Understanding stress and boosting wellbeing in our teachers

Professor Annemaree Carroll (UQ), Professor David Reutens (UQ), Dr Lars Marstaller (UQ) and Dr Maryam Ziaei (UQ)

Although rewarding, teaching is recognised as a stressful occupation. One SLRC study commenced in 2016 examines teacher stress and emotion regulation using functional MRI (fMRI), behavioural and survey measures, and then evaluates the benefits of two interventions to reduce stress and improve wellbeing. The aim is to produce an evidence base for inervention rather than rely on self-reporting methods. This interdisciplinary research is led by Professors Annemaree Carroll and David Reutens of UQ, and brings together a team of researchers and PhD students from education, psychology and neuroscience.

The first phase of the research developed and tested behavioural emotion-regulation tasks, able to be undertaken during fMRI scanning to elicit and measure stress-based responses in teachers. This aimed to strengthen the measurement accuracy of teachers’ emotion-regulation, as no such teacher-specific tasks existed prior to this study with previous work focused on self-report measures. In phase two of the research, 573 Australian teachers undertook an online survey designed to develop a greater understanding of occupational stress, burnout, emotion regulation and wellbeing in teachers, sources of stress, and perceived strategies to reduce stress.

The third study phase was a large-scale intervention study in collaboration with the Queensland Department of Education and Training, Brisbane Catholic Education, and local schools using a randomised control design to examine the effect of an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention compared to an active control intervention, the Health Enhancement Program. Data collection is now complete for all three phases and analysis will be completed during 2017. This research highlights the SLRC’s hallmark approach of building an evidence-base to understand observed phenomena and develop innovative tools and strategies.