An Investigation of Stress and Copying Strategies among University-level EFL Teachers in the United Arab Emirates
Aubrey, Jonathan Tadd
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This research investigated the main sources of occupational stress that tertiary English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers experience in the United Arab Emirates. A secondary focus was to identify the coping strategies used by EFL teachers who exhibit low levels of stress, and what types of support were needed by EFL teachers who exhibited moderate to high levels of stress. While theories abound in the literature on the reasons for stress and its consequences for teachers, little is known about the role of coping strategies and their specific usefulness in eradicating stress. Given the nature of the research questions, an interpretivist mixed methods approach was deemed appropriate. Data collection methods included a pre-tested online survey followed by 26 semi-structured interviews and a Likert-style questionnaire which were used to gain an in-depth understanding of the quantitative aspects of stress levels. Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were used to examine the coping strategies of 113 self-identified EFL teachers with low stress levels. They were analysed through theme analysis and triangulated with other data to increase the robustness of the results. The sources of teacher stress derived from the analysis are ranked according to the 20 cited as most significant by the participants. They are discussed in detail under the headings of stressors related to classroom teaching, administration leadership style, professional issues and their own assessment as teachers. The strategies teachers use to cope with these stresses are varied and range from activities to attitudes. Key recommendations for the teaching faculty centre on general health and well-being, and overall workplace focus. Clearly, EFL teachers suffering from workplace stress must take care of themselves physically, psychologically and emotionally. Yet teachers in the UAE also expressed a desire for administrators who practice more democratic leadership styles, and acknowledged that the attitudes of their students toward learning English had a considerable impact on their own practices. Further inquiry is recommended into a more complete examination of teacher stressors and their relationship to cultural factors, specifically two of the cultural dimensions found in the UAE (power distance and uncertainty avoidance), which were found to be particularly relevant to stressors in the category of leadership style and practices.
EdD in TESOL
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