To read this content please select one of the options below:

Trust in school: a pathway to inhibit teacher burnout?

Dimitri Van Maele (Department of Sociology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Mieke Van Houtte (Department of Sociology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 2 February 2015




The purpose of this paper is to consider trust as an important relational source in schools by exploring whether trust lowers teacher burnout. The authors examine how trust relationships with different school parties such as the principal relate to distinct dimensions of teacher burnout. The authors further analyze whether school-level trust additionally influences burnout. In doing this, the authors account for other teacher and school characteristics.


The authors use quantitative data gathered during the 2008-2009 school year from 673 teachers across 58 elementary schools in Flanders (i.e. the northern Dutch-speaking region of Belgium). Because teacher and school characteristics are simultaneously related to burnout, multilevel modeling is applied.


Trust can act as a buffer against teacher burnout. Teachers’ trust in students demonstrates the strongest association with burnout compared to trust in principals or colleagues. Exploring relationships of trust in distinct school parties with different burnout dimensions yield interesting additional insights such as the specific importance of teacher-principal trust for teachers’ emotional exhaustion. Burnout is further an individual teacher matter to which school-level factors are mainly unrelated.

Research limitations/implications

Principals fulfill an important role in inhibiting emotional exhaustion among teachers. They are advised to create a school atmosphere that is conducive for different kinds of trust relationships to develop. Actions to strengthen trust and inhibit teacher burnout are necessary, although further qualitative and longitudinal research is desirable.


This paper offers a unique contribution by examining trust in different school parties as a relational buffer against teacher burnout. It indicates that principals can affect teacher burnout and prevent emotional exhaustion by nurturing trusting relationships in school.



This study has been made possible through a grant from the Research Foundation – Flanders (Project G.040908).


Van Maele, D. and Van Houtte, M. (2015), "Trust in school: a pathway to inhibit teacher burnout?", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 53 No. 1, pp. 93-115.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles