Course climate, student stress and practitioner burnout

Foley, Patrick Wayne (1996) Course climate, student stress and practitioner burnout. Research Master thesis, Victoria University of Technology.


The central issue of this thesis is the problem of stress in social work education, and its contribution to subsequent burnout in social work practitioners. To investigate this problem, the study was structured according to five interrelated key research questions, as outlined in Chapter One. The first research question asks to what extent what Tobin and Carson (1994) have referred to as "insidious pervasive stresses" emanate from the following sources: (i) professional identity formation process (social work idealised image and role value conflict); (ii) the reasons students chose social work; (iii) students' performance expectations; and (iv) stresses from the course that are part of the professional education process. The second research question examines the extent to which the kind and level of course related stress experienced by social work students explains the variation in their physical and psychological health. The third research question aims to determine if there is a difference in the level of physical and psychological health of Australian social work students and Australian social work practitioners. The fourth research question examines whether the physical and psychological health of social work practitioners is negatively correlated with the magnitude of burnout experienced. The fifth research question considers the extent to which social work practitioners' age, job satisfaction, years of experience and average working hours, in addition to burnout, explain the variation in their physical and psychological health. In addition to these five key research questions, a series of clarifying, supporting or elaborating questions are developed in the literature review (Chapter Two). Where appropriate, they have been converted into substantive operational hypotheses in Chapter Three, which details the study's methodology. Chapter Four (Student Results) presents the results of the questionnaires administered in relation to aspects of their social work course. Chapter Five (Practitioners and Students: Comparative Results and Predictive Analysis) compares the physical and psychological health of social work students with the health of social work practitioners, and provides a predictive analysis of the variations of the health of the two groups. Chapter Six discusses the results of the study, in terms of some of the significant implications of its findings, particularly in relation to social work course design and areas that warrant further investigation. Overall, the study concludes that a significant proportion of social work students are psychologically distressed by their course experience, particularly in terms of course design, role value conflict and the degree of idealisation of the social work role. A very strong association with burnout was found among social work practitioners when they experienced a similar level of psychological distress as that experienced by students. Finally, suggestions are made for ways in which social work course managers may constructively deal with these issues.

Additional Information


Item type Thesis (Research Master thesis)
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > FOR Classification > 1607 Social Work
Historical > FOR Classification > 1701 Psychology
Keywords job stress, students, burnout, social workers, Australia, psychology
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