To What Extent is There a Relationship Between Middle Grades Educator Stressors and Phases of the Career Teacher?

Date of Award





Doctor of Education


Counseling, Foundations & Leadership


The issue of teacher stress is an international area of concern. The primary means of gathering this work-related stress data from educators however, has been quantitatively with participants in elementary or secondary sectors, with little comparative data recorded for middle grades teachers. Along with this shortage of middle school educator stress data, is the rarely investigated variable of phases of the career teacher as it relates to middle grades educator stress. The intention of this research is to investigate the relationship between middle grades educator stress and phases of the career teacher.

A sequential mixed methods research approach was utilized in order to collect information regarding middle grades stressors in relation to teacher career phase. A focus group with middle grades educators was conducted with the purpose of honing in on stressors experienced regularly by middle grades teachers. Focus group data was collected, transcribed and analyzed using the In Vivo Coding technique and seven reoccurring stress themes were identified. Based upon these themes a survey was developed for another group of middle grades educators. Survey participants were asked to evaluate the workplace stressors identified in the focus group and rank them by relevance, in addition to classifying their current career phase. Lastly, this data was then recorded and analyzed using descriptive statistics in SPSS.

Seven themes were identified in the focus group as stressors which impact middle grades educators: 1) parents, 2) having to wear a lot of hats, 3) teaching instead of giving students time to discover, 4) administration, 5) student behavior, 6) pressure on myself to make sure all of the boxes are checked properly and 7) students are not developmentally ready for many things. Then, when participants were asked explicitly about specific stressors at various teacher phases, the top stressors varied greatly. Educators in their current practice identified having to wear a lot of hats as the top stressor, while the top stressor for new career educators was determined to be pressure on myself to make sure all of the boxes are checked properly. However, when asked if stressors varied or remained the same for educators regarding career phase, almost a 50% divide was noted, making it difficult to determine the extent to which there is a relationship between middle grades educator stressors and phase of the career teacher.

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