Portugal: Half of higher education teachers suffer fatigue, exhaustion in the pandemic – study

About half of the teachers in Higher Education have high fatigue and exhaustion during the Covid-19 pandemic, concluded a study by the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto published on Monday.

The research coordinated by Ivone Duarte and Carla Serrão, indicates that “more than half of the teachers were sometimes or even often particularly sensitive, intolerant, agitated, with difficulties in relaxing or calming down”.

In all, 37% of teachers suffered ‘burnout’ associated with professional activity, which refers to a prolonged state of physical fatigue and psychological exhaustion perceived as a result of exercising professional activity.

About a quarter of the teachers reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression and 60% of those surveyed reported difficulties in falling asleep or sleeping without interruption.

This study also shows that, during the pandemic, 96% of teachers in Higher Education gave online classes, with Zoom being the most used platform. However, 77% had no previous experience of distance learning.

The researchers conclude that “the pandemic situation has forced an abrupt adaptation, with multiple sociofamily and professional demands and challenges”.

“Uncertainty, the need to respond to emerging challenges, low digital literacy, the lack of training and teaching experience through online platforms, and the lack of support from educational technology teams, are some of the variables that can explain this data,” they argue in a statement.

In all, 355 teachers from the mainland and islands participated in this online survey, which took place between 19 June and 30 July.

The teachers surveyed were mostly female (66.5%), nearly 68% had more than 15 years of teaching experience and 85% were teaching in public institutions, and more than 82% of the answers were from the northern region of the country.

In view of these conclusions, the coordinators of the study warn: “It is urgent that higher education institutions provide immediate solutions in response to both instrumental and socio-emotional needs, to this particular group”.

The team had already carried out a study which analysed the impact of the pandemic on health professionals and should now focus on the analysis of teachers’ perceptions of “emergency remote education”, namely its advantages and disadvantages, concerns and solutions.