Special Education Teacher Burnout: A Synthesis of Research from 1979 to 2013

Special education teachers suffered job burnout due to students’ challenging behaviors. Brunsting, Sreckovic, and Lane (2014) conducted a meta-analysis of special education teachers’ burnout. In this study, Brunsting et al. reviewed 23 research publications that included quantitative measures of burnout and focused on special education teachers as participants.

This study confirmed the association between job burnout and a range of variables from the individual, classroom, school, and district levels. Teacher experience, student disability, role conflict, role ambiguity, and administrative support were prominent factors to teacher burnout. In particular, challenging student behaviors differentiated by the type of student’s disabilities made significant classroom stressors for special education teachers (Brunsting et al., 2014).

As discussed in Brunsting et al., the teaching job could make enormous emotional experience. At one point or another almost all teachers become frustrated with their job or harbor negative feelings toward the profession. Yet, some teachers experience these emotions more acutely or with greater frequency. In general, teachers’ burnout could be protected by the five aspects of psychological needs: security, social, esteem, autonomy, and self-actualization. To help understand mental and physiological consequences caused by work stress, future studies may investigate the relationships between job stressors and stress manifestations among school teachers.


Brunsting, N. C., Sreckovic, M. A., & Lane, K. L. (2014). Special education teacher burnout: A synthesis of research from 1979 to 2013. Education & Treatment of Children, 37(4), 681-711.

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