Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Special Education, Early Childhood & Prevention Science

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction, PhD

Committee Chair

Courtade, Ginevra

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Valentine, Jeff

Committee Member

Valentine, Jeff

Committee Member

Scott, Terry

Committee Member

Ault, Melinda

Committee Member

Root, Jenny

Author's Keywords

Burnout; low-incidence disabilities; mixed methods; rural; special education


The purpose of this explanatory sequential mixed methods study was to examine the phenomenon of burnout in rural special education teachers of students with low incidence disabilities. For the quantitative phase, the Maslach Burnout Inventory- Educator Survey (MBI-ES, Maslach et al., 1986) was administered to 23 participants from geographically rural areas of one southern state in the United States. Descriptive analysis found that 92% of participants were experiencing high or moderate levels of burnout. Pearson correlation coefficient determined a statistically significant positive correlation between emotional exhaustion and depersonalization. A negative correlation was found between teachers’ age and depersonalization. Six participants were selected based on the results of their MBI-ES scores to participate in follow-up interviews. Interviews added in-depth insight into how and why burnout in impacting this population of teachers. Participants expressed job demands, unrealistic expectations, lack of professional recognition, consistent high needs of students, lack of professional support, and isolation as contributing factors. Additional findings were discovered during data integration. Clear distinctions were determined between participants scoring in different levels (i.e., high, moderate, low). Professional recognition, coping skills, lack of professional support, and experiences with burnout previously contributed to distinctions among levels. Study limitations and theoretical, practice, and future implications are discussed. In conclusion, this research enhances the understanding of burnout in rural special education teachers and contributes to current literature.