A. (2011). Thriving is not just surviving: A review of research on teacher resilience. Educational Research Review, 6, 185-207.

Berry, B., Rasberry, M., & Williams, A. (2007). Recruiting and retaining quality teachers for high needs schools: Insights from NBCT summits and other policy initiatives. Hillsborough, NC: Center for Teaching Quality. Retrieved from http://www.teachingquality .org/legacy/Nat_Strtegy_Forum.pdf

Betoret, F.D. (2006). Stressors, self-efficacy, coping resources, and burnout among secondary school teachers in Spain. Educational Psychology, 26, 519-539.

Bettini, E., Jones, N., Brownell, M., Conroy, M., Park, Y., Leite, W., Crockett, J., & Benedict A. (2017). Workload manageability among novice special and general educators teachers: Relationships with emotional exhaustion and career intentions. Remedial and Special Education. 35, 246-256. /0741932517708327

Billingsley, B. S. (2004). Special education retention and attrition: A critical analysis of the research literature. Journal of Special Education, 38, 39-55.

Brauninger, I. (2012). Dance movement therapy group intervention in stress treatment: A randomized control trail. The Arts In Psychotherapy, 39, 443-450.

Brunsting, N. C., Sreckovic, M. A., & Lane, K. L. (2014). Special education teacher burnout: A synthesis of research from 1979 to 2013. Education and Treatment of Children, 37,681-711.

Cancio, E. J., Albrecht, S. F., & Johns, B. H. (2013). Defining administrative support and its relationship to the attrition of teachers of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Education and Treatment of Children, 36, 71-94.

Cando, E. J., & Conderman, G. (2008). Promoting longevity: Strategies for teachers of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Beyond Behavior, 17, 30-36.

Cancio, E., Mathur, S. R., Estes, M B., Johns, B., & Larson, R. (2017, October). How special educators cope with the stress that comes from their positions: A quantitative study. The 2017 Annual Teacher Educators for Children with Behavior Disorders National Conference, Tempe, Arizona.

Carver-Thomas, D., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2017). Addressing California's growing teacher shortage: 2017 update. Pola Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.

Castro, A. J., Kelly, J., & Shih, M. (2010). Resilience strategies for new teachers in high-needs areas. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26, 622-629. https://doi.Org/10.1016/j.tate.2009.09.010

Dewey, J., Sindelar, P. T., Bettini, E., Boe, E. E., Rosenberg, & M. S. Leko, C. (2017). Explaining the decline in special education teacher employment from 2005-2012. Exceptional Children, 83, 315-329.

Dillion, S. (2007). With turnover high, schools fight for teachers. The New York Times. Retrieved from /2007/08/07/education/27teacher.html

Embich, J. L. (2001). The relationship of secondary special education teachers' roles and factors that lead to professional burnout. Teacher Education and Special Education, 24, 58-69.

Futernick, K. (2007). A possible dream: Retaining California teachers so all students learn. Sacramento: The Center for Teacher Quality, California State University.

George, N. L., George, M. P., Gersten, R., & Grosenick, J. R. (1995). To leave or to stay: An exploratory study of teachers of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Remedial and Special Education, 16, 227-236.

Greer, H. G., & Greer, B. B. (1992). Stopping burnout before it starts: Prevention measures at the pre-service level. Teacher Education and Special Education, 15, 168-174.

Hobfoll, S. E. (2011). Conservation of resources theory: Its implication for stress, health, and resilience. In S. Folkman (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of stress, health, and coping (pp. 127-147). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Ingersoll, R., & Perda, D. (2007). What the national data tells us about the teacher shortage. Jussup, MD: National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES).

Ingersoll, R. M. (2012). Beginning teacher induction: What the data tell us. Phi Delta Kappan, 93,47-51.

Jones, N. D., Youngs, P., & Frank, K. A. (2013). The role of school-based colleagues in shaping the commitment of novice special and general education teachers. Exceptional Children, 79, 365-383. doi/10.1177/001440291307900303

Jordan, T. R., Khubchandani, J., & Wiblishauser, M. (2016). The impact of perceived stress and coping adequacy on the health of nurses. Nusring Research and Practice, 2016, 1-11. http://dx.doi .org/10.1155/2016/5843256

Kaff, M. F. (2004). Multitasking is multtiaxing: Why special educators are leaving the field. Preventing School Failure, 48(2), 10-17.

Katsiyannis, A., Zhang, D., & Conroy, M. (2003). Availability of special education teachers: Trends and issues. Remedial and Special Education, 24, 246-253.Lazarus, R. (1993). Coping theory and research: Past, present, and future. Psychosomatic Medicine, 55, 234-247.

Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.

Little, R. J., & Rubin, D. B. (2014). Statistical analysis with missing data (Vol. 333). Medford, MA: John Wiley & Sons.

Madsen, C. K. (2010). The value of professional organizations: MENC: The National Association for Music Educators, 29, 3-6.

Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1981). The measurement of experienced burnout, journal of Organizational Behavior, 2, 99-113.

Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1984). Burnout in organizational settings. Applied Social Psychology, 5,133-153.

Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52,397-422.

Matheny, K. B., Gfroerer, C. A., & Harris, K. (2000). Work stress, burnout, and coping at the turn of the century: An Adlerian perspective. Journal of Individual Psychology, 56, 74-87.

McCarthy, C., Lambert, R., Lineback, S., Fitchett, P., & Baddouh, P. (2016). Assessing teacher appraisals and stress in the classroom: Review of the classroom appraisal of resources and demands. EducationalPsychology Review, 28, 577-603.doi:10.1007 /s10648-015-9322-6

Muthen, L. K., & Muthen, B. O. (1998-2017). Mplus user's guide. (8th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Muthen & Muthen.

Parker, P. D., & Martin, A. J. (2009). Coping and buoyancy in the workplace: Understanding their effects on teachers' work-related well-being and engagement. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 68-75.

Pines, A., & Aronson, E. (1988). Career burnout: Causes and cures. New York: Free Press.

Prather-Jones, B. (2011). How school administrators influence the retention of teachers of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. The Clearing House, 84, 1-8. doi: 10.1080/0009865 5.2010.489387

Pullis, M. (1992). An analysis of the occupational stress of teachers of the behaviorally disordered: Sources, effects, and strategies for coping. Behavioral Disorders, 17, 191-201.

Raykov, T., & Marcoulides, G. A. (2011). Introduction to psychometric theory. New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor and Francis.

Schlichte, J., Yssel, N., & Merbler, J. (2005). Pathways to burnout: Case studies in teacher isolation and alienation. Preventing School Failure, 50, 35-40. doi:10.3200/PSFL50

Stiver, R. L. (1982). Factors affecting attrition of teachers of the emotionally disturbed: Training and employment considerations. University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

Stoeber, J., & Rennert, D. (2008). Perfectionism in school teachers: Relations with stress appraisals, coping styles, and burnout. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 21, 37-53.

Sweeney, D. P., & Townley, A. J. (1993). Stress among general and special education teachers of students with emotional or behavioral disorders: Possible implications for full inclusion. In R. B. Rutherterford, Jr., and S. R. Mathur (Eds.), Monograph in Behavioral Disorders: Severe Behavior Disorders of Children and Youth, 16, 102-110.

Wang, J., & Wang, X. (2012). Structional equation modeling: Applications using plus. Beijing, China: Higher Education Press.

Watson, J. C., Harper, S., Ratliff, L., & Singleton, S. (2010). Holistic wellness and perceived stress: Predicting job satisfaction among beginning teachers. Research in the Schools, 17, 29-37.

Westervelt, E. (2016). Frustration, attrition, burnout: It's time to address the national teacher shortage. NPR ED: How Learning Happens. Retrieved from /09/15/493808213/frustration-burnout-attrition-its-time-to -address-the-national-teacher-shortage

Wong, V., Ruble, L.A., McGrew, J. H., & Yu, Y. (2017). Study of multidimensial fidelity of COMPAS consultation. School Psychologist Quarterly, 33(2), 251-263. 0000217

Worthington, R. L., & Whittaker, T. A. (2006). Scale development research: A content analysis and recommendations for best practices. The Counseling Psychologist, 34(6), 806-838.

Wrobel, G. (1993). Preventing school failures for teachers: Training for a lifelong career in EBD. Preventing school failure, 37(2), 16-20.

Zabel, R. H., & Zabel, M. K. (1982). Factors in burnout among teachers of exceptional children. Exceptional Children, 49(3), 261-263.

Correspondence should be addressed to: Edward J. Cancio, Department of Early Childhood, Higher, and Special Education, Judith Herb College of Education, University of Toledo, 2801 W. Bancroft Street, Mail Stop 954, Toledo, OH 43606-3390. Email:
Table 1
Participant Demographics

Variable                                                 N        %

Ethnic background
  Caucasian                                              160     75.8
  African American                                        22     10.4
  Hispanic                                                14      6.6
  Asian                                                    1      0.5
  Other                                                    4      1.8
  Missing                                                 10      4.7
Average Socioeconomic Level of Students in School
  Low                                                    160     75.8
  Middle                                                  39     18.5
  High                                                     2      0.9
  Missing                                                 10      4.7
Grade Level
  Elementary                                              86     40.8
  Middle/Jr. high                                         41     19.4
  High                                                    64     30.3
  Other                                                   12      5.7
  Missing                                                  8      3.8
  Emotional and behavioral disorders                      13      6.2
  Intellectual disabilities                                4      1.9
  Learning disabilities                                   26     12.3
  Mild/moderate                                           63     29.9
  Moderate to severe                                      23     10.9
  Other                                                   74     35.0
  Missing                                                  8      3.8
Self-Contained Classroom
  Self-contained                                          91     43.1
  Open classroom                                         120     56.9
  Female                                                 182     86.3
  Male                                                    29     13.7
  5 or less years (Inexperienced)                         40     18.9
  6 + years (Experienced)                                171     81.0

Table 2
Descriptives of the Stress Scale Items and Coping Strategies

Full Stress Scale Items                          Mean     SD      Min

You carry your school problems home with you     3.27    1.34      1
Your work makes you frustrated                   3.03    1.15      1
Your work makes you tense                        3.12    1.20      1
The amount of work you have to get done          3.17    1.27      1
  interferes with how well it gets done
Your work causes you a great deal of stress      3.25    1.26      1
I often get upset and cannot eat                 1.51    0.83      1
I do not sleep well                              2.66    1.29      1
I have a lot of headaches                        2.36    1.37      1
I feel tired                                     3.62    1.21      1
I find myself seeking medical care often         1.77    1.01      1
I have sought counseling or psychological help   1.51    0.99      1
I have high blood pressure                       1.89    1.43      1
I miss a lot of time from work                   1.26    0.63      1

Coping Strategies

Dancing                                          1.50    0.85      1
Writing                                          1.43    0.82      1
Listening to music                               3.52    1.24      1
Gardening                                        1.93    1.24      1
Talking with your supervisor                     1.93    1.01      1
Yoga                                             1.36    0.83      1
Exercising                                       2.74    1.33      1
Support from family, friends, and colleagues     3.66    1.21      1
Involvement in your professional organization    1.39    0.76      1
  (e.g., CEC, CCBD)
Counseling                                       1.30    0.73      1
Engaging in staff development                    2.34    1.10      1
Eating                                           2.80    1.35      1
Use of prescribed medication                     1.90    1.48      1
Use of tobacco products                          1.30    0.92      1
Use of alcohol                                   1.89    0.99      1
Use of recreational drugs                        1.04    0.27      1

Full Stress Scale Items                           Max      N

You carry your school problems home with you       5      206
Your work makes you frustrated                     5      206
Your work makes you tense                          5      206
The amount of work you have to get done            5      206
  interferes with how well it gets done
Your work causes you a great deal of stress        5      206
I often get upset and cannot eat                   5      206
I do not sleep well                                5      206
I have a lot of headaches                          5      206
I feel tired                                       5      204
I find myself seeking medical care often           5      206
I have sought counseling or psychological help     5      203
I have high blood pressure                         5      202
I miss a lot of time from work                     5      204

Coping Strategies

Dancing                                            5      204
Writing                                            5      203
Listening to music                                 5      202
Gardening                                          5      203
Talking with your supervisor                       5      202
Yoga                                               5      204
Exercising                                         5      200
Support from family, friends, and colleagues       5      204
Involvement in your professional organization      5      202
  (e.g., CEC, CCBD)
Counseling                                         5      203
Engaging in staff development                      5      204
Eating                                             5      203
Use of prescribed medication                       5      198
Use of tobacco products                            5      198
Use of alcohol                                     5      202
Use of recreational drugs                          4      188

Note. CEC = Council for Exceptional Children. CCBD = Council for
Children with Behavior Disorders.

Table 3
STRESS Latent Variable Factor Loadings and Communalities (n = 101)

Stress Items                              Loadings            SE

Q7--You carry your school problems         1.000            0.000
home with you

Q8--Your work makes you frustrated       1.221 ***          0.098

Q9--Your work makes you tense            1.387 ***          0.109

Q10--The amount of work you have to      1.083 ***          0.099
get done interferes with how well it
gets done

Q11--Your work causes you a great        1.359 ***          0.107
deal of stress

Q12--I often get upset and cannot        0.995 ***          0.103

Q13--I do not sleep well                 0.920 ***          0.099

Q14--I have a lot of headaches           0.975 ***          0.095

Q15--I feel tired                        1.164 ***          0.100

Q16--I find myself seeking medical       1.081 ***          0.104
care often

Q17--I have sought counseling or         0.597 ***          0.134
psychological help

Q18--I have high blood pressure            0.302            0.167

Q19--I miss a lot of time from work       0.315 *           0.126

Stress Items                              Loadings      Communalities

Q7--You carry your school problems         0.700            0.490
home with you

Q8--Your work makes you frustrated         0.855            0.731

Q9--Your work makes you tense              0.971            0.943

Q10--The amount of work you have to        0.758            0.575
get done interferes with how well it
gets done

Q11--Your work causes you a great          0.952            0.906
deal of stress

Q12--I often get upset and cannot          0.697            0.485

Q13--I do not sleep well                   0.644            0.414

Q14--I have a lot of headaches             0.683            0.466

Q15--I feel tired                          0.815            0.664

Q16--I find myself seeking medical         0.757            0.573
care often

Q17--I have sought counseling or           0.418            0.175
psychological help

Q18--I have high blood pressure            0.211            0.045

Q19--I miss a lot of time from work        0.220            0.049

Note. SE = standard error. * p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001.

Table 4
Regression Coefficients of Predictors (Coping Strategies)
on Outcome Variable (Stress)

Predictor Variable                                   B          SE

Dancing                                            -0.176     0.058
Writing                                            -0.057     0.054
Listening to music                                 -0.065     0.037
Gardening                                           0.002     0.040
Talking with your supervisor                       -0.047     0.047
Yoga                                               -0.064     0.058
Exercising                                         -0.065     0.037
Support from family, friends, and colleagues       -0.067     0.039
Involvement in your professional organization      -0.102     0.059
  (e.g., CEC, CCBD)
Counseling                                          0.279     0.058
Engaging in staff development                      -0.073     0.043
Eating                                              0.190     0.031
Use of prescribed medication                        0.110     0.032
Use of tobacco products                             0.075     0.043
Use of alcohol                                      0.109     0.046
Use of recreational drugs                           0.271     0.115

Predictor Variable                                  Beta      p-value

Dancing                                            -0.212     0.002 *
Writing                                            -0.066     0.291
Listening to music                                 -0.116     0.079
Gardening                                           0.004     0.951
Talking with your supervisor                       -0.067     0.315
Yoga                                               -0.076     0.268
Exercising                                         -0.123     0.084
Support from family, friends, and colleagues       -0.115     0.083
Involvement in your professional organization      -0.111     0.085
  (e.g., CEC, CCBD)
Counseling                                          0.288     0.001 **
Engaging in staff development                      -0.114     0.093
Eating                                              0.365     0.001 **
Use of prescribed medication                        0.231     0.001 **
Use of tobacco products                             0.098     0.084
Use of alcohol                                      0.154     0.017 *
Use of recreational drugs                           0.104     0.019 *

Note. SE = standard error. * p < .05; ** p < .01. CEC = Council for
Exceptional Children.

CCBD = Council for Children with Behavior Disorders.

Table 5
Regression Coefficients of Coping Strategies on Stress by Teacher

                                       B                   SE

Variable                          Ex       InEx       Ex       InEx

Dancing                         -0.054    -0.171    0.126     0.122
Writing                         -0.057    -0.017    0.141     0.147
Listening to music              -0.06      0.042    0.06      0.10
Gardening                        0.081    -0.041    0.058     0.127
Talking with your supervisor    -0.118     0.046    0.075     0.138
Yoga                             0.003     0.103    0.199     0.457
Exercising                      -0.027    -0.023    0.069     0.06
Support from family, friends,   -0.058    -0.083    0.085     0.158
  and colleagues
Involvement in your profes-      0.121    -0.211    0.098     0.214
  sional organization
Counseling                       0.096     0.134    0.121     0.347
Engaging in staff development    0.011    -0.04     0.088     0.05
Eating                           0.237     0.093    0.067     0.055
Use of prescribed medication     0.078     0.048    0.051     0.242
Use of tobacco products          0.01      0.008    0.105     0.116
Use of alcohol                   0.112     0.141    0.182     0.197
Use of recreational drugs        0.02     -0.382    0.357     2.546

                                       Beta               p-value

Variable                          Ex       InEx        Ex       InEx

Dancing                         -0.06     -0.256    0.67       0.163
Writing                         -0.058    -0.026    0.687      0.907
Listening to music              -0.103     0.089    0.314      0.674
Gardening                        0.132    -0.09     0.163      0.748
Talking with your supervisor    -0.144     0.087    0.113      0.738
Yoga                             0.003     0.17     0.987      0.822
Exercising                      -0.047    -0.056    0.69       0.698
Support from family, friends,   -0.091    -0.182    0.4%       0.598
  and colleagues
Involvement in your profes-      0.133    -0.266    0.217      0.323
  sional organization
Counseling                       0.099     0.164    0.425      0.699
Engaging in staff development    0.016    -0.077    0.901      0.430
Eating                           0.393     0.232    0.001 **   0.093
Use of prescribed medication     0.16      0.121    0.124      0.843
Use of tobacco products          0.012     0.014    0.922      0.943
Use of alcohol                   0.113     0.27     0.538      0.474
Use of recreational drugs        0.009    -0.127    0.956      0.881

Note. SE = standard error. Ex = experienced (> 5 years). InEx =
inexperienced (< 5 years). * p < .05; ** p < .01.

Table 6
Regression Coefficients of Coping Strategies on Stress by Self-
contained Classroom

                                      B                   SE

Variable                         Yes       No        Yes       No

Exercising                     -0.049     0.012    0.07      0.216
Support from family,            0.017    -0.107    0.091     0.344
  friends, and colleagues
Involvement in your            -0.198     0.039    0.096     0.551
  professional organization
Counseling                      0.12      0.436    0.112     0.555
Engaging in staff              -0.043    -0.081    0.092     0.07
Eating                          0.175     0.155    0.061     0.135
Use of prescribed medication    0.118     0.028    0.078     0.315
Use of tobacco products        -0.078     0.054    0.127     0.163
Use of alcohol                  0.056     0.128    0.111     0.182
Use of recreational drugs       0.224    -0.565    0.248     1.299

                                      Beta               p-value

Variable                         Yes       No         Yes        No

Exercising                     -0.074     0.022    0.485       0.956
Support from family,            0.023    -0.184    0.852       0.755
  friends, and colleagues
Involvement in your            -0.19      0.036    0.04 *      0.944
  professional organization
Counseling                      0.102     0.426    0.283       0.432
Engaging in staff              -0.051    -0.13     0.64        0.248
Eating                          0.278     0.276    0.004 **    0.251
Use of prescribed medication    0.182     0.061    0.132       0.929
Use of tobacco products        -0.063     0.081    0.541       0.74
Use of alcohol                  0.066     0.167    0.614       0.482
Use of recreational drugs       0.09     -0.133    0.367       0.664

Note. SE = standard error. * p < .05; ** p < .01.
COPYRIGHT 2018 West Virginia University Press, University of West Virginia
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2018 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Cancio, Edward J.; Larsen, Ross; Mathur, Sarup R.; Estes, Mary Bailey; Johns, Bev; Chang, Mei
Publication:Education & Treatment of Children
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2018
Previous Article:Systematic Review of Cultural Adaptations of School-based Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Interventions for Students of Color.
Next Article:Effects of TWA on Science Text Comprehension of Students with Emotional and Behavior Disorders in a Special Day School.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |