Student Self-Disclosure and Faculty Compassion in Online Classrooms

Colleen Ann Lindecker, Jennifer Danzy Cramer


Compassion fatigue is well documented among professionals working in social service fields such as healthcare, emergency response, social work, and education. In higher education, there is a growing demand for faculty led student mental health support and life coaching services to support student retention and success. Students in online settings tend to disclose personally traumatic experiences and circumstances more openly in communications with faculty to seek support and extensions. In this study, we surveyed faculty to explore the relationship between student self-disclosure and faculty compassion fatigue in online classrooms. We hypothesized that student self-disclosure of personal challenges is common and may be related to faculty compassion fatigue and burnout. Results supported the hypothesis that student self-disclosure of personal challenges and trauma was common, experienced by 96% of surveyed faculty. Most faculty had low to average compassion fatigue scores; however, demographic and professional factors were associated with faculty compassion fatigue and burnout. Younger faculty, less experienced faculty, and female faculty had higher levels of compassion fatigue and burnout than older faculty, more experienced faculty, and male faculty. This study provides insight into the personal challenges and trauma students self-disclose to faculty, faculty variables that are associated with disclosure, and the impact student disclosure may have on faculty.

Keywords: online teaching, compassion fatigue, student support, self-disclosure, faculty training


online teaching, compassion fatigue, student support, self-disclosure, faculty training

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