Towards a Reappraisal of the Bonds between Emotional Intelligence and Burnout

Alavinia, P. & Ahmadzadeh, T. (2012), English Language Teaching, 5 (4), 37-50

Teaching is a demanding profession and teachers are often expected to navigate a myriad of challenges on a daily basis. Teaching related stress, if not managed appropriately can lead to burnout for some teachers and it is this topic that is the focus of the present article by Alavinia and Ahmadzadeh. The researchers define burnout in both physical and psychological terms, and argue that a combination of personal and social factors unique to the individual influence the management and ultimately the experience of stress in the workplace. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is thereby identified as a personal competency which can assist teachers to process and cope with stress in such a way that it guards as a protective factor against burnout.

The Iranian study, which assessed EI and burnout in a sample of 75 high school English teachers found that teacher EI accounted for 48% of their burnout scores, such that those with lower levels of EI were more likely to experience burnout. Other factors found to relate to an increase in the likelihood of experiencing burnout were age, gender and experience, with younger, less experienced and female teaching staff found to be more at risk of burnout.

Where EI was concerned, the research found teacher EI to increase with years of experience, thereby providing support to the assertion that EI can be developed through learning and experience.
This article is thought-provoking as it links EI to both the physical and psychological wellbeing of teachers by their definition of burnout as a physical and psychological phenomenon. The results are likely to be of interest to higher educational institutions tasked with pre service teacher training however, it is also highly relevant to ongoing teacher training and development. The benefits of developing EI competencies in teaching staff may be further understood in light of the ongoing need to create and maintain both professional relationships in the workplace as well as the benefits to student learning and wellbeing.