Teachers’ Resilience and Burnout in the United Arab Emirates: Teaching Through the COVID- 19 Pandemic


Many factors contributed to resilience and burnout among teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as educators were forced to respond quickly to unexpected and unmanageable job demands and stressors. This research investigates the factors perceived by expatriate teachers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that influenced resilience and burnout one year from the start of the pandemic. The study observed n = 529 expatriate teachers spread across three distinct waves of data collection as schools transitioned from online to in-person education delivery in the UAE. A series of structural equation model analyses examined the relationships between latent variables of supportive and challenge factors with outcomes of resilience and burnout. Results highlight that supportive organizational environments were directly associated with higher resilience and indirectly with lower burnout scores across all three samples. Together, the results suggest that characteristics of the organizational environment should be viewed as key influencing factors in the development of teachers’ resilience. Thus, resilience interventions should go beyond individualistic approaches and include organizational factors. Additionally, education policies should prioritize creating work environments where emotional resources are available; leadership is perceived as supportive, fair, and accepting; and teachers are proud to be employed.


Resilience, Burnout, Supportive environment, Teaching

[1] Anderson, R. C., Bousselot, T., Katz-Buoincontro, J., & Todd, J. (2021). Generating buoyancy in a sea of uncertainty: Teachers creativity and wellbeing during the covid-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 614774. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.614774

[2] Balkar, B. (2015). The relationships between organizational climate, innovative behavior and job performance of teachers. International Online Journal of Educational Sciences, 7, 39–67. https://doi.org/10.15345/iojes.2015.02.007

[3] Barza, L. (2017). Empowering culturally foreign teachers by fostering cultural competence. In Teacher professional knowledge and development for reflective and inclusive practices (pp. 126–134). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315397702- 11

[4] Beltman, S., Mansfield, C., & Price, A. (2011). Thriving not just surviving: A review of research on teacher resilience. Educational Research Review, 6(3), 185–207. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2011.09.001

[5] Beltman, S. (2015). Teacher professional resilience: Thriving not just surviving. In N. Weatherby-Fell (Ed.) Learning to teach in the secondary school (pp. 20–38). Cambridge University Press.

[6] Bryan, C., O’Shea, D., & MacIntyre, T. (2019). Stressing the relevance of resilience: A systematic review of resilience across the domains of sport and work. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 12(1), 70–111. https://doi.org/10.1080/1750984X.2017.1381140

[7] Carson, L. D. (2013). Teacher motivation: A case study on what motivates expatriate teachers at an English medium private school in Sharjah [Doctoral dissertation, The British University in Dubai (BUiD)].

[8] Campbell-Sills, L., & Stein, M. B. (2007). Psychometric analysis and refinement of the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC): Validation of a 10- item measure of resilience. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 20(6), 1019–1028. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.20271

[9] Dawson, C., & Heylin, C. (2022). Reflecting on the distance learning provision in Dubai private schools. Gulf Education and Social Policy Review, 2(2), 193–210. https://doi.org/10.18502/gespr.v2i1.10049

[10] De Jonge, J., Dormann, C., Van Vegchel, N., Von Nordheim, T., Dollard, M., Cotton, S., & Vanden Tooren, M. (2007). DISQ 2.0: The DISC Questionnaire English Version 2.0. Eindhoven University of Technology.

[11] DeLongis, A., Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1988). The impact of daily stress on health and mood: Psychological and social resources as mediators. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(3), 486–495. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.54.3.486

[12] Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., Nachreiner, F., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2001). The job demands-resources model of burnout. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(3), 499–512. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.86.3.499

[13] Dorn, E., Hancock, B., Sarakatsannis, J., & Viruleg, E. (2020). COVID-19 and student learning in the United States: The hurt could last a lifetime. McKinsey & Company.

[14] Drew, S. V., & Sosnowski, C. (2019). Emerging theory of teacher resilience: A situational analysis. English Teaching, 18(4), 492–507. https://doi.org/10.1108/ETPC- 12-2018-0118

[15] Erfurth, M., & Ridge, N. (2020). The impact of COVID–19 on education in the UAE (Report No. 1). Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research. http://dx.doi.org/10.18502/aqf.0143

[16] Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2013). Psychological resilience. European Psychologist, 18(1), 12–23. https://doi.org/10.1027/1016-9040/a000124

[17] Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2016). Mental fortitude training: An evidencebased approach to developing psychological resilience for sustained success. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 7(3), 135–157. https://doi.org/10.1080/21520704.2016.1255496

[18] Fredrickson, B. L., & Branigan, C. (2005). Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires. Cognition and Emotion, 19(3), 313–332. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699930441000238

[19] Gillani, A., Dierst-Davies, R., Lee, S., Robin, L., Li, J., Glover-Kudon, R., Baker, K., & Whitton, A. (2022). Teachers’ dissatisfaction during the COVID-19 pandemic: Factors contributing to a desire to leave the profession. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 940718. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.940718

[20] Gillet, N., Morin, A. J. S., Sandrin, É, & Fernet, C. (2022). Predictors and outcomes of teachers’ burnout trajectories over a seven-year period. Teaching and Teacher Education, 117, e103781. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2022.103781

[21] Gouthier, M. H., & Rhein, M. (2011). Organizational pride and its positive effects on employee behavior. Journal of Service Management, 22(5), 633–649. https://doi.org/10.1108/09564231111174988

[22] Gu, Q., & Day, C. (2013). Challenges to teacher resilience: Conditions count. British Educational Research Journal, 39(1), 22–44. https://doi.org/10.1080/01411926.2011.623152

[23] Hammerstein, S., König, C., Dreisörner, T., & Frey, A. (2021). Effects of COVID-19- related school closures on student achievement—A systematic review. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 746289. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.746289

[24] Hilger, K. J. E., Scheibe, S., Frenzel, A. C., & Keller, M. M. (2021). Exceptional circumstances: Changes in teachers? work characteristics and well-being during COVID-19 lockdown. School Psychology, 36(6), 516–532. https://doi.org/10.1037/spq0000457

[25] Hobfoll, S. E. (2001). The influence of culture, community, and the nested-self in the stress process: Advancing conservation of resources theory. Applied Psychology, 50(3), 337–421. https://doi.org/10.1111/1464-0597.00062

[26] Khan, F., Yusoff, R., & Khan, A. (2014). Job demands, burnout and resources in teaching a conceptual review. World Applied Sciences Journal, 30(1), 20–28. https://www.idosi.org/wasj/wasj30(1)14/4.pdf

[27] Kormos, E. M. (2018). The unseen digital divide: Urban, suburban, and rural teacher use and perceptions of web-based classroom technologies. Computers in the Schools, 35(1), 19–31. https://doi.org/10.1080/07380569.2018.1429168

[28] Koys, D. J., & DeCotiis, T. A. (1991). Inductive measures of psychological climate. Human Relations, 44(3), 265–285. https://doi.org/10.1177/001872679104400304

[29] Kraemer, T., & Gouthier, M. H. (2014). How organizational pride and emotional exhaustion explain turnover intentions in call centers: A multi-group analysis with gender and organizational tenure. Journal of Service Management, 25(1), 125–148. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOSM-07-2013-0173

[30] Kristensen, T. S., Borritz, M., Villadsen, E., & Christensen, K. B. (2005). The Copenhagen Burnout Inventory: A new tool for the assessment of burnout. Work and Stress, 19(3), 192–207. https://doi.org/10.1080/02678370500297720

[31] Kyriacou, C. (2001). Teacher stress: Directions for future research. Educational Review, 53(1), 27–35. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131910120033628

[32] Lilja, J., Fladmark, S., Nuutinen, S., Bordi, L., Larjovuori, R.-L., Innstrand, S. T., Christensen, M., & Heikkilä-Tammi, K. (2022). COVID-19-related job demands and resources, organizational support, and employee well-being: A study of two Nordic countries. Challenges, 13(10), 10. https://doi.org/10.3390/challe13010010

[33] Maceda, C. (2015, August 11). UAE is top expat destination in the world. Study report. Gulf News, https://gulfnews.com/business/uae-is-top-expat-destination-in-the-worldstudy- 1.1564550

[34] MacIntyre, P. D., Gregersen, T., & Mercer, S. (2020). Language teachers’ coping strategies during the Covid-19 conversion to online teaching: Correlations with stress, wellbeing and negative emotions. System, 94, 102–352. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2020.102352

[35] Mansfield, C. F., Beltman, S., Broadley, T., & Weatherby-Fell, N. (2016). Building resilience in teacher education: An evidenced informed framework. Teaching and Teacher Education, 54, 77–87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2015.11.016

[36] Mas-Machuca, M., Berbegal-Mirabent, J., & Alegre, I. (2016). Work-life balance and its relationship with organizational pride and job satisfaction. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 31(2), 586–602. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMP-09-2014-0272

[37] Masten, A. S., & Reed, M.-G. J. (2002). Resilience in development. In Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 74–88). Oxford University Press.

[38] Masudi, F. (2020, June 21). UAE premium schools most at risk of losing students, experts warn. Gulf News. https://gulfnews.com/uae/education/uae-premium-schoolsmost- at-risk-of-losing-stud ents-experts-warn-1.72153597

[39] McCarthy, C. J., Lambert, R. G., Lineback, S., Fitchett, P., & Baddouh, P. G. (2016). Assessing teacher appraisals and stress in the classroom: Review of the classroom appraisal of resources and demands. Educational Psychology Review, 28(3), 577– 603. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-015-9322-6

[40] McKinnon, M., Barza, L., & Moussa-Inaty, J. (2013). Public versus private education in primary science: The case of Abu Dhabi schools. International Journal of Educational Research, 62, 51–61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2013.06.007

[41] Metrailer, G. M., & Clark, K. N. (2022). Returning to school: Teachers’ occupational and COVID-19-related stress and their perceptions of school climate. Contemporary School Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40688-022-00428-2

[42] Montes, F. J. L., Moreno, A. R., & Fernàndez, L. M. M. (2004). Assessing the organizational climate and contractual relationship for perceptions of support for innovation. International Journal of Manpower, 25(2), 167–180. https://doi.org/10.1108/01437720410535972

[43] Montgomery, C., & Rupp, A. (2005). A meta-analysis for exploring the diverse causes and effects of stress in teachers. Canadian Journal of Education, 28(3), 458–486. https://doi.org/10.2307/4126479

[44] Näring, G., Vlerick, P., & van de Ven, B. (2012). Emotion work and emotional exhaustion in teachers: The job and individual perspective. Educational Studies, 38(1), 3–72. https://doi.org/10.1080/03055698.2011.567026

[45] Ng, K., Klavina, A., Ferreira, J. P., Barrett, U., Pozeriene, J., & Reina, R. (2021). Teachers’ preparedness to deliver remote adapted physical education from different European perspectives: Updates to the European Standards in Adapted Physical Activity. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 1(1), 1– 16. https://doi.org/10.1080/08856257.2021.1872848

[46] Nicola, M., Alsafi, Z., Sohrabi, C., Kerwan, A., Al-Jabir, A., Iosifidis, C., Agha, M., & Agha, R. (2020). The socio-economic implications of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19): A review. International Journal of Surgery, 78, 185–193. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijsu.2020.04.018

[47] Nisa, C. F., Bélanger, J. J., Faller, D. G., Buttrick, N. R., Mierau, J. O., Austin, M. M. K., Schumpe, B. M., Sasin, E. M., Agostini, M., Gützkow, B., Kreienkamp, J., Abakoumkin, G., Abdul Khaiyom, J. H., Ahmedi, V., Akkas, H., Almenara, C. A., Atta, M., Bagci, S. C., Basel, S., . . . Leander, N. P. (2021). Lives versus Livelihoods? Perceived economic risk has a stronger association with support for COVID-19 preventive measures than perceived health risk. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 9669. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598- 021-88314-4

[48] OECD. (2019). Teaching in the United Arab Emirates: 10 lessons from TALIS. https://www.oecd.org/education/talis/Teaching_in_the_UAE- 10_Lessons_from_TALIS.pdf

[49] Ridge, N., Kippels, S., & Shami, S. (2015). Private education in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar: Implications and challenges. Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research. https://doi.org/10.18502/aqf.0113

[50] Rosseel, Y. (2012). lavaan: An R package for structural equation modeling. Journal of Statistical Software, 48(2), 1–36. https://doi.org/10.18637/jss.v048.i02

[51] Russell, D. W. (1996). UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3): Reliability, validity, and factor structure. Journal of Personality Assessment, 66(1), 20–40. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327752jpa6601_2

[52] Rutter, M. (2012). Resilience as a dynamic concept. Development and Psychopathology, 24(2), 335–344. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579412000028

[53] Schaufeli, W. B., Leiter, M. P., & Maslach, C. (2009). Burnout: 35 years of research and practice. Career Development International, 14(3), 204–220. https://doi.org/10.1108/13620430910966406

[54] School Education Gateway. (2020, June 8). Survey on online and distance learning – Results. European School Education Gateway. https://www.schooleducationgateway.eu/en/pub/viewpoints/surveys/survey-ononline- teaching.htm

[55] Sharif, T., Upadhyay, D., & Ahmed, E. (2016). Motivational factors influencing teaching (FIT) as a career: An empirical study of the expatriate teachers in the Emirates. Journal of Developing Areas, 50(6), 209–225. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/26415662 https://doi.org/10.1353/jda.2016.0148

[56] Skaalvik, E. M., & Skaalvik, S. (2010). Teacher self-efficacy and teacher burnout: A study of relations. Teaching and teacher education, 26(4), 1059-1069. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2009.11.001

[57] Skaalvik, E. M., & Skaalvik, S. (2011). Teacher job satisfaction and motivation to leave the teaching profession: Relations with school context, feeling of belonging, and emotional exhaustion. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(6), 1029–1038. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2011.04.001

[58] Sokal, L., Trudel, L. E., & Babb, J. (2020). Supporting teachers in times of change: The job demands-resources model and teacher burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Educational Research Open, 1, 2666–3740. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedro.2020.100016

[59] Sokal, L., Trudel, L. E., & Babb, J. (2021). I’ve had it! Factors associated with burnout and low organizational commitment in Canadian teachers during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Educational Research Open, 2(2), 2666–3740. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedro.2020.100023

[60] Thomas, J., Raynor, M., & Bahussain, E. (2016). Stress reactivity, depressive symptoms, and mindfulness: A Gulf Arab perspective. International Perspectives in Psychology: Research, Practice, Consultation, 5(3), 156–182. https://doi.org/10.1037/ipp0000055

[61] Tschannen-Moran, M., & Hoy, A. W. (2001). Teacher efficacy: Capturing an elusive construct. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17(7), 783-805. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0742-051X(01)00036-1

[62] World Health Organization (WHO). (2019). Burnout as an occupational phenomenon: International classification of diseases. www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/burnout/ en/ (accessed 30 June 2021).

[63] Yang, G., Badri, M., Rashedi, A. A., & Almazroui, K. (2018). The social and organizational determinants of school commitment of expatriate teachers. Journal of Research in International Education, 17(1), 33–48. https://doi.org/10.1177/147524091876898 28