COPING AS A MEDIATOR OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STRESS REACTIVITY AND TEACHING OUTCOMES
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To understand the origins of burnout in early-career teachers, the current study proposed that individual differences in stress reactivity and coping effectiveness would contribute to end-of-year teaching outcomes for student teachers in their final teaching placements as interns. Stress reactivity is a biologically-based individual difference that influences the intensity and duration of an individual stress response, while coping is the process through which external and internal stressors are addressed. Patterns of coping behavior and stress reactivity are often linked in research, as reactivity is thought to influence the intensity of stress, and thus also the emotional experiences with which individuals must cope. A preponderance of research investigates specific coping strategies and this study instead focuses on coping effectiveness in the face of negative emotions and challenging conditions.
Two distinct mediation models were proposed. The first model hypothesized that stress reactivity would influence teaching self-efficacy indirectly through self-rated coping efficacy, and results revealed a significant negative indirect effect. This suggests that stress reactivity negatively influences one’s perceptions of their ability to cope with their emotions, which in turn has a negative influence on perceptions of teaching self-efficacy. The second model predicted that stress reactivity would influence evaluations of student teacher performance, through performance measures of coping effectiveness. Mediation analysis did not reveal a significant indirect effect, but did reveal a significant positive pathway from performance coping to supervisor evaluations of student teachers.
A significant positive correlation between stress reactivity and performance coping was also identified and stands in contrast to the negative correlation between stress reactivity and self-rated coping efficacy. The unique direction of association across methods of measurement underlines the idea that performance and self-rated measures capture distinct facets of a construct, and that multiple approaches to measurement are crucial for a full understanding of functioning under stress. Results from the performance model open the door for continued investigation of alternate methods for understanding and assessing individual differences in coping. Implications of the findings for literature on stress reactivity, coping, and teacher stress and burnout are discussed.