JVER v27n3 - The Role of Key Qualifications in the Transition from a Comparison Of Role/Task/Environment Stress Experienced by Beginning Academic and Career-Technical Teachers in Southwestern Ohio Career-Technical Schools

Volume 27, Number 3

The Role of Key Qualifications in the Transition from a Comparison Of Role/Task/Environment Stress Experienced By Beginning Academic and Career-Technical Teachers In Southwestern Ohio Career-Technical Schools

Timothy F. Kerlin
Wright State University


Twenty-four academic and 50 career-technical teachers in southwestern Ohio high school career centers were studied to determine which group perceived greater role stress, task stress, and environment stress while teaching and prior to issuance of their professional license. Teachers completed the 67-item Teacher Stress Measure (TSM) developed by L. Pettegrew and G. Wolfe (1981) . Career-technical teachers reported higher levels of role and task stress than academic teachers. Academic teachers reported higher levels of environment stress.

Teaching has many intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for people entering the pedagogical arena. However, teaching is not without its inherent problems. Problems associated with job related stress remain at the top of many teachers' list ( Fimian & Fastenau, 1990 ). Historically, the duties and responsibilities of classroom teachers have been viewed as demanding. Duties such as instructional planning, managing student behavior, interacting with other teachers and administrators professionally, and insuring that programs produce students who can pass state-required proficiency tests to graduate have continued to increase in both complexity and accountability. Accompanying stressors such as meeting with parents, writing new curriculum, grading and evaluating students, and meeting administrative paperwork requirements can produce a great amount of stressful situations for the classroom teacher. As negative stressors increase, teachers new to the profession may not be aware of effective strategies to reduce stress-related problems. Excessive amounts of negative stress can result in decisions to leave secondary teaching for work that has less perceived negative stress.

Conceptual Framework and Related Literature

Many of the issues surrounding teaching and negative stress in a career center school are derived empirically from the demands placed on both the academic and career-technical teachers. The literature on teachers who experience perceived negative stress in schools identified no clear recommendation as to a conceptual or theoretical model by which to conduct this study. However, Camp (2001) encouraged researchers who study career-technical phenomena to design a theoretical or conceptual framework based upon substantive theory. Camp further encouraged developing studies with an empirical foundation, with supportable premises, and then extending that premise through a logical path of reported research and clear reasoning.

Pettegrew and Wolfe (1981) developed the Teacher Stress Measure (TSM) to rate teacher role, task, and environment stress. Examination of the stressors commonly found in the career center can also be categorized into these three distinct areas. Both academic and career-technical teachers must cope with teacher role stress, teacher task stress, and school-environment stress. Teacher role stress is defined as the stress associated with the degree of fit between a teacher's expectations of his or her teaching role and the actual work-related experience of fulfilling that role. Teacher task stress concerns problems associated with a variety of specific tasks the teacher must perform in his or her teaching role. School environment stress is associated with specific circumstances or events that may befall teachers in the school in which they work.

Pettegrew and Wolfe (1981) defined the three measures of teacher role, task, and environment stress into subsets of categories. Role stress encompasses five specific areas including (a) role ambiguity , the absence of clear or adequate information about the role one must perform; (b) role overload , the absence of sufficient resources to perform roles adequately; (c) role conflict , the presence of two or more incompatible work demands; (d) nonparticipation , lack of direct involvement in the decision-making process on issues that specifically affect work, and (e) role preparedness , stress due to feelings of a lack of competency or preparation to perform a given role. Task stress, involves work-related activities that teachers may be asked to perform, that create increased stress anxiety. An example would be serving as in-school detention monitor. Environment stress examines the school as an environment that can increase the teachers stress level.

When discussing stress and the role it plays in the lives of teachers, its meaning and application can have several interpretations depending on the situations involved. Teacher stress points to the interaction between teacher and one of several environments: the school, interpersonal, and intra-personal environments. Stress can be conceptualized to include job satisfaction (Kyriacou & Sutcliffe, 1979; Litt & Turk, 1985 ; Price, 1971; Rudd & Wiseman, 1962), absenteeism (Bridges 1980), intention to leave the profession (Kyriacou & Sutcliffe), and psychological and physical distress (Coates & Thoresen, 1979; Needle, Griffen, & Svendsen, 1979; Taylor & Dean, 1971).

Prince (1988) suggested that stress results when the demands of a situation are perceived to be greater than one's capabilities to meet those demands. An individual does not create stress; rather, it derives from an individual's perception of workplace demands and personal abilities of being able to address those demands. The question arises as to when and how negative stress occurs in a new teacher's occupational life. Issues relating to teacher self-efficacy plays a part in perceiving negative stress related to situations and environments.

Work conditions that are typically attributed to causing teacher stress were cited by Norton (1999) including (a) the variety of administrative routines and paperwork, (b) evaluation of student performance and school grading practices, (c) student behavior and discipline, (d) teacher load and expectations for assuming extra-curricular activities, (e) relationships with peers and administrative personnel including supervisory relationships and communication channels, and (f) finance, i.e., meeting the requirements of increased personal and professional expenditures on a first-year teacher salary. Teachers identified finance as a major cause of family and personal stress. Teachers in Ohio can spend as much as $10,000.00 during their first two years of employment to obtain their teaching license.

Eskridge and Coker (1985) found certain professional variables stimulate teacher stress. For example, secondary teachers experience stress more frequently than elementary teachers. Also, the fewer years of professional preparation a teacher has increases the greater the likelihood of stress. However, age and gender are not significant when examining teacher stress ( Milstein & Golaszewski, 1983 ).

The fewer number of years of professional teacher preparation impacts new teachers' abilities to successfully handle negative stress. Career-technical teacher licensure in Ohio has undergone major revisions since 1998, when the latest Ohio Department of Education Teacher Licensure standards went into effect ( Ohio Department of Education, 1997 ). Ohio offers two routes to vocational teacher licensure. Route A allows students completing the traditional bachelor's degree in vocational teacher education to teach, while the alternative licensure, route B, is a 24-semester hour teacher education program for individuals entering teaching based on work experience. Career-technical teachers in Ohio can receive an initial two-year provisional teaching license and renew that license one time upon completion of 10 semester hours of teacher education. The teacher can obtain and their five-year professional license by completing the 24-semester hour teacher licensure program, passing the Praxis II and III examinations at an approved university that offers career-technical teacher education.

One of the unique features of Ohio career-technical education is that career-technical teachers are allowed to teach a class or program of study to secondary career center students as they spend two-years completing their initial teacher licensure requirements. Career-technical teachers have all of the classroom responsibilities of traditional academic teachers, as well as other employment obligations specific only to career-technical teachers. However, these career-technical teachers enter the classroom with little or no exposure to professional teacher preparation or student teaching. This fact alone almost assures that career-technical teachers will experience negative stress during their teaching assignment.

Career-technical teachers are required to complete the 24-semester hour licensure program even though they may have a bachelor's or master's degree in their occupational field. One area of stress frequently discussed by career-technical teachers is the amount of money, time, and travel involved in obtaining initial teaching licensure. The career-technical teacher licensure program is offered at one state-supported university in southwestern Ohio. Many teachers must travel three to four hours roundtrip to attend class, in addition to attending a 3-hour class at the university. Career-technical teachers can spend nine to twelve hours weekly in obtaining their teaching license in addition to 35-40 clock hours per week teaching.

As part of the 24-semester hour program, career-technical teachers spend two to three weeks during the summer in licensure classes during their initial two years of teaching. Career-technical teachers also complete all State of Ohio-required Praxis I, II, and III examinations developed by the Educational Testing Service, in order to receive their professional five-year teaching license. Passage of the Praxis series tests, are considered a high stress situation.

Academic teachers usually complete their professional teacher preparation prior to accepting a full-time teaching assignment and have completed a field-based student teaching experience. Exposure to the classroom setting for academic teachers is an advantage a career-technical teacher hired from business and industry to teach high school students does not have. Career-technical teachers literally accept a teaching position, and in many cases, begin teaching without the benefit of a professional teacher preparation program, in-service, or mentoring environment. This environment for career-technical teachers can result in high levels of frustration, anxiety, and perceived negative stress, which can impact the individual's teaching performance or decision to remain in the teaching field.


The significance of this study is found in the need to investigate the perceived differences between academic and career-technical teachers working in a career center regarding role stress, task stress, and environment stress. Teachers new to the profession express the impact that negative stress plays in their life. The ability to identify which group of teachers experiences greater stress can assist local school administrators and university teacher educators in addressing specific issues that cause the most stress. A second purpose of this study was to identify which of the three teacher stress factors-role, task, or environment-was selected by academic and career-technical teachers as having the most impact on the amount of perceived negative stress they experience during the school day.

The need for this study is supported in the literature surrounding teacher stress. Wiley (2000) identified important reasons for studying teacher stress; teachers who experience negative stress in their work can be impacted in numerous ways. Stress can have detrimental effects on the teacher's themselves, their students, and the learning environment. As a consequence of their stressful job conditions, many teachers are finding their feelings about themselves; their students, and their profession growing more negative over time. Increased negativity can ultimately result in teachers viewing their teaching career as a poor choice of professions, and teachers may seek a new career outside of education.

Statement of Problem

Much of the recent literature concerning teacher stress has focused on teachers perceptions that their job is more stressful than comparable professions requiring a bachelors degree or higher ( Litt & Turk, 1985 ). Being perceived as more stressful, teachers experience greater job dissatisfaction than found in other forms of employment. The most common types of stress found in career center schools revolve around teacher role, teacher task, and the school environment. Identification of the types of stress experienced, and who experiences greater amounts of stress, academic or career-technical teachers teaching in a career center, remains a topic of discussion between teachers and administrators.

The importance of answering the research questions is found in the problem of career-technical teachers leaving the teaching profession. If career-technical teachers experience excessive negative stress situations in teaching, they have the option of returning to their previous occupation. Academic teachers who experience negative job stress working at a career center may decide to leave the school and seek employment with another school district. A decision by academic teachers to remain at the career center, even if deemed a stressful place to work by academic teachers, might be made in order to receive higher wages and benefits typically offered by a career center school. However, academic teachers may not be effective in the classroom due to the negative stress they experience.

During discussions after survey administration, both academic and career-technical teachers explained the need for staff development to address their specific concerns regarding negative stress. Career-technical teachers stated that teacher preparation programs should provide increased knowledge about and provide coping strategies for working within a career center environment.

Among career center faculty, placement of students into career-technical programs who have exhibited high levels of disruptive behavior prior to entering the career center leads the list of reported stress related problems. Almost half of career-technical teachers indicated student motivation and maintaining career-technical program enrollments were also serious problems that produced negative stress ( National Center for Educational Statistics, 1994 ).

Career-technical teachers argue that their teaching responsibilities and stress levels exceed that of traditional academic teachers. The statement is made based on the fact the career-technical teachers have the same classroom responsibilities as academic teachers, but career-technical teachers have additional liability issues, due to the nature of their occupational training laboratories. Other factors that increase career-technical teacher stress include recruiting and retaining students in their occupational programs, operating a co-curricular career-technical student organization, coordinating a career-technical advisory committee, finding and placing students in occupational specific job training programs, and coordinating the development of integrated technical and academic competencies ( Adams, 1996 ).


This study sought to determine whether academic or career-technical teachers perceived greater role, task, and environment stress in a high school career center setting. The three stress variables-role stress, task stress, and environment stress-were defined by Pettegrew and Wolfe (1981) . The research question was, Do differences exist between academic and career-technical teachers perceived role stress, task stress, and environmental stress in a career center as measured by the Teacher Stress Measure Instrument? Discussion with both academic and career-technical teachers were conducted after the initial data collection to identify additional issues surrounding perceived negative stress not identified by the study instrument.

Pettegrew and Wolfe (1981) conducted a validity study of several measures of teacher stress and developed the Teacher Stress Measure (TSM) consisting of thirteen different subcategories and 67 items. Items are scored on a 6-point Likert-rating scale. For the study, subsets of role stress (items 1-25), task stress (items 46-54), and environment stress (items 26-30) were specifically examined. Scoring the TSM instrument was accomplished by computing a mean score for each of the three stress sub-groups. The mean scores of the three stress variables were computed for both academic and career-technical teachers, and comparisons were made between the mean scores of each teacher group.

The stress measures of role, task, and environment were analyzed using both descriptive and inferential statistical tests. Statistical means, standard deviations, MANOVA and ANOVA were computed. The reliability of the questions for this study were measured by Cronbach's alpha: role ambiguity ( r =.76), role conflict ( r =.74), role overload ( r =.77), role preparedness ( r =.64), nonparticipation ( r =.74), school-environment ( r =.85), and task stress ( r =.82).

Pettegrew and Wolfe's (1981) study of teacher stress measures also found the structural reliability and predictive validity associated with their subcategories to meet or exceed standards related to the constructs. Five subcategories-role ambiguity, role overload, role conflict, nonparticipation, and role preparedness-in the TSM were used as variables in this study to assess the dependent variable role stress . One category, task stress , was used to assess task stress. School stress was used to assess the dependent variable school-environment stress .


A descriptive design using non-random, quota sampling for data collection was employed for the study ( Trochim 2000 ). The non-random quota sample is less optimal than a random sample. An additional limitation is a dependency on the Teacher Stress Measure (TSM) 67-item instrument. The study was only able to identify those factors defined by the items comprising the TSM. It is possible other factors regarding stress were missed in the survey data collection or analysis of data. Finally, the TSM is a self-reporting, paper-pencil survey instrument. The use of teacher observations and teacher absence reports might have disclosed additional information concerning teacher role, task, and environment stress.


Participants were academic and career-technical teachers employed by career center schools in Grades 11 and 12 in southwest Ohio. Twenty-four academic and 50 career-technical teachers agreed to participate, representing 84% of the eligible population. Participants were teachers with less than 4 years teaching experience, and had not obtained a Professional 5-year teaching license. Surveys were divided into separate groups for academic and career-technical teachers. Each survey was reviewed for completeness and the three subsets of role, task, and environment stress were identified on each survey. In addition to the Teacher Stress Measure Instrument, participants were asked to consider staying after the completion of the TSM, and meet with me to discuss their feelings surrounding the topic of teacher stress and answer a series of questions. The questions are listed in Table 1.

Participant Conversation Questions
The following questions served as a starting point to focus participants on the subject of teacher stress:
1.What activities or situations cause you to experience negative stress while teaching?
2. Describe what activities or situations that cause you to experience negative stress while performing your role as a teacher?
3. Describe what activities or situations that cause you to experience negative stress while performing your tasks as a teacher?
4. Describe the school-environment that you work in, do you experience more or less negative stress than your previous employment?
5. How would an outside observer know you are experiencing negative stress during the teaching day?

Two groups of 10 teachers each, who had completed the Teacher Stress Measure agreed to participate in the discussions. I provided some basic definitions regarding role, task, and environment stress as defined by Pettegrew and Wolfe (1981) . Discussions occurred in a classroom with participants only. No local school administrators or staff members were present. I collected consent forms prior to the start of the discussion. Both academic and career-technical teachers were present in the room as questions were asked and opened for discussion. I asked each question and allowed the group to provide open-ended responses and interrupted participants only when a point of clarification was needed. Additionally, a follow-up phone interview with 10% of the participants was conducted to discuss data analysis.

Findings and Conclusions

Career-technical teachers reported greater role stress in a career center setting. Difference between academic and career-technical mean scores on role stress was statistically significant, (1,72)=3.74, p =.06. Career-technical teachers reported greater task stress in a career center setting. The difference in mean scores between academic and career-technical task stress is statistically significant, (1,72)=6.98, p =.01. Academic teachers reported greater school-environment stress. The mean scores between academic and career-technical teachers environment stress is not statistically significant environment stress (1,72)= 2.04, p =.16. Table 2 provides reported mean and standard deviation data.

Means and Standard Deviations for Academic and Career-Technical Teachers Role/Task/Environment Stress
Academic ( n =24) Career-technical ( n =50)

Role stress 2.75 .60 2.98 .41
Task stress 3.19 .50 3.55 .57
Environment stress 3.52 .67 3.31 .55

Comparing academic and career-technical teachers as a whole, academic teachers experienced less role stress than career-technical teachers, but greater role stress than teachers in Pettegrew and Wolfe's (1981) study. Academic teachers had less task stress than career-technical teachers and less task stress than teachers in Pettegrew and Wolfe's study. Academic teachers experience greater environment stress than do career-technical teachers but less environment stress than teachers in the Pettegrew and Wolfe study. Pettegrew and Wolfe's study is now 20+ years old, and some stress factors may have changed in schools.


Beginning with the guiding thought that perceived negative stress experienced by new teachers might cause increased attrition of new teachers from the teaching profession, I sought to identify and clarify the issues of stress in career centers. Based on my findings with academic and career-technical teachers, several positive outcomes are possible. With the knowledge that career-technical teachers report higher levels of role and task stress, specific changes to the career-technical teacher licensure program can be made. Schools of education that offer career-technical licensure programs can now examine what factors cause the most stress for career-technical teachers new to the teaching profession.

Issues surrounding specific role and task stress issues need to be addressed in the career-technical teacher education program. School environment issues need to be addressed by career center administrators. A second implication from the study is the identification of stress issues that exists inside the career center school district. The career center school district can now attempt to design a professional teacher staff development program agenda to address the individual and collective needs of its teaching faculties.

Career center administrators and staff development committees need to assist new teachers with clarifying their teacher responsibilities, to include better understanding of the teacher evaluation process. Career center administrators need to be made aware of the time and money expenditures that new career-technical teachers make in order to obtain their initial teaching license. Career center administrators need to monitor the stress levels being experienced by the new teacher, and offer support, encouragement, and peer group discussion as a means to deescalate academic and career-technical teachers stress. It is hoped career center administrators will create mentoring programs for new teachers to lessen the negative stress issues associated with being a new teacher.

Replication should occur across the state of Ohio to determine if other career-technical and academic teachers uniformly agree with the results of this study. Schools of education have a starting point to address teacher stress and can collaborate together on the best way in which to reduce stress for either academic or career-technical teachers. Suggestions for further research include a continued analysis of teacher stress issues associated with teaching in a high school career center setting. Identification of different stress variables will also be of great assistance for future study. I also suggest a program of study be developed for use in pre-service teacher training programs at schools of education to lessen the effects of stress, or provide new teachers with coping strategies that will allow them to recognize negative stress, and find ways in which to relieve the stress. Finally, future research should examine teacher stress longitudinally, conducted in various parts of the U.S. The study would identify teacher stress issues, identify successful programs created to alleviate teacher stress and disseminate the information for use at all levels and delivery systems of teaching.

I recommend that career-technical teacher preparation programs implement strategies and techniques to address role and task stress factors. Traditional academic teacher preparation programs need to incorporate additional information and teaching strategies for their students who teach in diverse employment settings, such as career centers and urban school districts. Academic teachers experiencing stress will need initial support during their student teaching process and will need professional teacher in-service training to address the on-going stress issues associated with teaching at a career center.


Adams, E. (1996) . The effects of school systems, teacher internal characteristics, and students on vocational teacher stress (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Virginia, 1996). UMI Dissertation Services, UMI number 9626113 .

Camp, W. G. (2001) . Formulating and evaluating theoretical frameworks for career and technical education research. Journal of Vocational Education Research , 26(1), 4-25.

Eskridge, D. H., & Coker, D. R. (1985) . Teacher stress: Symptoms, causes, and management techniques . (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ 320 930)

Fimian, M. J., & Fastenau, P. S. (1990) . The validity and reliability of the teacher stress inventory: A re-analysis of aggregate data. Journal of Organizational Behavior , 11, 151-157.

Litt, M. D., & Turk, D. C. (1985) . Sources of stress and dissatisfaction in experienced high school teachers . (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ 320 930)

Milstein, M. M., & Golaszewski, T. J. (1983) . Organizationally-based stress: What bothers teachers (an end of year perspective)? Montreal, Quebec, Canada: America Education Research Association. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 231 048)

National Center for Educational Statistics. (1994) . Public secondary school teacher survey on vocational education (NCES/FRSS Publication NCES No. 94-409). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Norton, M. S. (1999) . Teacher retention: reducing costly teacher turnover. Contemporary Education , 70(3), 52-55.

Ohio Department of Education. (1997) . Teacher education and licensure standards (State of Ohio Publication; Administrative Code 3301-24). Columbus, OH: Author.

Pettegrew, L. S., & Wolfe, G. E. (1981) . Validating measures of teacher stress . Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University, George Peabody College. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 213 743)

Prince, H. T. (1988) . The leader as stress manager. In J. Abrams, D. Puglisi, & J. Balla (Eds.), Leadership in organizations (pp. 323-340). New York: Avery.

Trochim, W. M. (2000, August 2) The research methods knowledge base (2nd ed.). Retrieved August 4, 2001 from

Wiley, C. (2000) . A synthesis of research on the causes, effects, and reduction strategies of teacher stress

TIMOTHY F. KERLIN is Assistant Professor, Office 490 Allyn Hall, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio 45435. e-mail: timothy.kerlin@wright.edu URL: www.ed.wright.edu/~tkerlin