Background and Introduction
Being the largest state in the Middle East, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is proud of its fast social and economic development and growth. At the same time, there are still some aspects in which Saudi Arabia does not succeed. Unfortunately, special education and support services for people with disabilities are some such areas, and therefore KSA has opportunities for improvement. Due to the lack of research focused on people with disabilities in the Middle East, the exact numbers and distribution of such populations are unknown (Al-Jadid, 2013). Consequently, there is insufficient information about people with disabilities that leads to the marginalization of the people of disability such as segregation, discrimination, and oppression. However, over the last several years, a significant effort has been undertaken aimed at the improvement for people with disabilities. Namely, numerous special education programs were successfully launched, and many special education facilities were built (Hadidi & Khateeb, 2015).
To achieve a high level of development in special education, Saudi Arabia, just like many other developing countries need more improvement for people and children with disabilities. According to disability advocate and author, Charlton (2000), he used the terms “underdeveloped” to be able to identify those countries in terms of service for people with disabilities. In other words, Saudi Arabia is still considered a developing country in terms of its economy, education, and medicine. As a developing country that requires Saudi Arabia needs to balance out medical and social support for people with disabilities, activate intervention-based research in the field that would help to stimulate further evidence-based instructional practices (Altamimi, Lee, Sayed-Ahmed, & Kassem, 2015).
Also, to improve educational inclusion and the quality of special education in the state, it is necessary to engage policy-makers to help regulate legal attitudes and eligibility criteria for learners with disabilities by making laws that protect their rights in education to enhance the special education (Aldabas, 2015). Moving towards inclusive education, educational leaders of Saudi Arabia are required to advocate for their students as well as their peers and colleagues to improve readiness for change in the field (Murry & Alqahtani, 2015). Practically, teachers who work in special education facilities today are exposed to a great number of risks, pressures, and threats due to the lack of professional support and the insufficient preparedness of the educational system of the country to the provision of high-quality of special education.
Occupational burnout among specialists who are working with people of disabilities presents an important issue that needs to be explored. Employee burnout in special education teachers living and working in different countries has been investigated by many researchers. Bataineh and Alsagheer (2012) identified the sources of social support that reveal possible measures reducing educator burnout. Regardless of the differences in cultures, lifestyles, and mentalities high levels of burnout remain a persistent issue peculiar to the profession of intellectual disability teachers in such countries as Turkey (Küçüksüleymanoğlu, 2011), Greece (Platsidou, 2010), and the Sultanate of Oman (Mohamed, 2015). A variety of reasons drive the importance of studying various dimensions of occupational burnout in different cultures.
It is accepted that work-related stress is detrimental to a sufficient level of job satisfaction and healthy well-being special education teachers and that teaching is considered as a high-level stressful profession (Hamama, Ronen, Shachar, & Rosenbaum, 2013). Among the factors that are responsible for high levels of stress in teachers who have been working with students with an intellectual disability all over the world, there is a large number of students’ specialized needs that these professionals are required to meet. Studying factors that are consistent with occupational burnout rates in special education teachers, it is possible to use the data to improve the existing programs and initiatives helping education specialists to increase the student’s outcome. The present review involves many studies that have been chosen based on their applicability to the research on burnout in special education teachers in Saudi Arabia. Overall, among the subtopics that the relevant studies address, there is burnout in general and special education, burnout in support workers taking care of students with intellectual disabilities, the state of knowledge concerning burnout and demographic characteristics, and methods helping to measure work-related stress.
Problem Statement and Significance of the Study
There are many reasons why it is important to study how various dimensions of occupational burnout are manifested in teachers in different cultures. To begin with, many researchers in the field prove that work-related stress has a significant influence on the life satisfaction of special education teachers and considers teaching as showing a high level of stress of professional work (Hamama, Ronen, Shachar, & Rosenbaum, 2013). Thus the failure to study the specific characteristics of work-related stress in intellectual disability teachers from Saudi Arabia can have negative consequences. In particular, it can lead to a significant decrease in life satisfaction levels of special education teachers. Moreover, this negative tendency can encourage more specialists working in the field of special education to leave the profession due to the growing dissatisfaction and stress. It may also prevent pre-service teachers from initiating a career in special education.
Another reason for this research is inherent in the particularities of the discussed profession. In general, teaching has historically been considered as a profession associated with high levels of stress (Hamama, Ronen, Shachar, & Rosenbaum, 2013). The situation becomes even more intense when it comes to the field of special education as involving additional challenges for professional teachers. Among the factors that are responsible for high levels of stress in intellectual disability teachers all over the world is that these professionals due to the high levels of exhaustion (Hakanen, Bakker, & Schaufeli, 2006).
Many specialists working with students who have intellectual disabilities are exposed to challenging behavior including physical and verbal aggression, thus it may reduce a special education teacher’s motivation to teach and continue in the profession (Hensel, Lunsky, & Dewa, 2012). Also, the presence of positive outcomes for learners with an intellectual disability is often unclear when learners’ skill acquisition is not as fast as nondisabled peers’, thus school leadership may misinterpret the lack of progress as a lack of teaching. Furthermore, many educational practitioners fear that they will be incorrect “accused of abuse [physical, emotional, neglect or indifference]” or the use of harsh treatment during their work when implementing more intrusive or intensive supports such as physical guidance or even crisis prevention, de-escalation, and intervention, (McConkey, McAuley, Simpson, & Collins, 2007).
Combined with the high levels of stress specific to the profession, this factor significantly increases employee turnover rates in different countries. Studying factors that are consistent with occupational burnout rates in special education teachers, it is possible that the results of this study can be used to improve the existing programs and initiatives. The impact of paying special attention to the characteristics of intellectual disability teachers who are affected by work-related stress the most may help to identify the categories of professionals from Saudi Arabia who need additional training. The effect of burnout in special education professionals in Saudi Arabia is expected to have important practical outcomes.
Continuing on the significance of the topic, the research project is expected to add to the knowledge on the predictors of high burnout rates in Saudi Arabian special education teachers. In this connection, the choice of variables must serve two important purposes. First, commonly used variables such as gender and the years of experience can help narrow the gap between what is known about teacher burnout in Saudi Arabia and other countries. Apart from that, the introduction of more specific independent variables such as the use of assistive technology during lessons, classroom size, and teacher collaboration is supposed to justify the project’s academic novelty.
The impact of the above factors on the process of teaching, academic outcomes, and student engagement presents quite a popular research question. However, it has to be acknowledged that the presence of direct links between these factors and burnout levels in special needs educators have not been established yet. Thus, the impact of collaborative efforts, AT implementation, and the number of students in a group on burnout levels presents a significant research gap.
The topic remains underresearched even though some studies reviewed in Chapter 2 link the mentioned factors to work-related stress. For instance, Almekhalfi and Tibi (2012) assume that the situation with access to AT in the United Arab Emirates involves numerous challenges for special educators since the latter have to improve their knowledge and skills regularly to stay productive. Also, close attention must be paid to the practical significance of studying the above factors in the context of teacher burnout. For instance, knowing the degree to which the number of students in education groups predicts burnout, it is possible to design recommendations to be reviewed and analyzed by policymakers.
The proposed study should make a unique contribution to the field, expand the knowledge on occupational burnout in intellectual disability teachers in Saudi Arabia, and provide the data helping other researchers to improve supports and the environment that impact teachers’ attrition in Saudi Arabia. In particular, the use of specific data on work-related stress among intellectual disability teachers can help to increase the “prosocial motivation” of specialists, which means the workers desire to make engagement in their work to give more benefits (Hickey, 2014). Potentially in the areas of training, school structures, leadership, support, team members, parent resources, etc. In its turn, that has a positive influence on the life satisfaction of education professionals. The purpose of my study is to exam the teacher’s burnout in Saudi Arabia because the employee burnout in Saudi Arabia has not been thoroughly studied yet whereas there are numerous materials related to burnout in special education in European countries and the United States. Therefore, the positive changes that can be encouraged by the proposed study are numerous to make improvements in special education teachers in Saudi Arabia.
The researcher of this study has a major and interest in students with intellectual disabilities in terms of the teacher’s professional work, curriculum, and behaviors because all of these issues will influence students learning as an outcome. The researcher as well worked with students with intellectual disabilities in the north of Saudi Arabia. Also, the researcher has a student with Down syndrome from his relative, which impacted on him to study this major to assist him and increase the awareness about disabilities in terms of their rights in education, health, and work. The researcher has an excellent impact on awareness about disabilities in his community based on that the researcher came to the United State to learn more and bring his experience back to Saudi Arabia to increase the work of special education teachers to reach a high level of quality. Also, the communities in my country are eager to push harder to obtain high quality of teaching for their kids, and that is keeping me studying and learn more to be a contributor as a researcher in the special education program.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of my study is to explore and examine the occupational burnout among specialists who provide services to people with disabilities. Special education teachers are at risk of burnout, and it is important to study this for the benefit of specialists, people with disabilities, the community, and their families. In this connection, focused attention must be paid to the problems that special education teachers face daily. Special education teachers are known to have a range of work-related difficulties caused by an inappropriate or misbehavior of their students, conflicts, and the lack of collaboration with students’ parents. Occupational burnout still presents one of the major challenges for professionals working in this field. Nowadays, special education teachers belong to the number of individuals who are the most subject to work-related stress and occupational burnout. Due to the levels of stress that are extremely high, almost half of teachers who work with children and adolescents with physical, intellectual, or other disabilities are leaving the profession very soon after the onset of their careers. Taking that into account, it is clear that turnover rates among special education professionals are very high in different countries.
Specifically, the purpose of this study is to examine the independent variables which are the experience of teachers, the degree level they have, the grade they are teaching, and the gender all these variables will measure the dependent variable which is burnout for special education teacher in Qassim State in Saudi Arabia. The failure to fill the given knowledge gap can have a range of negative consequences such as a lack of professional work in special education due to the high level of burnout (Mohamed, 2015). In other words, that might decrease the number of special education in Saudi Arabia as well as decreasing the number of students who would like to obtain degrees in teacher preparation programs. At the same time, the topic of burnout in Saudi Arabia requires further research because there is a lack of effective methods helping to reduce work-related stress in such specialists and, therefore, design effective employee retention strategies such as mentoring to motivate specialists working with people with physical, intellectual or other disabilities.
The theoretical and conceptual framework remains one of the most important aspects to be identified before conducting research. In general, the topic of occupational burnout and stress management has not been studied for many years even though work-related stress has always influenced people in different countries and career fields. The proposed research is aimed at studying the effects of occupational burnout on special education teachers working in Saudi Arabia focusing on Maslach’s model (2001) as focused on three key dimensions – exhaustion, depersonalization, and accomplishment. The theory that has been used to explore the topic and identify hypotheses and research questions is the work by Maslach, Schaufeli, and Leiter (2001).
This theoretical framework reflects on the topic of research tools used worldwide, the authors describe the MBI scale “that was originally designed for use in human service occupations” (Maslach et al., 2001, p. 401).
To apply this theory to my study, it is important to define occupational burnout that should not involve any inconsistencies. According to the researchers, job burnout that used to be a slippery concept presents “a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job” (Maslach et al., 2001, p. 397). The discussed source provides one of the most comprehensive works devoted to the topic because it generalizes the knowledge of occupational burnout effectively.
The primary research question refers to the effects of burnout on special education teachers in Saudi Arabia whereas the additional ones that are expected to shape the study were constructed by the statements from the chosen theory. As specified by the authors, “there are important characteristics of some occupations that affect workers’ experience of burnout” (Maslach et al., 2001, p. 408). The additional research questions focus on the extent to which four individual factors are related to occupational burnout in special education teachers in Saudi Arabia. These four factors include the degree earned by specialists, their gender, the level of teaching, and the number of years in the profession.
As it follows from the discussed theory, “age and formal education” belong to the number of personal factors related to burnout (Maslach et al., 2001, p. 409); therefore, the use of education degrees and the number of years of professional experience as variables is approved by the discussed theory. The situation is a bit different in connection with gender because the source states that there are “some arguments that burnout is more of female experience”, but these claims have not been confirmed (Maslach et al., 2001, p. 409).
The study suggests that gender has not been proved to be a strong predictor of occupational burnout. Nevertheless, considering that Saudi Arabia belongs to several patriarchal societies, it is important to use this research question. It will help to check whether or not the results for the country with strong religious traditions are different from the results for countries where gender roles are more flexible. In terms of the level of teaching, it’s an appropriate variable to be studied in the proposed research, as there is a lack of knowledge on the role of this factor. Therefore, a theoretical framework has been used to conceptualize the topic that will be investigated. Their source presents a thorough discussion of individual factors that can be regarded as predictors of burnout. Based on this discussion and the knowledge gap related to some of the proposed variables, the research questions were formulated.
From scientific novelty considerations, it is planned to take into account factors that are actually or potentially related to the manifestation of burnout syndrome in special education teachers. General and special education have a lot in common in terms of psychological stress and the impact of students’ academic success on their teachers’ contentedness. With that in mind, the choice of such variables as class size and collaboration was based on findings peculiar both to general and special educators. Preliminary research on the influence of AT implementation was conducted with the focus on special education.
The decision to list class size among independent variables was made to fill in the existing research gap and understand whether this aspect of teaching significantly impacts Saudi Arabian teachers. The review of findings reported by previous researchers in the field shows that the role of class size in the development of burnout in special educators has not been clearly defined yet. The studies conducted by Carlson and Thompson in 1995 and by Coman et al. in 2013 indicate that the variable of class composition (it includes pupil age range, class size, SN student ratios) impacts two dimensions of burnout (Brunsting, Sreckovic, & Lane, 2014). However, the independent role of class size has not been fully analyzed.
In terms of collaboration between educators and their influence on burnout levels, this research question is also based on the conclusions made by previous researchers. The positive impact of administrative support and collaboration between educators in job satisfaction was discovered in five studies published from 1989 to 2013 (Brunsting et al., 2014, p. 696). Considering the lack of studies covering this aspect in the United Arab Emirates, it is pivotal to focus on this factor in the planned study. Finally, it is known that the use of AT improves the experiences of students and is sometimes stressful for teachers, but there are research gaps related to its role in teacher burnout (Rader, 2008; Peterson-Karlan, 2015).
The proposed research study is expected to improve the state of knowledge concerning occupational burnout among intellectual disability teachers in Saudi Arabia. In particular, the desired results are to indicate whether burnout in this group of special education teachers is predicted by the following variables: gender, the level of teaching, degrees earned, mentoring, collaboration, class size, assistive technology, and professional experience. In terms of setting chosen for the proposed research, the study will be conducted in Qassim State in Saudi Arabia to be able to answer this question.
The following question will guide this study
Primary Research Question
Our experience, academic qualifications, gender, mentoring, collaboration, class size, assistive technology, and grade level of students with disabilities significant predicators of the occupational burnout in Qassim State in Saudi Arabia?
Special education teachers in Qassim State in Saudi Arabia experience professional burnout.
Rationale for Methodology
The researcher will use the quantitative method by applying a survey instrument. This study will rely on multiple regression analyses because it is appropriate for the proposed research as it will help to describe the connection between each independent variable identified and burnout in special education teachers in Saudi Arabia. The chosen sampling strategy possesses many advantages that make it suitable for the proposed study.
To begin with, using this sample of special education teachers, it is easier for researchers to analyze data as they are not required to divide the sample into several groups. Another important advantage that needs to be mentioned is strictly connected with the purpose of the proposed research. Considering the necessity to study the situation with a burnout in special education teachers in Saudi Arabia and fill the knowledge gap that exists in the field, the research is aimed at identifying the relationships between burnout and four independent variables. At the same time, sampling is regarded as an appropriate strategy allowing the generalization of results and the identification of the most obvious tendencies. Also, the sample size will include around five hundred special education teachers working in Qassim State in Saudi Arabia, and I expect half of the sample to complete the survey.
Definition of Terms
- Mental disability or Intellectual disability: represents a kind of disability that is associated with a significant weakness in both adaptive behavior and intellectual functioning. Additionally, this form of disability usually tends to affect many socials and practical skills. Also, this disability occurs before the age of 18 (Schalock, Luckasson, & Shogren, 2007).
- Attrition, or burnout: according to Hakanen, Bakker, and Schaufeli (2006), Attrition, stress or burnout is a syndrome of exhaustion, the cynicism that could limit or reduce the professional work. Also, Maslach (1993) defined burnout as a “psychological syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced accomplishment that can occur among individuals who work with other people in some capacity (p.20).”
- Stress: according to Gold and Roth (1993) defined stress as “a condition of disequilibrium within the intellectual, emotional and physical state of the individual; it is generated by one’s perceptions of a situation, which result in physical and emotional reactions. It can be either positive or negative, depending upon one’s interpretations (p. 17).
To make a positive contribution to the field of education and expand the knowledge on the issues that special education professionals in Saudi Arabia face, the planned research should demonstrate newness and originality. Taking into account a large number of studies on the topic, the above-mentioned goal cannot be achieved without summarizing and analyzing the works by previous researchers. Speaking about current knowledge, some research gaps can be attributed to the lack of specific knowledge of professional burnout. Despite that, there are many studies whose authors offer insight into the nature of this psychological phenomenon and review specific burnout tendencies demonstrated by those providing special education services.
The specific goal of the given chapter is to provide a thorough review of high-quality studies that focus on burnout of special education teachers to find out the current status of burnout. Also, the ability to generalize on previous findings defines the degree to which the results of the planned research will be actual and relevant to the field. Studying different perspectives on burnout and other problems in special education professionals support the overall purpose of the study – to further explore occupational burnout in Saudi Arabian special education teachers and define whether its level is predicted by gender, professional degree, and other variables.
Explaining the approach used to find and review existing studies in the field remains a pivotal issue. To begin with, the studies included in the review section were chosen about such principles as relevance to the topic and scientific impact that can be defined using the h-index and the reputation of scholarly journals in which the articles were published. In an attempt to show the evolution of knowledge related to burnout and the ways of measuring it, the chapter includes different materials ranging from foundational works created thirty or more years ago to recent articles that add new details to what is already known. To make the literature review well-structured and classify existing knowledge, particular themes in the chosen studies were identified after familiarizing them with the key topics covered by previous researchers in the field. The use of specific themes is expected to help differentiate between burnout-related problems that are peculiar to general education teachers and professionals who work with people with disabilities.
The way the chapter is organized helps to achieve the communicative goal of the work and present a cohesive narrative that aligns the problem under analysis with the body of existing literature, defining conflicts in findings and possible methodological weaknesses. In the introduction and background section, the key principles used during information search and analysis are explained along with the structure of the chapter. The section devoted to the theoretical framework presents the theory guiding further research and discusses the MBI-ES tool that will be used to collect data based on that theory.
The literature review section is divided into subsections devoted to particular themes. The first subsection reviews the existing knowledge on burnout in general education, paying attention to processes related to increased burnout levels. The next subsection centers around the experience of support services and special education professionals with a specific focus on personal accomplishment and prosocial motivation. The third theme identified during the analysis of literature relates to possible interconnections between specific variables and levels of burnout in education professionals working with students who have special needs. The next subsection pays attention to mentoring in special education and its role. Finally, the literature review presents findings related to mentoring programs in special education. The concluding section reviews the significance of the planned study and research gaps that it is going to fill.
Theoretical Foundations and Conceptual Framework
The study utilizes a quantitative research design and, therefore, is based on deductive logic. About the way of how the problem of occupational burnout is planned to be investigated, the Multidimensional Theory of Burnout and the MBI tool based on it have been chosen as the key theoretical foundations due to their validity and applicability to the field of education.
The Multidimensional Theory of Burnout that defines the key concepts to be measured during the stage of data collection was proposed by Christina Maslach more than thirty years ago. When speaking about the prerequisites to the creation of the theory, Maslach et al. (2001) mention that occupational burnout was perceived as a slippery concept having no standardized definition. At the same time, many researchers positively accepted the idea of three burnout dimensions. These dimensions studied by Maslach and some of her colleagues are related to how the effects of burnout are manifested in people’s behavior and self-attitude.
In the theory under consideration, occupational burnout is defined as a psychological syndrome that occurs when professionals (especially those whose job duties include active communication) face chronic stress exposure (Maslach et al., 2001). Having conducted a series of studies focusing on the impact of burnout on the quality of professional performance and relationships with others, the researcher states that the level of burnout is strictly interconnected with job turnover, low morale, and absenteeism organizational behavior (Maslach, Schaufeli, & Jackson, 1997).
Emotional exhaustion, the first dimension of burnout that was identified by Maslach, is believed to be the most obvious manifestation of the phenomenon. According to the author, the majority of people reporting burnout experience emotional exhaustion, but it does not mean that other dimensions are unnecessary since exhaustion does not refer to the attitude of stressed individuals to their job duties. Emotional exhaustion is the component that will be measured within the frame of the research, and understanding its role is pivotal. In the theory chosen to inform further research, emotional exhaustion is understood as the feeling of emotional overextension resulting from overwork and the frequency of work-related conflicts. Unlike other dimensions, emotional exhaustion is not fully related to the choice of communication styles by a specialist with burnout. Instead, its presence undermines the very possibility of emotional involvement and makes a person unable to communicate properly and be emotionally responsive, which is important in many spheres including education.
The next dimension of burnout presented by Christina Maslach in her theory, depersonalization, can be regarded as a specific form of psychological self-defense that deprives communication in many spheres of its emotional component and, therefore, significantly increases person dissatisfaction. Also referred to as cynicism, this part of the phenomenon’s underlying structure involves a negative attitude to colleagues and clients and increased irritability with their problems. Having interviewed people working in human services, Maslach concluded that the willingness to increase the emotional distance from clients was a form of protection “from intense emotional arousal” (Maslach et al., 2001, p. 400).
Consequently, the willingness to avoid emotionally intense communication caused client neglect. In its extreme form, this dimension involved dehumanization – the inability to accept other people’s individuality (Maslach et al., 2001). It is possible to regard cognitive distancing as an essential reaction of a person whose work involves feeling other people’s pain. Despite the seeming justifiability of the reaction, the theory demonstrates that both exhaustion and depersonalization are detrimental to the perceived effectiveness and personal accomplishment, especially in professionals whose social characteristics are extremely different from those of their clients (Maslach et al., 2001). Considering that the work of special education teachers meets these criteria, studying depersonalization in Saudi Arabian education professionals is expected to produce practically significant results.
Finally, the theory singles out one more dimension of burnout – reduced personal accomplishment. They are also defined as the “self-evaluation dimension of burnout” because it involves perceived professional incompetence and a lack of achievement (Maslach et al., 2001, p. 399). It is hypothesized that the correlation between the three dimensions of burnout is unique in every professional field. For example, the studies conducted at the end of the twentieth century indicate that perceived inefficacy tends to be high in law enforcement specialists and average in education professionals (Maslach et al., 2001). Other findings that are relevant to the planned research describe key burnout tendencies for teachers. Thus, teaching is associated with high levels of emotional exhaustion, whereas other dimensions are not extreme.
It is worth noting that the researcher does not suppose that the relationships between these three dimensions are symmetric; instead, the dimensions are believed to be unequal and interconnected in a complex way. About the third dimension that provided the basis for the MBI tool, reduced personal accomplishment, its formal status may change in specific situations. For instance, a meta-analytic study conducted by Lee and Burd in 1996 proves that reduced personal accomplishment can present a function of the other two dimensions of burnout (Maslach et al., 2001, p. 403). Interestingly, in certain cases, reduced personal accomplishment manifests itself when both depersonalization and exhaustion are present. Apart from that, inefficacy or reduced accomplishment can develop independently from other dimensions of burnout since they usually have different sources. Thus, limited career development opportunities and a lack of social support and other serveries support can often contribute to reduced accomplishment, whereas depersonalization and emotional exhaustion issue from “the presence of work overload and social conflict” (Maslach et al., 2001, p. 403).
The above-mentioned dimensions of burnout are measured with the help of the Maslach Burnout Inventory. The tool uses seven different scales to measure burnout levels, and scales are chosen based on professional fields (Maslach & Jackson, 1981). Nowadays, there are five forms of the inventory, and the tool for educators, MBI-ES, will be used to study burnout and its determining factors in special education professionals (Maslach et al., 1997). Among the materials proving the reliability and validity of MBI-ES are the studies conducted by Iwanicki and Schwab in 1981 and by Gold in 1984 (Maslach et al., 1997). Using large samples (at least 460 teachers), the studies confirm the appropriateness of the three-factor structure and show that the reliability of the scales ranges from 72 to 90% (Maslach et al., 1997).
The Organization of the Section
The section aims at reviewing previously reported findings related to the themes that the researcher is willing to study. Among the topics covered in the review are burnout in general education and related processes, the experience of support services and professionals in special education, and the knowledge on specific variables (age, gender, or level of experience) and their role in burnout. Also, the review focuses on mentoring in special education since the development of effective mentoring programs relates to burnout.
Burnout in General Education and Related Processes
High burnout levels are peculiar to the majority of specialists whose primary task is to expand the knowledge that other people possess. Education professionals in the field of general education are struggling to support children and adolescents with a disability who may need assistive technology devices, IEP, and other sources of support. Nevertheless, the findings of numerous researchers who study life satisfaction and burnout in general education teachers indicate that they face numerous challenges during the work. The study by Hakanen, Bakker, and Schaufeli (2006) identifies processes that are connected with levels of burnout and work engagement in general education teachers. According to the hypothesis that these researchers were testing, two processes are connected with the well-being of teachers working with different students (no particular category of teachers was chosen for the analysis).
The first process that the author’s outline is defined as energetical. As the authors indicate, it centers around job demand causing increased burnout levels in education professionals. Occupational burnout, in its turn, results in the impoverished health of teachers. The second process, which is believed to be parallel to the first one, is defined as motivational and it involves the impact of job resources on work engagement demonstrated by teachers. At the same time, that influences the organizational commitment of education professionals. The article presents the only study focused on general education that has been included in the review as it provides insight into the situation with a burnout in teachers working in Northern European countries. The study conducted by the group of researchers is reliable and can be used in the proposed study because it studies a sample that is rather large (more than two hundred participants). Also, the research provides reliable data and helps to understand the role of the level of experience in burnout.
The participants with the mean teaching practice period of thirteen years were supposed to complete questionnaires. The results reported by the researchers indicate that both processes outlined in the hypotheses exist and influence teachers. The findings can act as a good source as they have practical significance in connection with burnout-reducing practices. The researchers believe that the major factors causing high burnout levels in general education teachers include “disruptive pupil behaviors, work overload, and a poor physical work environment” (Hakanen et al., 2006, p. 497). Defining processes related to occupational burnout as motivational and energetical, the researchers use their terms that are not presented in studies by other authors. The results reported by the researchers indicate that high burnout rates in European general education teachers are inherent in education specialists’ perceptions of their working conditions and the outcomes of their work. Consequently, the decision to shift the attention of education professionals from negative aspects of their work to more positive ones such as a positive emotional response from students, the ability to influence younger generations, and the opportunity to improve their professional skills regularly.
Among the most important consequences of burnout discussed by modern researchers are the presence of absenteeism behaviors, higher job turnover rates, and issues related to different areas of work life. In their study, Dupriez, Delvaux, and Lothaire (2016) attempt to generalize the factors that decrease the popularity of the teaching profession and, therefore, contribute to the growth of teacher shortage in European countries. Having studied the sample of more than nineteen thousand teachers, the researchers conclude that changes in turnover rates heavily depend upon the years of experience in general education. In general, the majority of well-known researchers who study burnout believe that specialists with high burnout levels are more likely to quit their jobs.
At the same time, the key factor that is responsible for the development of burnout dimensions is presented by continuous exposure to stress (Maslach et al., 2001). In this connection, it would be logical to suppose that job turnover rates are higher inexperienced specialists who face stress factors daily. However, the findings reported by Dupriez et al. (2016) run counter to this assumption. According to the researchers, exit rates in general education are related to the years of professional experience. Dupriez et al. (2016) indicate that turnover rates are extremely high in young specialists who have started working as teachers recently. At the same time, exit rates turn out to become lower with the growth of professional experience despite exposure to stress.
Unlike Dupriez et al. (2016), Maslach and Jackson (1981) explicitly state that burnout has an impact on job turnover rates. According to the theory of burnout proposed by Maslach, occupational burnout manifests itself in reduced emotional intelligence, emotional bankruptcy, exhaustion, the lack of psychological resources, dehumanization, and other problems related to professional behavior (Maslach and Jackson, 1981). High job turnover rates are listed among the most important consequences of occupational burnout that cause a shortage of specialists in many professional fields, including general education (Maslach & Jackson, 1981).
Importantly, many researchers whose areas of academic interest include occupational burnout agree that its consequences are not limited to issues related to performing professional duties. Instead, it is supposed that the presence of job burnout is strictly interconnected with family problems and conflicts in marriage (Leiter & Maslach, 2004; Maslach & Jackson, 1981). The consequences of the above-mentioned problems can vary in severity since they are related to interpersonal dealings. In addition to that, many hypotheses aim at establishing links between occupational burnout and physical health. Interestingly, Maslach and Jackson (1981) suppose that job burnout is related to the degree of dissatisfaction with life and, to some extent, can contribute to the development of pernicious habits and affect people’s normal sleep-wake cycles.
Studying the effects of occupational burnout on general education specialists and other professionals, modern researchers pay particular attention to employee engagement. Being manifested in unprofessional behavior (rudeness, dehumanization of clients, or fulfilling one’s tasks for the sake of appearance), low emotional intelligence, and perceived ineffectiveness, occupational burnout runs counter to the energetic state of work engagement (Leiter & Maslach, 2004). Roughly speaking, occupational burnout presents nothing more than the absence of employee engagement. With that in mind, strategies that are to decrease burnout levels in general education teachers should be based on measures that increase employee engagement scores.
Apart from the consequences of burnout that have been discussed earlier, modern researchers pay attention to the interconnection between the syndrome under analysis and depression. The study conducted by Schonfeld and Bianchi (2016) is devoted to the way that these two issues overlap. Having studied the experience of more than 1300 general education teachers working in different parts of the United States, the researchers conclude that the correlation between the symptoms of these conditions is extremely strong. With the help of valid tools used to measure burnout levels and diagnose depression, the researchers found out that more than 80% of participants experiencing burnout also demonstrated many symptoms of depression (Schonfeld & Bianchi, 2016).
The importance of the given study for the field in general and the planned research, in particular, cannot be overstated since the authors aim at filling an important research gap related to the depression-burnout overlap. Earlier, the statements hinting at links between burnout and depression were made by the most famous researchers in the burnout field. Thus, Leiter and Maslach (2004) describe one of the dimensions of burnout, emotional exhaustion, persistent low mood, and the absence of positive emotions. According to Schonfeld and Bianchi (2016), this statement points to the well-known symptoms of depression such as anhedonia or a lack of interest in activities that used to bring positive emotions. The problem that the nature of relationships between occupational burnout and depression presents should be discussed to illustrate one of the most interesting conflicts in the burnout field.
The majority of researchers whose works are well appreciated tend to describe these relationships emphasizing differences between the signs of depression and burnout. For instance, Maslach et al. (2001) are receptive to the idea that occupational burnout cannot be reduced to depression since these two conditions touch upon different dimensions of life. Thus, burnout is believed to be a result of work-related stress and therefore, primarily causes further problems with professional activity and career development. In contrast to burnout, depression is seen as an issue that affects all aspects of life (Maslach et al., 2001). In the above-mentioned work, Maslach et al. (2001) acknowledge that there are certain similarities between the symptoms of burnout and depression. As it is stated by Schonfeld and Bianchi (2016), previous researchers focusing on the relationships between depression and burnout tend to reduce common features between these problems to the presence of perceived powerlessness. Thus, the key point acknowledged by the majority of researchers is that both depressed and burned out people feel that they have no energy and resources to control unwanted circumstances impacting their life.
Using the MBI tool, some researchers have managed to prove that the interconnection between depression and occupation burnout is often underestimated. In 2005, Ahola and her colleagues studied a large sample of workers from Finland and found that more than half of people with high levels of burnout demonstrated obvious signs of depression (Schonfeld & Bianchi, 2016, p. 23). The interconnectedness of burnout and depression is also supported by findings showing parallels in the development of these two conditions. Thus, improvements related to the manifestation of burnout symptoms are often accompanied by similar changes in the severity of depression, which enables modern researchers to define occupational burnout as the specific type of depression caused by work-related stressors (Schonfeld & Bianchi, 2016).
Burnout with Support Service and Special Education Professionals
General education does not present the only sphere that is closely related to burnout and the purpose of the proposed study. Numerous studies that have been included in the review focus on the specific characteristics of burnout in support workers and special education professionals who provide services to people with intellectual disabilities in different countries. The majority of studies included in the review utilize the MBI scale developed by Maslach that is regarded as a valid tool even though a little is known about its applicability to specialists providing intellectual disabilities services (Chao, McCallion, & Nickle, 2011).
The article fills the identified research gap and proves that the use of the MBI scale to measure burnout levels in professionals helping people with an intellectual disability allows researchers to come to reliable conclusions. Based on that, the tool can also be used to collect data for the proposed research on burnout in special education teachers. Different researchers make attempts to modify the MBI scale regarded as the most commonly used tool measuring burnout. The Spanish Burnout Inventory used by Gil-Monte and Figueiredo-Ferraz (2013) presents a modified version of the MBI tool that possesses factorial validity and reliability and includes more than twenty items. The ability to use modified tools that reflect culture-related tendencies and retrieve reliable results is another factor proving the validity of the original tool and its proper structure.
The notion of prosocial motivation is believed to be inextricably connected with a burnout in specialists who provide direct support to individuals who have intellectual disabilities. The study conducted by Hickey (2014) presents the results of the study focused on the importance of prosocial motivation and the levels of occupational burnout in employees taking care of individuals with intellectual disabilities. The study proves that the willingness to support workers to perform the work that would be of benefit to other people has an impact on stress and occupational burnout. The study utilizes a sample of more than a thousand employees working in services for individuals with ID in Canada. The primary tool used for data collection is a survey touching upon motivation, personal details, and assumptions related to stress factors faced during the work.
According to the results, prosocial motivation (or the readiness to engage in work) is associated with reduced levels of nervous exhaustion among employees working with people who have intellectual disabilities. This type of motivation is, the researcher states, connected with another dimension of occupational burnout – depersonalization. Low levels of depersonalization among specialists in the field exist due to the presence of prosocial motivation. Not all researchers agree that people supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities tend to have high levels of burnout and stress. For instance, there is a study conducted by Mutkins, Brown, and Thorsteinsson (2011) who pay close attention to the connection between factors causing work-related stress, negative emotional reaction of the participants to these factors, occupational burnout, and various sources of support for staff members. According to their findings that are based on the results of an employee survey, the average level of occupational burnout in participants is very similar to the normal level for people in this profession.
The studies included in the review also pay close attention to the meaning of personal accomplishment and the way that it is interconnected with additional external factors in specialists who take care of children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Personal accomplishment is known as one of the dimensions of employee burnout that is manifested in a decreased efficacy of work. Having analyzed the cases of support workers providing people with intellectual disabilities with assistance, Mutkins et al. (2011) conclude that personal accomplishment presenting one of the key dimensions of occupational burnout is strictly interconnected with social support. The sample chosen for the study was not very large if compared to other sources included in this review– it included eighty specialists.
The results possess practical significance for the field and can be used to strengthen the proposed research and develop practical recommendations for special education teachers based on the connection between burnout and social support. The question concerning the great role of support and communication for specialists who take care of individuals with disabilities is also addressed in the study conducted by Mascha (2007). The researcher proves that social support has a strong influence on work-related stress and its ability to reduce companies’ business performance. The impact of social support on burnout levels has also been studied by Bataineh and Alsagheer (2012) who identify and analyze five sources of social support presented by “supervisors, colleagues, friends, spouse, and family” to identify the degree to which they help to manage occupational burnout (p. 8). As is clear from the results reported in the article, the personal accomplishment was associated with the support provided by family and colleagues most of all.
Another subtopic related to burnout in support workers that are covered by the authors of the chosen studies is the connection that exists between burnout, work environment, and various disorders such as depression. There is a great number of symptoms that can indicate the presence of depression such as decreased performance, persistent bad mood, negative attitude to common practices and activities, and decreased willingness to communicate. Some studies that have been reviewed were focusing on factors causing burnout in people supporting those with intellectual disabilities and the impact of employee burnout on their physical and mental condition. Thus, Mutkins et al. (2011) conclude that the symptoms of depressive disorders are often manifested in support workers with high levels of occupational burnout.
These results possess practical significance for the field and can be used to strengthen the proposed research and develop practical recommendations for special education teachers based on the connection between burnout and depression. Work environment and staff morale are discussed in the study by Mascha (2007) who defines burnout levels of the participants, the levels of job satisfaction, and the most common strategies that employees may use to cope with work-related stress and occupational burnout. The research that utilizes a substantial sample and valid tools proves that staff morale is highly influenced by “staff support, role clarity, wishful thinking, and staff cooperation” (Mascha, 2007, p. 191). Therefore, an inappropriate work environment that includes low levels of employee collaboration, self-deception demonstrated by specialists who support those with intellectual disabilities, can be listed among the key factors causing burnout. Consequently, employees working in a hostile work environment are more likely to experience burnout. Also, as the study by Mutkins et al. (2011) confirms, such employees have an increased risk of depressive disorders. There are no important conflicts between findings reported in the mentioned articles; instead, numerous similarities between results assume the link between burnout, depression, and work environment more reliable.
As is clear from the previous studies, numerous researchers studying the mental condition of professionals who provide services to individuals with intellectual disabilities pay close attention to the set of factors that define employees’ perceptions of their work and its outcomes. Also, many of them acknowledge that the psychological climate in institutions providing services to people with intellectual disabilities can be enhanced using introducing changes to policies for such centers. The psychological climate can also be negatively influenced by the misbehavior of students with intellectual disabilities when it comes to special education (Mills & Rose, 2011).
In addition to a psychological climate that is regarded as an important factor related to burnout in support workers, there is another factor that attracts the attention of modern researchers focusing on burnout and the ways to reduce it. The impact of personality features on the levels of burnout and the ability of specific traits of character to act as predictors of work-related stress can be regarded as one of the most contradictory questions related to burnout in support workers. In their research devoted to supporting workers and their specific work-related problems, Chung and Harding (2009) focus on possible connections between burnout levels and personality traits of care staff.
The researchers present the results of a cross-sectional study aimed at defining personality traits that can be called predictors of occupational burnout. According to the conclusions that the researchers have made, the way that participants perceive the invariable behavior of intellectual disability has a significant impact on their burnout levels. The researchers single out three traits that are regarded as the predictors of burnout: “extraversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness” (Chung & Harding, 2009, p. 549). As the results retrieved by the researchers indicate, there is no doubt that psychological structure and personality traits can have an impact on the degree of burnout experienced by nursing specialists working with people with intellectual disabilities. Therefore, the researchers suggest that this information should be used by specialists who design training programs for care staff. Other factors that have been proved to reduce stress include increased self-control and social support (Hamama et al., 2013).
The primary conflict between findings reported in different studies that have been chosen refers to the link that exists between personality traits of specialists providing care to individuals with intellectual disabilities and burnout experienced by the former. The findings concerning the role of personality traits that are reported by Chung and Harding (2009) are partially supported by Lundström, Graneheim, Eisemann, Richter, and Åström (2007) who focus on work performance and stress levels of employees supporting people with intellectual disability that take place when employees are exposed to violence during the work. The sample that they use includes more than one hundred people providing direct services to individuals with intellectual disabilities.
As for the results reported by the group of researchers, there is no clear connection between personality traits and exposure to violence in the field of activity. At the same time, just like Chung and Harding (2009), Lundström et al. (2007) support the idea that personality traits are interconnected with burnout rates. That reported certain personality traits could increase the risks of occupational burnout in support workers who have or have not been exposed to violence during the work. Unlike Chung and Harding (2009), they report that the personality trait that can be listed among the most important predictors of burnout in support workers is self-directedness. It is stated in their article that “lower self-directedness scores are associated with higher burnout rates” (Lundström et al., 2007, p. 34). Based on that, the researchers suppose that personality traits should be taken into consideration to define the specific needs of employees taking care of people with intellectual disabilities.
At the same time, other researchers who have studied burnout in specialists providing direct services to people with intellectual disabilities do not support such conclusions. Some studies report no connection between the specific traits of character that specialists supporting those with disabilities demonstrate and burnout levels. In their research, Chou, Kröger, and Lee (2010) aim to define whether there are significant differences in job satisfaction levels in specialists working in different types of settings. The three residential models available for adult people with intellectual disabilities that are studied in the article include “small residential homes, group homes, and institutions” (Chou et al., 2010, p. 279). The researchers indicate that employees from small homes have the highest job satisfaction rates. The results of the statistical tests show that the degree to which specialists who support people with intellectual disabilities are satisfied with their everyday activities heavily depends upon working conditions in their organizations.
Nevertheless, contrary to the authors of the two previous studies, Chou et al. (2010) claim that the results of their research do not reveal clear links between personality traits of employees in institutions for people with disabilities, levels of job satisfaction, and work-related stress. The conclusions made by the researchers seem to be reliable due to the use of a large sample (the sample that the authors were studying includes more than one thousand specialists) and a set of valid tools whose effectiveness is approved by previous researchers in the field. The suggestion on higher satisfaction rates of specialists in smaller companies can be applied to teaching practice and checked. All three studies that report researchers’ conclusions concerning the impact of personality traits on job satisfaction and burnout levels seem to be reliable due to the use of the proper methodology. Nevertheless, the connection between individual traits and burnout still presents a significant knowledge gap that needs to be filled as there is no opinion that all researchers support (Mohamed, 2015).
Finally, attention should be paid to the most recent findings related to burnout in special education. Special education teacher burnout is studied in different settings, including primary school (Stasio, Fiorilli, Benevene, Uusitalo-Malmivaara, & Chiacchio, 2017). The opinion on the status of burnout in special education teachers has changed in five years ago due to new data, showing the effect of burnout in teachers on student outcomes. The development of special education plans based on the needs and abilities of children belongs to the number of the most responsible tasks to be performed by special education professionals. Reviewing the most discussed findings in the field, McDowell (2017) highlights that is the quality of IEPs that presents the key source of concerns when special education teachers experience burnout. Being committed to helping children with disabilities, such professionals often underestimate their degree of emotional distress and, therefore, remain unaware of their burnout situation (McDowell, 2017). However, other findings suggest that teachers working with students with disabilities are more flexible and inventive in terms of coping strategies if compared to general education specialists (Boujut, Dean, Grouselle, & Cappe, 2016). The findings discussed in the sub-section justify the choice of variables in the given research.
There is a wide range of class-related factors that add to special education teachers’ agitation and, therefore, can contribute to higher burnout levels. Apart from the previously discussed demographic and professional characteristics of teachers that have a real or supposed impact on the prevalence of burnout syndrome, modern researchers focus on the role of classroom size, collaboration, and the use of assistive technology in special education. The significance of class size in special and general education is widely discussed by both education professionals and policymakers in developing and developed countries.
Many researchers are deeply convinced that teaching in larger classes is associated with poorer academic outcomes, and this assumption was used in many countries including the United States, China, and Japan as a prerequisite to the implementation of class-size reduction policies (Brühwiler & Blatchford, 2011). About research on class size, the key research gaps, as Brühwiler and Blatchford (2011) suppose, are related to the lack of attention paid to stress in teachers. According to their study devoted to the impact of class size on academic performance, lessons in smaller classes are associated with “higher academic learning progresses, better knowledge of students, and better classroom processes”, which can also lower burnout in education professionals (Brühwiler & Blatchford, 2011, p. 95).
Although the impact of class size on burnout in special education is not the most popular topic, some conclusions peculiar to general education can be used to problematize the question. The study by Finn and Achilles conducted in 1999 indicates that the benefits of learning in smaller classes are more obvious for specific population groups such as ethnic minorities (Brühwiler & Blatchford, 2011). Importantly, as it follows from the results, being in a small class increases children’s chances to improve maths, spelling, and reading skills, which is especially important for children with language disorders. It is widely accepted that smaller classes “benefit the low-attaining and disadvantaged students” (especially during the early years of school) (Brühwiler & Blatchford, 2011, p. 96). Given that greater academic achievement of students positively impacts teachers’ job satisfaction rates, smaller classes in special education are also expected to reduce the prevalence of burnout.
Being opposite to burnout, job satisfaction in education depends upon a variety of factors such as student engagement and wage levels. The former is believed to be positively impacted by smaller class sizes, and there is a suggestion that this positive effect becomes weaker as the age of students increases (Blatchford, Bassett, & Brown 2011). Nowadays, many studies regard the positive effect of smaller class sizes on inclusion and academic performance as a matter of course, and only a few researchers aim to explain these effects in special education. According to Blatchford and Webster (2018), it is more difficult for children with special education needs or disabilities to work in large classes, and this effect is more manifested in primary-school-age students. With that in mind, the readiness to form smaller special education classes can be supposed to decrease teacher burnout since education specialists working in small classes ensure engagement by paying enough attention to each pupil.
The use of assistive technology in special education presents another aspect that will be studied in the research paper. In general, assistive technology is a broad term that refers to all kinds of devices that can help improve the experience of learners with special needs and make it easier for them to communicate and acquire knowledge. If assistive technology can be accessed and is properly used, it helps turn children with physical or mental impairments into the full-fledged participants of the educational process. The positive impact of assistive technology on the extent to which students with special needs understand and can use new concepts seems self-evident, but its influence on burnout in teachers still presents an open question (Jones & Hinesmon-Matthews, 2014). The link between teacher burnout and the use of assistive devices during classes can exist due to the presence of academic improvement.
Assistive technology helps learners with special needs to pay less time to familiarize themselves with new information, which increases the effectiveness of lessons. The introduction of new assistive devices for learning is also important for special education teachers since new technology can reduce the average time needed for instruction and, therefore, impact stress levels in teachers (Almekhalfi & Tibi, 2012). As is stated by Alnahdi (2014), modern assistive technology has a positive impact on an academic performance about many skills – for instance, the study conducted by Cullen et al. in 2008 demonstrates that computer programs for children with disabilities help improve students’ writing skills. Interestingly, the researcher highlights that teachers’ reluctance to use assistive devices sometimes acts as an important inhibitive factor in learning (Alnahdi, 2014). With that in mind, it can be supposed that the awareness of new technology makes teachers more professional, improves their students’ practical results, and positively influences their job satisfaction levels.
Further studies are needed to explain the impact that the implementation of assistive technology has on student well-being and teacher burnout since without solid evidence, new technologies are regarded as “a financial burden for schools” (Rader, 2008, p. 55). Having studied the sample of twenty special education teachers who were required to evaluate the effectiveness of assistive devices and computer programs, Rader (2008) concluded that all specialists acknowledged the benefits of AT and needed more time to get acquainted with new devices. Despite that, the positive impact of AT on classroom engagement was approved by all participants, which justifies the need for further studies on the effects of AT.
The implementation of AT in special education is associated with numerous challenges since it often requires changes in lesson plans, additional financial resources, and training programs for teachers (Sze, 2009). In the experiment conducted by Rader (2008), the fact that “learners at the lower grades had difficulty using the software” was among the key concerns voiced by the participants who were to test AT interventions (p. 59). Importantly, other problems surrounding the implementation of AT included the amount of time needed to make users independent, the need to customize software products to make learning materials age-appropriate, and the inability of some students to work with the programs even with their teachers’ help (Rader, 2008). The review of recent findings conducted by Peterson-Karlan (2015) indicates that the key factor that thwarts further development of AT and its implementation is “the lack of predictive trends for AT” for people with special needs (p. 63). Based on the presence of these impeding factors, the advancement of AT is impossible without further research.
Meeting the needs of students with severe mental and physical problems requires hard work and well-developed emotional intelligence skills (Sweigart & Collins, 2017). The decision to unite the efforts of special education professionals with those of their colleagues or students’ parents often produces positive results in terms of the comprehensibility of learning materials and student outcomes. Even though there is a significant research gap related to the presence of direct links between collaboration and teacher burnout, many researchers indicate its general positive effects (Malone & Gallagher, 2010).
According to Da Fonte and Barton-Arwood (2017), two or more educators’ collaborative work is beneficial to students and student academic outcomes. However, the implementation of this approach to work is strictly interconnected with challenges related to various aspects of teaching. In their qualitative research, Da Fonte and Barton-Arwood (2017) study the sample of twenty-six education specialists from the United States. The results of the semi-structured interviews devoted to the participants’ perceptions of collaborations between special and general education teachers indicate the following challenges surrounding this type of work: the need for proper time management strategies, their colleagues’ content knowledge gaps, and the quality of communication with partners (Da Fonte & Barton-Arwood, 2017).
The quality of collaborative work in education heavily depends on the presence of effective communication. At the same time, given the absence of teamwork sessions incorporated into teachers’ schedules, many conversations between partners turn out to be “not in-depth or goal-directed” (Da Fonte & Barton-Arwood, 2017, p. 100). Another problem that is detrimental to successful work is the lack of proper communication skills. The need for effective communicative strategies is recognized by many teachers, and some even believe proper relationships between co-teachers to be “more important than knowing what to teach” (Da Fonte & Barton-Arwood, 2017, p. 102).
Factors hindering the collaborative work of special and general education teachers may point to potential links between stress related to the establishment of proper relationships and lower job satisfaction rates (Pülschen & Pülschen, 2015). When analyzing the effects of collaboration in special education, it is pivotal to consider its form, be it “collaboration consultation, co-teaching, peer coaching, or collaborative problem solving” (Al-Natour, Amr, Al-Zboon, & Alkhamra, 2015, p. 65). Also, the number of efforts made to achieve consent concerning teaching practices may impact teachers’ job satisfaction.
The creation of effective collaborative teams often requires the use of specific strategies helping to combine different approaches to work without detriment to the quality of teaching. Among them is the six-step model of collaborative work that allows focusing on particular problems in students’ performance or behavior. Within its frame, professionals in special and general education are expected to create a collaborative culture through the implementation of such steps as defining the problem, choosing methods for project progress measurement, designing tools for data collection, distributing roles, collecting data, and analyzing the results (Al-Natour et al., 2015, p. 65).
The quality of collaboration depends on teachers’ attitudes to it, and the link between these two variables is discussed in modern academic articles. For instance, the study conducted in Jordan indicates that “arbitrary and limited” collaborative relationships of low quality are associated with the prevalence of erroneous ideas about teamwork (Al-Natour et al., 2015, p. 75). Also, the quality of collaboration often decreases due to personal philosophy differences and controversies related to instructional strategies (Garderen, Scheuermann, Jackson, & Hampton, 2009).
Demographic Characteristics and Services for People with Intellectual Disabilities
The relationship between gender and burnout levels in special education teachers working in Saudi Arabia presents one of the key questions that the proposed research is willing to study. This topic can be regarded as one of the most controversial questions related to burnout studies because there is no clear opinion concerning the ability of gender to increase or reduce the risk of burnout in specialists who work with people with intellectual disabilities. Considering that gender is often regarded as a social construct rather than a set of biologically predetermined differences, the cultural identity of research participants should always be taken into account.
The first concept capable of having an impact on the proposed research is the lack of male specialists in organizations providing services to people with intellectual disabilities. Services for people with intellectual disabilities are believed to be a sphere that attracts more female than male specialists. Taking into consideration that there is a shortage of male specialists in the profession, it can be supposed that there are specific problems that male specialists face when taking care of individuals with intellectual disabilities. These problems, if they exist and their impact on the gender composition of teams providing care to people with intellectual disabilities are proved, may be regarded as potential factors increasing burnout levels in the male workforce. Among the researchers who are interested in intellectual disabilities services, it is possible to single out McConkey, McAuley, Simpson, and Collins (2007) whose study summarizes the information on male specialists’ perceptions of work and specific issues that they face. In particular, the researchers highlight that the lack of male specialists in this sphere can be seen as one of the problems involving far-reaching consequences. As it follows from the analysis of the demographic characteristics of the sample, male specialists present less than twenty percent of staff working with people who have intellectual disabilities. According to the authors, there are specific factors that can be regarded as predictors of gender imbalance in intellectual disabilities services and patient care services in different countries. First, those male specialists who were surveyed within the frame of the research believe that there are numerous risks for men that are associated with taking care of individuals with intellectual disabilities. An important factor that helps to understand the reason why many of the factors discussed in the article were identified is the helplessness of such clients and their inability to recognize the negative intentions of other people.
The first and the most important factor causing stress in male specialists providing care to individuals with intellectual disabilities is the fear of “having their masculinity questioned and being unjustly labeled a pedophile or potential abuser” (McConkey et al., 2007, p. 190). In particular, the source of this fear is the necessity to take care of female clients who may mistake the way that male specialists perform their duties and communicate with clients for sexual harassment. As the researchers report, the lack of support from the management in case of false accusations is another reason causing stress in male specialists taking care of people with intellectual disabilities. The role of gender stereotypes that have a negative impact almost on every sphere of human activity is also obvious in this case. Thus, male specialists in Northern Ireland acknowledge that their friends laugh at them, saying that they perform the work for women and anyone can cope with such tasks.
This underestimation and the influence of stereotypes that are harmful to both men and women can be seen as important factors that can be reflected in higher burnout rates in male specialists working with people who have intellectual disabilities. Numerous participants of the research indicate that “this job can be very stressful as a male member of staff”; according to their responses, male support workers feel that a lack of men in the profession significantly increases the amount of work that each male specialist is required to do during his shift (McConkey et al., 2007, p. 190). Despite the presence of these factors, the researchers claim that the greater risk of burnout and work-related stress for men has not been proven; instead, their literature review shows that previous studies do not support the idea concerning unequal risks of stress. Nevertheless, the presence of different risks of stress for male and female specialists working with individuals with intellectual disabilities in Saudi Arabia has not been studied and presents an additional research gap.
The findings that do not support the presence of increased risks of burnout for male specialists working with people who have intellectual disabilities align with the conclusions of Greek researchers studying burnout in special education professionals. The article by Platsidou and Agaliotis (2008) focuses on a range of sources of stress that exist for Greek teachers working with children who have different types of disabilities. The results indicate that the average level of burnout among the participants was low in connection with all three dimensions taken into consideration. The researchers suppose that this situation is connected with the fact that teachers in Greece are not evaluated like ones in other country and it reduces insecurity related to their wage levels. Even though it has been found that special education teachers in Greece are less susceptible to employee burnout than their colleagues from other countries, it needs to be mentioned that situation with gender is similar to one described by the researchers from Ireland. Both gender and teaching experience (the variables that will be studied in the proposed research) are regarded as factors that do not reduce or increase the risk of occupational burnout in Greek special education professionals as distinct from emotional intelligence (Platsidou, 2010).
Unlike the previously mentioned studies, findings are indicating that more experienced male special education teachers are the most susceptible to burnout (Kucuksuleymanoglu, 2011). Despite these conclusions, there is a research gap considering the impact of gender and other factors on burnout in teachers from Saudi Arabia. In strong patriarchal cultures, the roles and appropriate behavior for each gender are clearly defined. Therefore, it can be supposed that the results indicating the role of gender in burnout will run counter to those of other studies conducted in more democratic countries.
However, the results retrieved by researchers from the United Arab Emirates significantly reduce the probability of such outcomes. In their study, Bataineh and Alsagheer (2012) focus on three burnout dimensions (exhaustion, accomplishment, and depersonalization) and the question concerning whether they are influenced by various demographic characteristics of the participants. It was found out that there were no significant relations between the dimensions and characteristics (age, sex, etc.) of special education teachers included in the sample. At the same time, the recent findings reported by Nuri, Demirok, and Direktör (2017) indicate the positive correlation between professional experience and depersonalization; thus, special education teachers with eleven and more years of experience have higher depersonalization scores.
Mentoring in Special Education and Its Impact on Professionals
The field of special education involves providing services to children and people who have disabilities. It often happens that such people are more sensitive and susceptible to stress than many of their peers. With that in mind, a special education professional needs to get new knowledge daily to learn how to improve the learning outcomes of children with specific problems. Experience plays a pivotal role in special education, and this is why mentoring new teachers presents a popular practice in the field.
Nowadays, mentoring is widely used to train pre-service teachers and help them to gain enough practical knowledge to choose or, if necessary, invent practices helping to cope with stress and remain committed to helping children with special needs. Given that they positively impact young specialists’ professional qualities, mentoring programs are also used in general education. In general, induction programs for general and special education teachers are based on similar principles; the key difference lies in the content of conversations between mentors and mentees (Riebenbauer, Dreisiebner, & Stock, 2017; Wasburn-Moses, 2010).
The components of mentoring programs may vary depending on specific goals. It is also important to note that mentoring practices in special education settings are sometimes initiated by teachers and are informal. In their work, Trautwein and Ammerman (2010) reflect on a strategy to prepare new specialists that unites two important practices: mentoring and peer-education. The above-mentioned approaches to specialization training possess a wide range of advantages for future special education teachers since they are provided with timely high-quality feedback. Within the frame of the strategy, students are supposed to observe other trainees’ work to make evaluations and teach from other people’s mistakes. Reflection and self-reflection remain the key components of mentoring and peer mentoring practices, and their positive impact on professional growth is highlighted in many studies.
Improving mentoring practices and using new technology to train early-career specialists should be regarded as the key tasks that help to improve the situation with the shortage of staff. According to Australian researchers, a lack of special education teachers younger than fifty should be reduced with the help of mentoring (Dempsey, Arthur-Kelly, & Carty, 2009). The level of support that young specialists receive heavily impacts their decision to leave the profession. Along with other employment factors such as rewards and work arrangements, the quality of mentoring programs defines the preparedness of special educators for difficult cases.
Mentor support in special education can take different forms, each of which has its advantages. Experienced special educators who act as mentors are involved in the organization of many activities. Among them are face-to-face and group meetings with mentees (the emphasis is placed on the discussion of practical issues and appropriate problem-solving strategies), follow-up practices (telephone, e-mail, social media, and other communication tools), in-class modeling, orientations, and even emotional support (Billingsley, Brownell, Israel, & Kamman, 2013; Billingsley, Israel, & Smith, 2011). Involving the demonstration of appropriate teaching practices to novice specialists, modeling presents an invaluable source of professional experience.
The role of mentors in special education cannot be overestimated since these specialists are, in a certain way, responsible for the preservation of human capital and improving its quality. Israel, Kamman, McCray, and Sindelar (2014) highlight that mentors in special education provide new teachers with assistance related to both student engagement practices and rules to follow to achieve compliance with standards. The latter remains especially important because an understanding of schoolwide policies is critical to workplace success. In their turn, mentees are also responsible for the outcomes of induction and mentoring activities. To engage in work and develop professional skills, they are recommended to be punctual, attend meetings as frequently as possible, take feedback seriously, and avoid demonstrating defense behavior (Billingsley et al., 2013).
Despite a large number of studies on mentoring in special education, little attention is paid to the specific needs of novice special educators and the role of informal mentoring. In their article, Wasburn, Wasburn-Moses, and Davis (2012) present the results of the survey, according to which the majority of national board-certified teachers with more than ten years of professional experience actively use informal mentoring practices in their work. More than 80% of respondents use such practices, and the most common of them include supporting mentees emotionally, providing them with recommendations helping to cope with stress, and building confidence (Wasburn et al., 2012).
Given that mentoring practices are constructed about the principles of mutual support, professional integrity, and continuous improvement, they have a positive impact on both the professional qualities and psychological well-being of mentees (Sebald & Rude, 2015). Nowadays, many researchers agree that mentoring in special education fulfills psychosocial and career functions, addressing both the emotional and professional development needs of novice educators (Wasburn et al., 2012; Shillingstad, McGlamery, Davis, & Gilles, 2015). Apart from that, it has been proven that mentoring activities increase special education teacher productivity and the quality of interactions between children and educators (Zan & Donegan-Ritter, 2014). As is clear from the above-mentioned sources, there are no significant conflicts in findings related to mentoring, and its positive impact on professional development and psychosocial health of young special educators is widely recognized, which can be used in the given study.
Summary and Integration
The given study is aimed at exploring occupational burnout among special education teachers to be able to find out the current status in Saudi Arabia. In particular, the study focuses on variables that have not been widely discussed concerning occupational burnout – professional degree, gender, grade level, and age. As for the significance of the study, it is pivotal to note that there are still research gaps that need to be filled. The review of the existing literature included in the chapter helps to keep track of the evolution of knowledge at the confluence of job burnout and special education.
Having analyzed the results of the review and the degree to which different topics are covered in popular articles, it is possible to single out three important research gaps related to the research questions identified in the previous chapter. To begin with, the majority of credible large-scale studies delve into the experience of general and special education teachers in Europe and the United States, whereas the situation with occupational burnout in Saudi Arabia is not covered properly. The given study is going to make a significant contribution to the field by applying the knowledge on dimensions of burnout to special education teachers in Saudi Arabia. With that in mind, its significance for the field seems to be even greater since it will provide future researchers with an opportunity to conduct a study that defines whether some burnout tendencies are related to culture or religious affiliation overseas.
Another research gap that has been identified due to the review of literature relates to the ability of certain factors to define proclivity for experiencing job burnout and the degree to which they impact the level of burnout in special education teachers. About the role of gender in burnout, this research gap is obvious since the findings reported by previous researchers conflict. The majority of studies report no significant differences in burnout levels of female and male specialists working with people with disabilities. At the same time, some researchers suppose that men in the field of support workers are more susceptible to stress due to the low perceived value of their profession and the fear of false harassment complaints. To fill in the research gap, the study is going to utilize the combination of valid burnout measurement tools (MBI), simple random sampling, and statistical significance tests to provide credible data related to the impact of gender on burnout levels.
The role of gender in occupational burnout is not the only subtopic that presents a significant research gap to be filled. Thus, the impact of age and the level of professional experience on job burnout of special education teachers also remains unexplored. The study is going to contribute to what is known by using the years of professional experience as a research variable and other variables. There is evidence from European countries that the level of depersonalization and the number of years in the profession are positively correlated, and the given research will find out whether the above-mentioned tendency exists in Saudi Arabia.
Special Education Teachers
The focus of this research is to investigate the problem of burnout among special education teachers in Saudi Arabia. Recent studies have suggested that a significant portion of teachers in various schools that have students with disabilities suffer from burnout because of their workload. The ability of these teachers to deliver excellent service to their students depends on their level of motivation and professional working. However, Billingsley, Brownell, Israel, and Kamman (2013) mentioned that special education teachers face many challenges such as emotional, and physically exhausted during their teaching, which impacts on their performance at work, and they need more mentoring and induction program to improve their work and prevent them of burnout.
As such, it is important to address the problem of teacher burnout in special education institutions and in inclusion classes within the country to enhance their quality of teaching. In this chapter, the focus is to discuss the method used to collect and analyze data used in the project. The chapter begins with a discussion of a statement of the problem and an outlining of the research question. It then looks at the appropriate research method and design used in the study. Sampling and sample selection are also discussed. The chapter looks at the instrument used to collect data. The validity and reliability of the instrument and the study are discussed. The data collection procedure and analysis approach are defined in this chapter before looking at ethical considerations and limitations. It ends with a summary of the entire chapter.
Statement of the Problem
As explained in chapter one, occupational burnout is manifested in teachers in different forms. Teaching is the major stress work linked with a high level of stress in the educational field (Hamama, Ronen, Shachar, & Rosenbaum, 2013). When it comes to special education it will be a worse condition in many countries around the world. Zan and Donegan-Ritter (2014) explain that having to mentor and coaching for special education teachers is the way to improve the quality of teaching, and they are encouraged to use mentoring to reduce the burnout of special education teachers as it is the problem of stress that leads to burnout that we assumed in Saudi Arabia. It may also prevent pre-service teachers from initiating a career in special education. Thus, if they have to mentor as pre-service teachers because they found that mentoring is more powerful to improve the special education classroom.
Special education teachers are playing a major role in ensuring that students with disabilities have access to quality education, just like the rest of the typical students. It is not easy to replace special education teachers because of the special attention and approach that is needed when supporting students with disabilities, but it will be better if we training them with support services. Losing a skilled and experienced special education teacher is a major blow to the education sector in many countries. It affects the ability of the country to ensure that these learners with disabilities are guaranteed quality education, just like their typical peers. After we will find the current teachers have burnout or not when we did with this dissertation. Thus, we should find a solution to the current problem of increasing burnout that we assumed in Saudi Arabia among these special education teachers to increase the quality of special education classroom, and reduce the burnout of special education teachers.
Research Questions and Hypotheses
Occupational burnout is a common problem in different organizations, depending on the nature of the work of a person, environmental forces regularly encountered, and the support from those in authority. Farghaly (2018) advises that when conducting research, it is advisable to come up with research questions that narrowed down the type of instrument and data that could answer the research questions after identifying the research problem. This study focused on investigating occupational burnout among intellectual disability teachers in Saudi Arabia. The following is the primary research question that had to be answered:
Our experience, academic qualifications, gender, mentoring, collaboration, class size, assistive technology, and grade level of students with disabilities significant predicators of the occupational burnout in Qassim State in Saudi Arabia?
The dependent variable that this paper focused on is the problem of burnout of special education teachers. The independent variables that have a direct impact on the dependent variable include academic qualifications, gender, years of experiences, and grade level of students. Also, the question above defined data that was collected from primary sources. The MBI-ES surveys that were developed to facilitate primary data collection to answer this question. The researcher had the following hypotheses that were to be confirmed or rejected based on the primary data analysis conducted in chapter four of this paper:
H1o. Special education teachers in Saudi Arabia experience professional burnout.
The hypothesis above was developed based on the information collected through the literature review. Analysis of the primary data made it possible to accept or reject it. They formed the basis of chapter 4 of this dissertation.
According to Creswell (2012), a researcher needs to choose an appropriate research methodology that defines how data collected is to be analyzed. The chosen method enabled the researcher to achieve the study goals and give the best answer about the issue. The focus of this research was to investigate the rate of prevalence of occupational burnout among special education teachers in Saudi Arabia. The most appropriate method for this type of research is quantitative analysis. As Mertler and Reinhart (2017) explain, the quantitative method uses statistics to determine the significance of the relationship between different variables. In this study, dependent and independent variables were identified. Using quantitative methods, it was possible to establish the relationship that exists between each independent variable and the dependent variable. The study had to confirm that the problem of professional burnout among teachers is a common problem in the country. It was easy to demonstrate the prevalence of this problem in the country and the magnitude of its impact on the target group.
A survey will use to collect the required data to facilitate statistical analysis required in this study. Survey methodology is the best way to find the relationship between independents variables that impact the dependent variable. The survey is using in the quantitative to able to recognize trends in attitudes, views, behaviors, or personalities of a certain group of people that give the best answer to the study questions. The study further reveals that surveys are always important when collecting public opinion, market research, and healthcare-related facts, which the researcher could reach more sample size by using surveys. It makes it possible to use a standard format to determine the number of people who share specific views on an issue to give useful information to evaluate or determine a problem that occurs in education.
When using a survey, a researcher is required to structure the questions to make it easy for coding. The Likert scale makes it possible to assign responses to statistical values that can be analyzed using mathematical methods. Unlike the open-ended questions where respondents are allowed to give detailed explanations on their perception about the issue under investigation, survey questions require a participant to select the most appropriate answer from a range of responses provided individually, which rich the study of views on the issue. Creswell (2012) explains that the benefit of using survey questions is that it is easy to administer, especially when dealing with a large number of respondents. In this study, a sample of five hundred respondents was identified to have at least 250 teachers taking part in the study. The considerably large number of participants makes it appropriate to use survey questions, which are easy to administer and analyze within a limited time.
A survey can be conducted in different ways depending on the target population, respondents’ availability, and the response accuracy desired. In this paper, the number of respondents and their availability were the critical factors that defined the approach taken. When dealing with a sample size of five hundred teachers, it may not be easy to conduct the data when the time is limited (Creswell, 2012). The researcher had to ensure that the project is complete within the time set by the school for this academic research. As such, the method had to facilitate quick data collection from the respondents. The option considered appropriate is to send them the survey through their e-mails. The respondents made their answers by opening the link that sends by the Board of education to their e-mails. The advantage of using web-email is that collating extensive data quickly with fast responses by the participants and easy to reach them by their email. However, the disadvantage of using e-mail and web-based survey is the low rate of response due to technical issues, safety problems, and problems related to junk mail. Also, a survey through the web-based survey might be biased toward people who don’t use computers or email.
Occupational burnout is a common problem that affects many teachers. Those who are handling children with a disability often face a greater challenge than their colleagues who are teaching typical students. It means that they suffer from occupational burnout more often than colleagues. As such, it was expected that they will be more willing to participate in the study when they are informed about the need to find a solution to a problem that affects them. To enhance the response rate in the survey, the researcher not only explained the relevance of the study but also the exact benefits that it would have on the respondents (teachers supporting students with disabilities) in case the recommendations are implemented. The respondents were expected to answer the research questions provided in the surveys and send the answered through the link that the researcher develops in the survey in it. As Creswell (2012) observes, some participants may fail to send back the answered survey within the right time. Others send back the survey without answering all the questions. Such answer sheets cannot be used, but using a mixed system of Web-based and mailed surveys could enhance and increase a high response rate, which the researcher of this study will use both systems to obtain a high rate of participants of the five hundred of intellectual disabilities teachers.
The choice of research design was based on the nature of the study and the need to ensure that the relationship between the dependent and independent variables was established. The first independent variable was the academic qualifications of special education teachers. Trautwein and Ammerman (2010), mentioned that teaching students with disabilities is a complex process that requires special training. When a teacher is assigned the role of teaching they need more preparation as a new specialist because they can easily be frustrated with the job, which leads to levels of burnout. Using statistical data, it was possible to determine how having the right degree may lower levels of occupational burnout among special education teachers in the country. Gender was another important variable. According to Nuri, Demirok, and Direktör (2017), stated that the efficacy in classroom management was better and impacted well of a female teacher. For instance, it is not easy for any student to explain to a male teacher the physiological discomfort she or he experiences, and that might easy for female teachers to assist and engage her students more physically and emotionally more than male, which might female teachers less burnout as they willing to assist their students. Also, the researcher will find out how the gender of teachers impacts positively or negatively on the burnout of special education teachers in Saudi Arabia.
Years of experience are also critical in avoiding occupational burnout among special education teachers based on mentoring with experienced teachers. Those who have gained experience through years of practice know how to overcome their challenges, unlike the new teachers (Israel, Kamman, McCray, & Sindelar, 2014). Finally, the grade of the learner may also affect the level of occupational burnout. Teachers who get high-grade levels have more burnout compare to the lower grade due to the responsibility and the role of grade level (Talmor, Reiter, & Feigin, 2005). Using a quantitative approach, the researcher established the relationship between this independent variable and the dependent variable. The quantitative research design was effective in establishing the relationship between the variables, making it the most appropriate design for this project.
Mentoring is another independent variable that is analyzed in the given study. In the context of special education, mentoring is understood as the process in which experienced specialists in the field (principals, administrators, etc.) provide new special needs teachers with help and assistance. Importantly, the above variable seems to be strictly interconnected with other variables such as the years of experience and the use of AT. First, becoming an active participant in mentoring relationships involves taking on the role of a mentor or a mentee, which strictly depends on experience levels. The use of AT can be related to the variable under analysis since mentoring programs may differ depending on the number of resources available at educational facilities. The relationship between teacher burnout and mentoring is analyzed in the study using quantitative research methods.
The next independent variable chosen for the study is collaboration. Regarding special education, professionals in the field can establish collaborative relationships with their colleagues or teachers who specialize in working with typically developing children. The characteristics and the effectiveness of such relationships may vary depending on the occupation of special educators’ partners. Thus, a range of specific codes was introduced to differentiate between four types of collaborative relationships. The number of specialists who collaborate with the participants includes principals, social workers, general education teachers, and other special educators. The results of the analysis are expected to be more credible and accurate due to this differentiation. Also, given that teacher collaboration is a widely implemented practice, the use of the variable being discussed can help define the types of collaborative relationships that contribute to job satisfaction and develop practical recommendations for administrators in local special education facilities that will allow reducing the shortage of special educators.
Within the frame of the study, the levels of burnout of special educators from Qassim State were also analyzed concerning the number of students in a class. As it has been shown in the literature review, some studies regard class composition (a range of factors including class size) as a variable predictive of higher scores in two dimensions of burnout. The impact of class size on the practical outcomes of teaching processes should be thoroughly studied since this information would help improve current policies in many countries. Despite that, among modern researchers, there is a tendency to analyze class size in the context of student achievement, whereas its effects on teachers become secondary. The study aims at expanding the knowledge on the link between class size and teacher burnout by utilizing a coding scheme that helps unite classroom sizes into four groups (from 1 to more than 20 pupils).
The implementation of assistive technology is always listed among the most effective ways of making SN students more engaged, increasing the comprehensibility of study materials, and minimizing the difference between learners with disabilities and typically developing children. Similar to the situation with class size, modern researchers in the field focus on studying the impact that AT has on students and the progress in skill development that they demonstrate, whereas the ability of AT to affect teacher burnout rates is not fully analyzed. The use of this variable in multiple regression analysis can help define underresearched problems that special educators face. For instance, it seems logical that AT benefits SN learners, but stress that teachers can experience due to new instruction practices needs further discussion. In this study, three codes were introduced to reflect the key aspects of AT use.
Using multiple regression analysis, it was possible to establish the relationship. According to Mertler and Reinhart (2017), multiple regression analysis is used when we want to predict the best combination of independent variables of two or more other variables linked with a single dependent variable. Using SPSS, it was possible to determine the relationship between the dependent variable (burnout among special education teachers in Saudi Arabia) and independent variables (experience, level of education, gender, and level of grade, mentoring, collaboration, class size, assistive technology), gender (coded as female = 1, male = 0) years of teachers’ experience (fill the blank), grade level (coded as elementary school = 1, Middle school = 2, High school= 3), level of education (coded as two years of diploma = 1, bachelor degree = 2, master degree = 3, doctoral degree = 4), classroom size (coded as 0 to 5 =1, 6 to 10 = 2, 11 to 15 = 3, 16 to 20 = 4, 20 or more = 5) mentoring (coded as principal = 1, social work = 2, special education teacher = 3), collaboration (coded as principal = 1, social work = 2, special education teacher = 3, general education teacher = 4) assistive technology ( coded as assistive technology = 1, resources room = 2, A and B = 3).
Also, the questions that have (Yes) and (No) answer in mentoring, collaboration, and assistive technology as for independent variables when the teacher answer (Yes) they have to ask kind of support or help they had in their school from the options in these questions, so I coded (Yes = 0 if they obtained support or help, and No = 1 if they did not obtain any kind of support or help) Creswell (2012) explains that when conducting multiple regression analysis, it is important to take into consideration a prediction that uses in it, and one of the primary prediction is that two or more independent variables are affecting the dependent variable. In this case, burnout among special education teachers in Saudi Arabia is caused by different factors, as identified above. It also assumes that there is a linear relationship between the dependent variable and the independent variables.
For dependent variables, the researcher will discuss the dependent variable in this dissertation, which is burnout in special education in Saudi Arabia. According to Maslach (1996), there are three dimensions of burnout: Emotional Exhaustion, Depersonalization, and Personal Accomplishment. And based on Maslach’s research, the questions that measured each dimension are as follows:
|Table 1. The rating scale was (never, a few times a year or less, once a month or less, a few times a month, once a week, a few times a week, and every day).|
|Emotional Exhaustion(EE)||1.I feel emotionally drained from my work. |
2.I feel used up at the end of the workday.
3.I feel fatigued when I get up in the morning and have to face another day on the job.
6. Working with people all day is a strain for me.
8. I feel burned out from my work.
13. I feel frustrated by my job.
14. I feel I am working too hard on my job.
16. Working with people directly puts too much stress on me.
20. I feel like I am at the end of my rope.
|Depersonalization (DP)||5. I feel I treat some students as if they were impersonal objects. |
10. I’ve become more callous toward people since I took this job.11.I worry this job is hardening me emotionally.15.I don’t care what happens to some recipients.
22.I feel students blame me for some of their problems.
|Personal Accomplishment (PA)||4. I can easily understand how my students feel about things. |
7. I deal very effectively with the problems of my students.
9. I feel I’m positively influencing other people’s lives through my work.
12.I feel very energetic.
17.I can easily create a relaxed atmosphere with my students.
18.I feel exhilarated after working closely with my students.
19.I have accomplished many worthwhile things in this job.
21.In my work, I deal with emotional problems very calmly.
Also, the researcher coded measures of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment from 0-6 (where 0 = never, 1 = a few times a year or less, 2 = once a month or less, 3 = a few times a month, 4 = once a week, 5 = a few times a week, 6 = every day). For Emotional Exhaustion and Depersonalization, the high items’ number of scores indicate higher degrees of burnout, but for Personal Accomplishment, the lower items’ number of scores indicate higher degrees of burnout as showing in Table 2.
Table 2. Maslach Burnout Inventory Form MBI Subscales: Number of Items, Score Range, and Score Analysis.
|Emotional Exhaustion |
|Personal Accomplishment |
|Number of Items||9||5||8|
|High||27 or over||13 or over||0-31|
|Low||0-16||0-6||39 or over|
Study Population and Sample Selection
It was appropriate to collect data from a specific population that could provide an informed opinion on the issue under investigation. The best group of people to provide information about occupational burnout of special education teachers is those who are directly affected by the problem. As Creswell (2012) explains, when an investigation focuses on how a specific group of people is affected by various factors such as special education teachers, the best approach to collecting data is to engage them and get their views by the survey. The desired participant had to be special education teachers in Qassim State in Saudi Arabia. They know the exact causes of occupational burnout in their field. Most of them have been working in the country for some time. They can help determine how they face burnout or not in their schools.
The desired participants had taught at this institution or other similar schools for at least one year to qualify for the study. To determine if these participants had the expected characteristics, the participants will request to state the number of years they have been working at schools that teach students with disabilities in public and private schools. The researcher will include special education teachers who have been teaching students with disabilities in Saudi Arabia for the past several years. That is why the eligibility of the participants was based on the experience they have in this field as well as the level of their degree. Teachers who have not worked with students with intellectual disabilities schools and those who not interacting with students with intellectual disabilities directly will not engage because they could not provide the needed data. Given the time available for the study, it was necessary to select a manageable sample.
Creswell (2012) advises that is important to have a sample size that is large enough to provide reliable information, but also small enough to engage effectively with the time available. A sample size of five hundred teachers in the Qassim State in Saudi Arabia was sampled to be part of the project with a Confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of 5%, in which the total size of the sample will be 218. Also, many studies mentioned that the response rate of participants in the 50% or better (Creswell, 2012).
The total school that will be engaged in this study is those 57 schools for boys and 28 schools for girls, which came with a total number of five hundred teachers both female and male in Qassim State in different level of schools which is elementary and middle and high school, and their age will be between 22 to 60 for both female and male. Regarding degree, some of them have diplomas after high school or after bachelor’s degrees in a different area of education, which they completed of two years of special education to teach in special education programs, and the rest of them have a bachelor in special education, master and Ph.D. The sample was used to identify specific participants in the study. Sampling is often used to ensure that participants are selected without the direct influence of the participants and give equal chance for all the five hundred teachers to be in the study’s sample, as Creswell (2012) observes. Participants were engaged from public and private schools in the Qassim State. To ensure that human subject regulations are met, the researcher required permission from the Board of Education in Qassim State before contacting the participants. Once the permission was granted, the researcher will use the five hundred teachers as a sample who is qualified for the study to take part in primary data collection.
In this section, it is important to discuss the type of data that was collected from the participants. The researcher collected primary data from sampled respondents. Using the survey’s questions from the MBI-ES, it was possible to collect data that could be assigned statistical values to facilitate quantitative analysis. A survey was used to collect data from participants. The questionnaire used had three parts. The first part of the instrument focused on the demographical factors of respondents to capture their gender and age. The second part of the questionnaire focused on determining the respondents’ academic qualifications. The academic background of the respondent was an important variable identified during the proposal development of this project. The last part of the instrument focused on specific factors about occupational burnout among special education teachers in schools within the state. The instrument is attached to the appendix A of this paper. The Maslach Burnout Inventory Educators Survey (MBI-ES) was used in this case to facilitate data collection from the teaching staff, as Maslach and Jackson (1996) recommend. It was used to address three dimensions, which include emotional exhaustion of the targeted teachers and their accomplishment and Depersonalization. Maslach and Jackson (1981) explain that these three factors are directly related to occupational burnout.
Validity and Reliability
It was necessary to ensure the validity and reliability of the instrument used in data collection. The validity statistics for the quantitative instrument was established using the Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS). The reliability was developed by computing Cronbach’s alpha statistics. As Mertler and Reinhart (2017) explain, the coefficient closer to 1 is a confirmation of the internal consistency of variables. Cronbach’s coefficient alpha is used to enhance reliability by collecting data from a wide range of sources. Individuals with varying levels of experience were involved in the data collection process. It makes it possible to address all forms of bias that may exist in the study. It reduces the chances that such bias, from a section of the respondents, would affect the outcome of the study. Maslach and Jackson (1986) state that in their MBI-ES Manual reliability was.90 for emotional exhaustion,.76 for depersonalization, and.76 for personal accomplishment. Which is a high level of reliability in their study.
The MBI Manual also supported the validity of MBI-ES that many studies used it to exam the relationship between burnout dimensions in different aspects of work experiences. For example, in a study that has a full time elementary, intermediate, and secondary teachers in the situation of the work’s conditions to exam the role conflict, work overload, classroom condition, and social support from peers were correlated with the three dimensions of burnout scales as predicted in the three samples that mentioned in the study (Byrne, 1994). Another study used MBI-ES scales, a study physical education teachers in Greece found that a strong negative correction between the three burnout scales as treated as a set with many job conditions that including the work settings, the job itself, supervision, and the organization as a whole (Koustelios & Tsigilis, 2005). Another study that supported the validity in MBI-ES Manual is that there is burnout of teachers who taught students with misbehavior found that the sample of teachers (Change, 2013), episodic unpleasant emotion resulting from students’ misbehavior was moderately linked with emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. These studies show the stability of validity that supports this dissertation, and the researcher expects a high level of validity and reliability of special education teachers in Saudi Arabia.
Data Collection Procedures
The researcher obtained the instrument for data collection in the Arabic version from the original author, which means it already has an Arabic version of MBI-ES. Also, after getting permission from the Board of Education in Qassim State and the IRB committee to do the study, the next step was to collect the actual primary data from the respondent. The researcher will start the process by sending the survey to schools that have students with intellectual disabilities in the Qassim State in Saudi Arabia. The researcher will explain at the beginning of the survey to all the participants the relevance of the study and the importance of completing the survey in this study. With permission from the Board of Education in Qassim State, the researcher will use a sample to identify specific teachers who qualify for the study based on the criteria such as working with students with intellectual disabilities, and their major to have a special education degree. Creswell (2012) advises that it is important to use an appropriate method of data collection based on the availability of time and ease with which respondents can be accessed, which will be through the website’s survey (qualtrics.com).
It was established that most of the respondents had a tight schedule and getting time to conduct the data within a month as a maximum to give them time to complete the survey. As such, it was considered appropriate to send the survey to participants through their e-mail. They will be informed by The Board of Education about the study and the expectation that they will meet. They will also inform that about their right to withdraw from the study if they considered it necessary to do so. Respondents were requested to fill in the survey and then it will show in (qualtrics.com) their answer within the time provided. Also, with the week the researcher will follow up with them to encourage them to complete the survey, and the researcher will encourage the participant to complete the survey by set a gift as randomly choosing from the participant to have an iPad to increase the percentage of the participants to be more than 50%. Also, the researcher will protect the participants in the survey’s sample; all the respondents have to agree to an informed consent process individually, which means they agree to be in this sample by their choice.
Data Analysis Procedures
The next step after collecting primary data from respondents was analysis. As explained above, a quantitative research design was considered the most appropriate method of analysis. The structured data collected using the SPSS made it easy to conduct quantitative analysis. The variables were coded as explained above. Each of the responses obtained from the participants was assigned a statistical value. The collecting data is coded into an SPSS spreadsheet statistics to give the ranged from never to having a statistical value for descriptive of zero to every day to having a statistical value of six. The collecting data is coded into an SPSS spreadsheet for descriptive statistics to give mean. median, mode, std. deviation, range, minimum, maximum for each independent variables (nominal variable of gander, the ratio variable of experience, and both level of education and level of teaching considered ordinal). As well as using the regression analysis to found the in the relationship between the IVs and DV after making a test of the assumptions (Mertler & Reinhart, 2017).
Inferential analysis was then conducted. Inferential statistics were necessary because the sampled population was considered a representative of the entire population. Findings made from the analysis represented the entire population. If these participants confirm that cases of occupational burnout are common based on their experience, then it would be assumed that the same is the case with other teachers who are in the population. The analysis involved determining the significance of the relationship between the different variables. The outcome of the analysis will be presented in tables after cleaning the data. Mertler and Reinhart (2017) advise that it is important to explain the statistical outcome of quantitative analysis to help the reader to understand the meaning. Each of the statistical outcomes presented in the table with an explanation will be appropriately interpreted to avoid confusion in chapter 4. The researcher will use the total score of the scales that has a 7-point response scale as high, moderate, and low of burnout to interpreting the result as showing in table 3.
Table 3. Maslach Burnout Inventory Form MBI Subscales: Score Analysis.
|Emotional Exhaustion |
|Personal Accomplishment |
|High||27 or over||13 or over||0-31|
|Low||0-16||0-6||39 or over|
It is necessary to discuss the assumptions made in this paper before focusing on the analysis. Explaining the assumptions makes it easy to understand why the analysis took a specific pattern. One of the main assumptions is that there were no significant outliers. The SPSS makes it easy to determine the outliers and how to deal with in the sample (O’Rourke & Hatcher, 2013). It is also assumed that data normality was achieved by having a normal distribution of the data set. There is an assumption of homoscedasticity, which means that the error term was the same across all values of independent variables (Casson & Farmer, 2014). The final assumption is multicollinearity, which means when two or more predictors of variables have a very strong relationship with each other (O’Rourke & Hatcher, 2013). These assumptions were necessary when conducting the regression analysis.
In this regression analysis, the dependent variable was occupational burnout in special education teachers in Saudi Arabia. However, the dependent variable was broken down into three dimensions, which include emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment. Each of these dimensions was analyzed independently as (three multiple regressions) to understand the level to which they were impacted by the independent variables. They were analyzed separately because they express the varying degree of occupational burnout. Emotional exhaustion is the worst stage of occupational burnout where one feels frustrated, emotionally drained, and unable to carry on with the work. Such individuals need emotional support to ensure that they can continue delivering the needed services.
Using linear regression, it will be possible to determine how independent variables such as the experience of teachers, the level of education they have, the grade level they are teaching, and their gender influence emotional exhaustion. Maslach et al. (2015) mentioned that emotional exhaustion is the worst domain in these three dimensions and consider the central role of these demissions but the two other are important. Also, emotional exhaustion and depersonalization have a relationship with emotional exhaustion, which increase the emotional exhaustion if you have depersonalization and personal accomplishment (Maslach et al., 2015). It will be necessary to confirm that through the regression analysis. Determining the degree of the relationship between the dependent variable and each of the independent variables through linear regression will make it possible to determine how these issues can be addressed to eliminate the emotional exhaustion of special education teachers.
Depersonalization is the other dimension of occupational burnout and it is characterized by an attitude of lack of concern for others and a limited desire to deliver quality work. Maslach et al. (2001) explain as a specific form of psychological self-defense that deprives communication in many spheres of its emotional component. After trying every means to change the situation without success, the sense of resignation sets in and one embraces a carefree attitude. Using linear regression analysis, it will be possible to analyze how this dependent variable is affected by the same independent variables (experience of teachers, the degree level they have, the grade they are teaching, and the gender). In each case, the regression analysis will make it possible to demonstrate the strength of the relationship between the dependent variable and a given independent variable. For instance, experience may be a more important determinant than gender. Experienced teachers have a better way of dealing with such situations irrespective of whether they are men or women.
Personal accomplishment is the third dimension of occupational burnout that will be analyzed in this study. Personal accomplishment is defined as the “self-evaluation dimension of burnout” because it involves perceived professional incompetence and a lack of achievement (Maslach et al., 2001, p. 399). It involves having a sense of satisfaction and being energetic enough to deal with the challenges and achievements of workers. It is important to note that this is a desirable state when dealing with occupational stress among special education teachers in the country. A linear regression analysis will be conducted to determine the relationship between this dependent variable and each of the independent variables (experience of teachers, the degree level they have, the grade they are teaching, and the gender).
The analysis will focus on determining how factors such as the experience of the teacher and academic achievements can enhance their feeling of accomplishment in the workplace despite the challenges they face. In SPSS, the researcher will conduct and run the procedure for multiple regressions for each of the burnout dimensions, and begin with the steps that could confirm certain assumptions were not present in that data such as no significant outliers, homoscedasticity, and the normal distribution of errors. Also, regarding the regression equation that will predict the dependent variables, which means to predict the relationship between IVs and DV. The coefficients result in chapter 4 will show if statistical significance could be determined that link with each IVs. The SPSS will provide information that analysis and determine how the regression model fits the data. Also, the SPSS will determine how much the DV changes with each IVs. The statistical significance of the IVs and predictions of VD values based on their interactions with IVs. After that, the results of the multiple linear regressions will be generated and explain in chapter 4.
It was necessary to take into consideration ethical concerns when conducting the study. Creswell (2012), states that when collecting data from institutions, it is necessary to start by seeking permission from the relevant authority before approaching respondents. This ethical requirement was observed. The researcher made a formal request to the management of the institution, which is the Board of Education in Qassim State, explaining the relevance of the study and the reason why the target grope was chosen to take part in the study. Participants will only be contacted after getting consent from the Board of Education to have access to the sample of special education teachers and IRB committees. Participants were selected based on their willingness to be part of the research.
There is no coercion as the researcher convinced the selected teachers to help in collecting the needed information. Creswell (2012), mentioned that it is necessary to explain to the respondents that their participation is voluntary. This way, they will not feel that they are compelled to participate in the study even if they do not want to do so. Every respondent was informed that their participation is voluntary. The researcher ensured that all participants remained anonymous. It is necessary and important to protect the privacy of respondents by promising and maintaining confidentiality. These requirements will meet during the data collection stage. No single respondent was referred by name when collecting data (Creswell, 2012). Doing so is important in ensuring that those with opinions contrary to what the majority hold do not get victimized or intimidated in any way. There was no potential conflict of interest on the side of the researcher. Any form of bias will avoid during the stages of collecting and analyzing data.
The study faces some challenges, which are worth discussing at this stage of the paper. The research approach (quantitative method) meant that data collected did not allow respondents to explain their answers beyond choosing from the provided options. Creswell (2012), mentioned that sometimes it is often necessary to support statistical data with phenomenology to help understand specific events and how they occur in a practical setting. However, this was not a major issue given that the primary research question and objective could be met using structured responses. The primary focus was to determine the magnitude of the problem, its primary causes, and how it can be addressed. The sample size was not as large as the researcher would have wanted it to be because of the limited time and number. Mertler and Reinhart (2017), explain that when conducting an inferential analysis, it is advisable to have a large sample size that represents the entire population effectively. This problem affects thousands of teachers working in schools that have students with intellectual disabilities across the country. This issue was addressed by selecting participants who represented the entire population effectively.
The chapter has provided a detailed explanation of the approach that was used to collect data, the analysis approach, and the instrument used to collect data. It is explained that the quantitative method was the most appropriate design for the study. It made it possible to test hypotheses that were set based on the information will collect from the sample. It evident that the design considered appropriate for this study was quantitative methods. Creswell (2012), explains that quantitative research design is appropriate when the focus is to establish the significance of the relationship between different variables more than the qualitative study. It made it possible to identify factors that affect occupational burnout among special education teachers. A survey is an effective instrument used in collecting primary data. It standardized primary data collection. Using structured questions, it was possible to code data collecting from this instrument to facilitate quantitative analysis. Ethical considerations and limitations of the study have also been defined. The need to protect the identity of the participants will be observed in the study. In this case, it was necessary to determine the relationship between independent variables (academic qualifications, gender, years of experiences, and grade level of students) and the dependent variable (occupational burnout).
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