Teachers who participated in a meditation-based teacher development programme utilising the transcendental meditation (TM) technique for four months, had significant improvements in emotional exhaustion (the leading factor in burnout), resilience, perceived stress, fatigue, and depression according to a new randomised controlled trial published today in Frontiers in Education.
“Teachers are under high levels of stress as they are asked every day to support their students’ learning amidst numerous challenges,” said Laurent Valosek, lead author of the study and executive director of the Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education.
“This study demonstrates the benefits of meditation for strengthening teachers’ mental and physical health. There is a growing body of research on the harmful effects of burnout and the need for resilience. School districts are looking to give their teachers tools for reducing fatigue and emotional exhaustion to support a more effective, sustainable teaching experience and better student outcomes.”
Burnout affects teachers worldwide
It is estimated that 70% of professionals are under constant stress, with over 20% experiencing burnout. Teachers, in particular, face significant daily demands, stress, and fatigue due to their classroom challenges and other professional activities. Burnout includes emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. Signs of teacher burnout include absenteeism from work, impatience with students and colleagues, lack of commitment, poor job performance, and turnover.
Transcendental meditation reduces burnout and improves resilience in teachers
The randomised control study involved 78 teachers in the San Francisco Unified School District. The study found that during a four-month period, those practising the TM technique experienced significant improvements in measures of mental, physical, and emotional health.
These findings are consistent with past research on TM showing benefits related to stress reduction and emotional health. This was the first study to investigate the effects of a meditation-based teacher development program on burnout and resilience, two key factors associated with overall mental health.
The primary outcome of the study was emotional exhaustion (the main factor in burnout), as measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). In addition to observing improvements in burnout, the researchers also found improvements in resilience, perceived stress, fatigue, and depression.
The connection between teacher burnout and student stress and learning outcomes
Recent research has begun to show a direct link between teacher stress and the levels of stress in their students. Middle school students in British Columbia showed significant increases in blood cortisol levels linked to their teacher’s level of burnout.
Teacher burnout is also associated with reduced student academic performance due to decreased commitment to students, less preparation, and absenteeism. Teacher absenteeism brings results in students learning from less qualified substitute teachers and eventually results in higher teacher turnover. This research suggests a potential benefit from meditation-based teacher development programmes designed to promote emotional wellness and health in teachers and build healthy emotional climates, which are associated with positive student experiences.