Introduction/Abstract: This paper proposes the experimental study which will place new teacher assistants, assessed and qualified by a new set of requirements and qualifications, within the Providence School District Elementary Schools. What is the point? Why do we need to reassess our current set of requirements and qualifications within the paraeducation system? The field is certainly booming. It is projected that in the decade between 2010 and 2020, employment of “teacher assistants” in the United States is expected to grow 15% (Teacher Assistants, 2012). But the field is not continuing to grow for the purpose of creating new jobs.
Instead, the field grows because the number of students in a given classroom continues to increase year to year. Therefore, it becomes more and more important that both the teachers and their teacher assistants are as qualified as possible. While our goal will be to eventually implement the new “Teacher Assistant Intervention Program” in elementary schools all across the United States; this study will specifically focus on two Providence School District Elementary schools, Kennedy Elementary School and West Elementary School. These two schools were chosen because of a few important factors.
First of all, both elementary schools serve the community as primary public schools with grades kindergarten to fifth grade (InfoWorks, 2011). Both schools hire teacher assistants for the kindergarten and first grade levels (Providence Public Schools, 2012). Though, for the purpose of this study, we will place a teacher assistant in every classroom in every grade. We will do this so that every teacher who is assessed for their overall burnout level will have the chance to have it lowered with the implementation of the proposed “Teacher Assistant Intervention Program”.
Each school has around the same number of teachers; At Kennedy Elementary School, there are 29 teachers; while at West Elementary School there are 25 teachers (Providence Public Schools, 2012). Key Terms: Burnout, Teacher Burnout, Teacher Assistant, Emotional Exhaustion, ParaPro Assessment, Copenhagen Burnout Survey Burnout is a work-related syndrome which is brought on by the intense responsibilities as well as relations with clients. Burnout can be hysically, emotionally and mentally exhausting to the individual and often is as a result of the emotional pressures that get placed on the person within the profession (Caglar, 2011). Burnout takes on a series of physical symptoms as well as emotional symptoms. Some of these up and include: headaches, fatigue, restlessness, substance addiction, anxiety attacks, low self-esteem, hopelessness or disappointment (Koruklu, 2012). Beyond the beginner’s definition of “burnout”, “teacher burnout” enters into a dimension of its own.
Teacher Burnout can be accurately defined as a physical, mental and behavioral tiredness that is exhibited in educators as a result of their working life and experience. It is characterized by a positive or negative reaction that emerges as a result of stressful situations directly impacting the teacher’s physical, emotional, and social performance. According to previous research and studies, “emotional exhaustion”, “depersonalization”, and “lack of personal accomplishment” are pertinent indicators of “teacher burnout” (Koruklu, 2012).
Occupations falling under the human service profession category tend to burn out most quickly because of the emotional pressures brought on by the intense relations with other people’s burdens and personal issues (Caglar, 2011). Students are constantly depending and relying on their teacher for more than just their education. Many times, students come from homes where little to no support is provided. As a result, teachers end up taking on much of their student’s burdens and carrying them as their own. Teacher Assistant: Teacher assistants serve in the classroom setting under the supervision of a certified teacher.
As part of their role, they provide additional attention and instruction to the students. Some of a teacher assistant’s duties include, but are not limited to, reinforcing lessons that are presented by teachers to aid in further understanding for students, they help enforce classroom rules and expectations, supervise students during recess, lunch and on field trips, help the teacher prepare the classroom and materials for the day’s lesson(s) and assist in recordkeeping such as attendance, and grade calculations (Teacher Assistants, 2012).
Teacher assistants work in multiple settings, including schools, childcare centers and religious organizations (Teacher Assistants, 2012). Over time, the role of the teacher assistant has shifted. What began as a movement to provide individualized attention in a clerical role where daily tasks included material making, errand running, and grading, teacher assistants now have a more direct role in their service for students within the classroom (Shyman, 2010). Historically, teacher assistants were first implemented within school classrooms to provide support for students with special needs or disabilities.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 stated that “paraprofessionals and assistants who are appropriately trained and supervised…[may be used] to assist in the provision of special education and related services to children with disabilities” (Shyman, 2010). Copenhagen Burnout Inventory: The “Copenhagen Burnout Inventory” was first used in the PUMA Study, measuring the burnout levels of human service workers in Copenhagen, Germany (Milfont, 2008).
The goal of this 19-item survey is to accurately assess three different degrees of burnout amongst its participants. The three subtopics include “personal burnout”, “work-related burnout” and “client-related burnout”. “Personal Burnout” asks questions that relate to the individual’s overall sense of physical and psychological exhaustion. “Work-related Burnout” assesses the stress level in the individual stemming from their work as well as their working environment. Client-related Burnout” tests the amount of physical and psychological exhaustion with the proposed cause being the work with the individual’s clients. In this study, teachers will answer like so:
The “personal burnout” questions: — Always, Often, Sometimes, Seldom, Never/almost never The “work-related burnout” questions: –First Three Questions: “To a very high degree”, “To a high degree”, “Somewhat”, “To a low degree”, “To a very low degree” –Last Four Questions: “Always”, “Often”, “Sometimes”, “Seldom”, “Never/almost never” The “client-related burnout” questions: -The First Four Questions: “To a very high degree”, “To a high degree”, “Somewhat”, “To a low degree”, “To a very low degree” — The Last Two Questions: “Always”, “Often”, “Sometimes”, “Seldom”, “Never/almost never” Differentiation: Many studies have been conducted centering on the topic of “teacher burnout” as well as the correct use of teacher assistants within schools. After much research and consideration, I propose that there exists a direct correlation between “teacher burnout” and the teacher assistants that are employed within our education systems.
Teacher assistants have the great opportunity to not only provide professional support and aid within the classroom, but they also are the only other person within the classroom that has the opportunity to experience firsthand what it is like to educate the students. Because they maintain such a pertinent role within the classroom, teacher assistants have the opportunity to not only mentor and reinforce classroom lessons to the students, but they also have the unique opportunity to support the teacher’s overall well-being.
Previous studies have looked at factors relating to “teacher burnout” such as sex, age, school that they teach at, how many years they have taught, classroom size, seniority, depression, and work atmosphere (Koruklu, 2012). In addition to personal and individualized factors pertaining to the level in which a teacher experiences burnout, environmental problems can also become an issue.
Other studies have analyzed the impact that classroom size and overall classroom population can affect this rate of burnout (Koruklu, 2012). While these factors certainly contribute to the rate at which teachers tend to burnout within their profession, it is important to look at how those systems already in place within the educational system can provide aid and support to the teacher. If these systems can be reassessed and improved upon, as a result, “teacher burnout” can and will be avoided.
In addition to studies which uncover the impact that a teacher’s environment and possibly more personal factors as well, other studies have conducted investigation which tests whether the presence of a teacher assistant in the classroom has any noticeable impact on the students’ education (Finn, Achilles, & Boyd-Zaharias, 2001). As a result of this study, researchers found that after investigation, the teacher assistants seemed to have little to no positive impact on a student’s academic achievement (Finn, Achilles, & Boy-Zaharias, 2001).
This presents an issue that must be addressed. The solution is not to rid classrooms of teacher assistants. U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the amount of teacher assistant jobs in the nation will increase at a rate of 15% between the years 2010-2020 (Teacher Assistants, 2012). We should instead reform current requirements for teacher assistant qualification in the state of Rhode Island and implement a new plan of action which will take current undergraduate students and place them in the role of the teacher assistants at Providence School District Elementary Schools.
So what exactly will this proposed study look at? While certain studies completed in the past have researched the correlation between “Burnout and Wellbeing”, this study will take the two correlating subjects and propose that overall burnout levels can be reduced, as a result of the new “Teacher Assistant Intervention Program” provided by the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development at Rhode Island College and the Providence School District (Social Indicators Research, 2007).
If overall burnout levels are reduced in teachers, then the overall wellbeing of participating teachers will be positively affected, and, therefore, increased. Most studies centered on the subject of “teacher burnout” blame the students and work environment for this issue instead of looking at other factors, such as support within the classroom, as the cause of this monumental problem. Numerous amounts of research have looked at the correlations between “teacher burnout” and school environmental factors.
However, no study has yet been conducted suggesting that the use of college students, studying in the education field, might help to reduce the stress and burnout levels in teachers today, thereby increasing their overall sense of wellbeing and satisfaction within the workplace. Hypothesis (How I arrived there—process): As I was deciding exactly what I wanted to propose for this research study, I considered the classes that I am currently taking. One of my favorite courses is “Schooling in a Democratic Society”, taught by Dr. Mustafa Ozcan.
This course supplies participating students with an introduction and immersion into the teaching field by creating an environment where the social and cultural forces which greatly affect our schools are discussed, as well as realized in a practical field-based experience (Ozcan, 2012). A large portion of the student’s final grade is 15 hours of completed field-based experience. This field-based experience immerses the students in Providence School District classrooms once a week where they spend time tutoring and investing in the students (Inspiring Minds, 2012).
This experience, while positive, also seemed to uncover some harsh realities within the classroom that caused me to reconsider how the Providence School District educates its students. My personal field-based experience took place in a kindergarten classroom at Carl G. Lauro, a grades K-5 elementary school in the Providence School District. Each Providence Elementary School uses “teacher assistants” in grades kindergarten and first grade. In the classroom where I was placed for tutoring, I observed behavior from the “teacher assistant” which I found to be very harsh and unnecessary.
Each time I came to tutor the students, the children would become fearful whenever this teacher assistant spoke. The teacher assistant would say things to the children such as, “At this rate, you’re never going to make it to the first grade! ”, “Oh, you’re not getting recess! ”, “You are so annoying! Go away! ” and many other things that do are not worth repeating. As this teacher assistant treats children the way that she does, I sometimes observe the teacher falling into the same patterns of behavior and attitude towards the children.
And so, I began to consider a few things. First, I wanted to know what impact the teacher assistant has on the learning of these students. Why are teacher assistants hired within the classroom if they do not help the children in their learning? Second, I wanted to know what specifically qualified an individual in Rhode Island to become a teacher assistant. Did they need to have a degree in some area of education? Are they provided with specific training that qualifies them to assist in the classroom? Then I began to consider my peers from my education class.
Every week, heated discussions would brew based upon the different aspects of education and what can be done to improve the system that is in place. I considered the fact that colleges currently place their undergraduate students within the classrooms to student teach and prepare them for their future teaching career, but I had to wonder, “Why would we not create a partnership between the Providence School District and Rhode Island College Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, placing the undergraduate students in the role of the teacher assistant? ” Final Research Questions: Is there a significant difference in teachers’ burnout level between those who take part in the new “Teacher Assistant Intervention Program” and those who do not? * Does the implementation of the proposed “Teacher Assistant Intervention Program” boost morale and sense of well-being within the classroom teacher? Methods/The Experimental Study: A. 1 Participants: In this study, we will take 25 teachers from West Elementary School who will serve as our “control group”. These teachers will participate in the taking of the “Copenhagen Burnout Survey” as well as the “Adapted Well Being Index”.
Our second group will consist of 29 teachers from Kennedy Elementary School. These teachers will serve as our experimental group who will not only be assessed by the “Copenhagen Burnout Inventory” and the “Well Being Index”, but they will also receive the treatment of the “Teacher Assistant Intervention Program”. A. 2 Copenhagen Burnout Survey Both the experimental and the control group will be asked to participate in the taking of the “Copenhagen Burnout Inventory” both at the beginning of the study and the end.
As was previously stated, both West and Kennedy Elementary Schools (Control and Experimental Groups) will complete the survey, at the beginning as well as at the end. A. 3 The J. O. Y. Scale Index Throughout the program, at the end of every week, teachers will be asked to answer this series of questions assessing their overall “joyfulness” and well-being. Questions such as “Do you have a more positive outlook on life this week? ” and “Do you feel you have less pressure weighing on your shoulders while at work? ”, will be asked. This will rate on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). A. “Teacher Assistant Intervention Program” Current requirements for becoming a Teacher Assistant in RI: * Completion of RIDE certified Teacher Assistant Training Program OR Teacher Assistant Certification in another state
* Must also complete 1 of the following 3: -2 years of study at an institute of higher education, -An Associate’s or higher degree, -Demonstrates knowledge and competency in the field, evaluated by the ParaPro Assessment Proposed Requirements for entrance into “Teacher Assistant Intervention Program”: * Must have completed at least two years of study at an institute of higher education -Rhode Island College Passing score on the ParaPro Assessment -The state required assessment measuring basic knowledge and competency in the field of being a teacher assistant -461 (CCRI, 2012) Data Collection and Analysis: The data that is provided through each of the surveys, “Copenhagen Burnout Survey” and “The JOY Scale Index”, will be collected and assessed based upon certain responses. When burnout levels are decreased in the results, it will be assumed that the “Teacher Assistant Intervention Program” was a success.
We hope for a positive response so that this program can be implemented in a wide array of schools around Rhode Island and eventually the rest of the United States. Ethical Issues: Certain ethical issues will need to be addressed within this proposed experimental study. In the First of all, it is important that in the administration of the “Copenhagen Burnout Inventory”, teachers are informed that their responses will be entirely anonymous. This inventory survey will be used to measure the overall burnout level of the entire school, not the individual teacher in their practicing profession.
Though individuals are not the ones being assessed and analyzed, at any point, a teacher may request access to the results of the school teachers. Participation is also voluntary, not mandatory. Though it may create some difficulties in determining what the overall burnout level is amongst the teachers. Potential Errors that Need Consideration: * What will be done with displaced (current) Teacher Assistants? * Teachers taking leave of absence (medical, maternity)
* Balancing student schedules with paraeducation schedules * Will students be paid for their work? * Should the “Teacher Assistant Intervention Program” simply serve as an ption for RIC Feinstein School of Education students or should it be required? The J. O. Y. Scale Index 1. Do you have a more positive outlook on life this week? 2. Do you feel you have less pressure weighing on your shoulders while at work? 3. Since the implementation of the new “Teacher Assistant Intervention Program”, do you feel the undergraduate students from RIC have had a positive impact on your students’ education? 4. Since the implementation of the new “Teacher Assistant Intervention Program”, do you feel the undergraduate students from RIC have had a positive impact on your teaching and experience in the classroom?