Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Ernest W. Brewer

Committee Members

Schuyler W. Huck, Jason T. Huff, Gregory C. Petty


Burnout is a tripartite syndrome consisting of the constructs of emotional exhaustion (EE), depersonalization (DP), and reduced feelings of personal accomplishment (PA) (Azeem & Nazir, 2008; Law, 2010; Yong & Yue, 2007). Teachers in the midst of burnout are in a “state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long-term involvement in situations that are emotionally demanding” (Harrison, 1996, p. 25). The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between middle school teacher burnout and perceived principal support. The combination of the constructs of burnout and principal behaviors (i.e., supportive, directive, and restrictive) provided the theoretical framework for the study. Participants included 282 middle school teachers from 9 schools in East Tennessee. Instruments utilized were the Maslach Burnout Inventory for Educators Survey (MBI-ES), the Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire—Revised for Middle Schools (OCDQ-RM); and a researcher‑created demographics questionnaire. Schools were also coded as either rural or non‑rural, and this classification was used as demographic information. Analyses included the calculation of Pearson r correlations and a three-stage hierarchical multiple regression. Of the participants, 43.6% rated themselves as experiencing high levels of EE and 45.4% reported low levels of personal accomplishment. In straight correlations, the EE factors of burnout were significant between gender of teachers, those who taught courses that were tested (i.e., math, reading/language arts, science, and social studies), and those who held higher degrees. For teacher behaviors, those reporting collegial and disengaged behavior had a direct relationship between all factors of burnout, as were principal behaviors categorized as supportive and restrictive. This study, however, focused on the hierarchical multiple regression to determine whether principal behaviors had a greater effect on burnout than did other variables. From the findings, the researcher realized directive principal behavior had no significant effect on any of the factors of burnout; however, those teachers with principals who they perceived as supportive were less likely to exhibit EE or DP. Restrictive principal behavior was the only factor in the regression that was significant for all factors of burnout, indicating that employees of these principals exhibited higher levels of EE and DP and lower levels of PA.

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