Commitment to Classroom Model Philosophy, Openness, and Teacher Burnout: A Preliminary Investigation of Their Relationships

Friday, May 18, 2012
Sheraton Hall (Sheraton Centre Toronto)
10:00 AM
A. Gutierrez1,2, D. C. Coman1, C. S. Ghilain1 and M. Alessandri1, (1)Psychology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, (2)Psychology, Florida International University, Miami, FL

One of the primary objectives for families of children with autism is to access effective school-based educational services. Some of the most widely used classroom-based models for children with autism include Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH), Learning Experiences and Alternative Program for Preschoolers and Their Parents (LEAP), and eclectic models incorporating varied strategies (Business as Usual [BAU] models.)  For several decades, however, special education teacher shortages have concerned those who work to recruit and retain special educators (Council for Exceptional Children, 2000). Although the causes of this problem are likely complex, prior research implicates teacher burnout as a relevant factor. Fortunately, prior research also suggests that commitment to model philosophy may mitigate experienced levels of burnout (Jennet, Harris, & Mesibov, 2003). Specifically, teachers who endorse the underlying philosophy of their teaching approach report fewer symptoms of burnout. It may also prove important to investigate factors such as teachers’ attitudes towards Evidence-Based Practices (EBPs), as this may elucidate additional aspects underlying these issues.


To explore teacher commitment to classroom model philosophy, openness to EBPs, and their relationships to teacher burnout in TEACCH, LEAP and BAU teachers.  A better understanding of these factors may provide school districts and policymakers with salient information regarding helpful adaptations in policy and practice within special education.


53 teachers (17 TEACCH, 15 LEAP, and 21 BAU) implementing classroom models at high levels of fidelity completed the Teacher Philosophy Questionnaire-Adapted Version, a demographic form, the Evidence-Based Practice Attitudes Scale, and the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Educators Survey. 


Relative to the other groups, LEAP teachers (M = 0.93) reported significantly higher levels of commitment to LEAP philosophy, F(2, 50) = 9.16, p<.001, η2 = .27, while TEACCH teachers did not report significantly higher commitment levels to TEACCH philosophy. BAU teachers reported similar levels of commitment to both TEACCH and LEAP.

A quadratic relationship between commitment to philosophy and burnout experienced in the middle of the year was also supported, R2 = 0.43, adjusted R2 = 0.22, F(14, 38) = 2.04, p < .05.  There was no relationship between commitment and openness to EBPs, F(1, 47) = 2.78, p = ns.  Group differences between teachers who endorsed high levels of openness to EBPs and those who endorsed low levels were found, such that those in the high group experienced significantly lower levels of burnout in the middle of the year compared to those in the low group, F(1, 47) = 4.22, p <.05, η2 = .082.


 Results from the current study suggest a quadratic relationship between commitment to philosophy and burnout assessed in the middle of the year. Teachers who reported higher levels of commitment tended to report lower levels of burnout, while teachers with moderate commitment levels generally reported higher levels of burnout. Interestingly, teachers with lower levels of commitment also tended to report lower levels of burnout. Lastly, those with high openness to EBPs were found to experience lower levels of burnout, relative to those with low openness.

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