Examining the perceived role of teachers' ethnic identity, empathy, and multicultural sensitivity on teacher burnout

Alex Clement Joseph, Fordham University


This study explored the relationship between ethnic identity, emotional empathy, multicultural sensitivity and dimensions of burnout among schoolteachers working with students from diverse ethnic groups. Based on the self-stereotyping principles and tendencies for ingroup favoritism of social identity approaches, it was hypothesized that participants' levels of ethnic identity, emotional empathy, and multicultural sensitivity would positively and significantly correlate with noted burnout dimensions (namely, emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment). The study sampled 227 teachers working in urban and suburban private elementary schools in the northeastern United States. The participants completed a demographic questionnaire, the Multigroup Ethnic Identity-Revised (MEIM-R), the Teacher Multicultural Attitude Survey (TMAS), the Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale (BEES), the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Educators Survey (MBI-ES), and the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding-6 (BIDR-6). A Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) technique was utilized to test a hypothesized causal relationship among measured variables. The results did not support this study's hypotheses based on the assertions of the social identity theories. Expanding the previous findings, this research found that the process of exploration to develop an ethnic identity (or, exploration) was significantly associated with positive intergroup attitudes and an awareness and appreciation of ethnic diversity. This study adds knowledge to the existing research on the attitudes, feelings, and experiences of teachers working in a multicultural classroom context in the following ways: First, schoolteachers who reported their own traits, attitudes, and behavior in a socially desirable way and higher levels of emotional empathy, tend to experience lower levels of negative attitudes and feelings toward their students. These same teachers expressed feelings of competence and successful achievement in their contribution to the development of students from diverse ethnic groups. Second, personal accomplishment and depersonalization were the two outcome variables strongly associated with all five predictor variables. Study results showed that ethnic identity, emotional empathy, and multicultural sensitivity are significantly associated with the tendency to evaluate oneself or others favorably or unfavorably, rather than with the depletion of emotional resources experienced in teachers working with students from diverse cultural backgrounds. Practical implications of the findings are noted and suggestions for further research are presented.

Subject Area

Multicultural Education|Teacher education|Counseling Psychology|Occupational psychology

Recommended Citation

Joseph, Alex Clement, "Examining the perceived role of teachers' ethnic identity, empathy, and multicultural sensitivity on teacher burnout" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3452792.