Introduction
  Introduction

 

The assessment of occupational stress in teachers is an increasingly important consideration in the maintenance and motivation of instructional personnel. Both the data-based phenomenon of teacher stress (Anderson, 1981; Fimian & Santoro, 1983; Maslach & Jackson, 1981) and non-data-based perspectives (Bloch, 1978; Fimian, 1980; Styles & Cavanagh, 1977; "Teacher burnout," 1979) have been amply documented. The majority of these, however, have discussed the problem in only general terms. Also, when valid and reliable psychometric constructs were employed, they measured burnout or the end result of long-term stressful experiences. What is needed is a psychometrically valid and reliable measurement of teacher stress.

Because stress and burnout are complex issues, there are numerous factors that can contribute to teacher stress levels. Weiskopf (1980) identified a number of sources of stress: (a) work overload, (b) lack of on-the-job success, (c) longer amounts of time directly interacting with students, (d) poor student-teacher ratios, (e) poorly defined program structures, and (f) the constant responsibility for others. In a separate review, Fimian (1982) summarized 135 sources and manifestations of stress cited in the literature into one or more of 13 a priori categories. Additionally, Gallery, Eisenbach, and Holman (1981) noted four contributing factors: (a) role ambiguity, (b) role conflict, (c) role overload, and (d) lack of administrative support.

To date, numerous teacher groups have been studied from an empirical perspective: group-home staff (Fimian, 1984a; Thompson, 1980); teachers of the emotionally disabled (Lawrence & McKinnon, 1980); professionals working with the deaf (Meadow, 1981); teachers of the mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed, and learning disabled (Fimian, Pierson, & McHardy, 1986; Johnson, Gold, Williams, & Fiscus, 1981; Zabel & Zabel, 1981); and general special education teacher populations (Fimian & Santoro, 1983; McIntyre, 1981). A number of regular education samples have also been studied. Schwab (1980) identified the empirical relationship among burnout and role conflict and ambiguity levels in teachers, whereas Anderson (1981) found similar results relating burnout to needs deficiency levels. Schwab (1980), Anderson (1981), and Presley (1982) each determined that background personal (e.g., sex and age) and professional (e.g., number of years teaching and caseload size) variables act as particularly poor predictors of burnout. As in the nonempirical literature, though, the majority of these investigations have focused on burnout and not on the stressful precursors of burnout.

It is also apparent in the literature that teacher stress is not attributable to a single source. It can be and often is operationalized in various empirical and nonempirical ways to account for a number of "factors" or "problems" at any given time. Maslach and Jackson (1981), for example, outlined three factors related to burnout: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a lack of personal accomplishment related to one's job. Pines, Aronson, and Kafry (1981) determined that "occupational tedium" was significantly related to both stress and burnout. Others, too, have attempted to define occupational stress in terms of operationalized job satisfaction, role strain, role conflict, role ambiguity, and/or teacher attitudes.

The study of teachers has long attempted to identify and isolate variables that either improve their competence and performance levels or that identify impediments that hinder increased competence. Identifying the background and organizational variables that contribute to manageable stress levels, reduce burnout, and support on-the-job performance could assist local education agencies in setting and refining long-term plans of work improvement. These plans could, with time, enhance job satisfaction, reduce role conflict and ambiguity, and improve supervisory and administrative support. How the stress-related problems are defined for teachers, therefore, is a crucial point in the process of identifying and resolving their stress-related problems. This manual proposes a means of measuring the complex construct of occupational teacher stress. Additionally, the manual will assist researchers and practitioners in their use of the Teacher Stress Inventory.