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An English teacher no longer suffering from burnout

How can AI reduce teacher burnout?

The profession of teaching is one of the most stress-inducing jobs on the planet. 70% of teachers report having ‘unmanageable workloads’ and over 75% of school leaders report having staff shortages in their schools. If you’re a teacher reading this, I’m sure this will come as no surprise.

A study focused on Australian educators has shed light on the compounding factors of teacher stress and burnout.

The study aimed to investigate the "prevalence of stress and burnout in a sample of Australian teachers" by better understanding the impact of factors like emotion regulation, workload, and subjective wellbeing​​.

It reveals an alarming landscape: more than half of the teachers surveyed rated their job as ‘very’ or ‘extremely stressful’, with nearly 60% considering leaving the profession due to stress or dissatisfaction. Of those, three-quarters considered their departure to be a ‘moderate’ to ‘extremely serious’ contemplation.

The degree of stress and burnout recorded varies significantly based on career stage, educator type, and geographic location.

Notably, primary teachers and those in rural areas reported higher stress levels​​. Other studies have indicated it may be new teachers struggling most, with some older but often-cited evidence suggesting we may be losing up to 50% of teachers within their first five years.

It’s not class time that’s the killer – it’s the administrative tasks putting teaching jobs at risk. Teachers experiencing higher stress levels and feeling overwhelmed by their workload tend to suffer more from burnout. The article highlights that excessive administrative duties, rather than extended classroom hours, significantly contribute to this stress for educators. In fact, Australian teachers work an average of 43 hours per week – 5 hours more than teachers in other countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has further intensified this stress​​.

English teachers in particular devote a high proportion of out-of-class time to marking. If we estimate that it takes 20 minutes to thoroughly mark and assess an essay, the average teacher would be spending roughly 2.7 marking hours per student a year. This does not seem like a lot at face value, but this number compounds.

At the upper end – more classes, more students – this could result in a teacher spending 365 hours per year marking English essays. I have experienced the strain of this first hand, having taught five English classes, with an average of 22 students in each, in my second year of teaching. Every teacher I have ever met has a similar story of despair, where they have been weighed down by the extreme demands of marking and assessment.

Image 1: Teacher Hours Spent Marking and Writing Feedback (Per Year)

As illustrated in the image above, even at the more standard 21 students and four classes, teachers are still spending 226 hours a year marking work and writing feedback. This works out to be over 26.5 full work days, or over half a term of ‘paid’ work. 

And the most insane part of all this? These numbers do not account for drafting or other more informal assessments like practice paragraphs, which are well-documented as being critical to the writing development process.

Artificial intelligence can help us win back this time, and alleviate burnout in the process.

A common fear surrounding AI is that this technology will replace us. If we use AI to slim down hours of marking, what will the teachers do? Put this question to any teacher, and we can tell you. 

If we are freed up from the mundane and monotonous tasks embedded in our day-to-day, we can redirect our time where our expertise matters most: building relationships with students, engaging with students around their feedback and developing fun and interactive lessons.

Take my year 11 Politics class as an example – because of time saved marking I have avoided recycling old lesson plans, instead writing role plays to teach new concepts. When I was writing lengthy feedback for each student in each class, inventive lesson planning was not making it on my radar.  

The Federal Government’s assurance that it is acceptable – even advisable – to streamline elements of our workflow with AI is significant. It impacts teacher perception of support and workload manageability.

Of course, teachers have been looking for shortcuts to improve their workflow, such as by using comment banks, but getting the green light to use AI agents, which have been carefully designed for our specific use cases, changes the game. People often ask me how quickly they can mark and provide feedback on essays using Mark My Words. The truth is that it depends on the year level of the students, the experience of the teacher and the length and complexity of the task. However, if the integration of AI can increase feedback efficiency by even 50%, then It is undoubtedly a win-win for both teachers and students.