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Leigh McLean - University of Delaware. Newark, DE, US

Leigh McLean

Associate Research Professor, Education | University of Delaware


Prof. McLean investigates how teachers’ emotions and emotion-related experiences including well-being impact their effectiveness.






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Dr. Leigh McLean is an Assistant Research Professor in the School of Education and Center for Research in Educational and Social Policy at the University of Delaware. In her program of research, she investigates how teachers’ emotions and emotion-related experiences including well-being impact their effectiveness. She is particularly interested in how teachers’ emotions impact their instructional practices, and the role that early-career teachers’ emotions play as they transition into the career. She holds expertise in quantitative, mixed-methods, and longitudinal study design and implementation, multileveled data analysis, and classroom observation. She is currently PI on two federally funded projects: one from the Institute of Education Science exploring how elementary teachers’ feelings and beliefs impact their effectiveness in the content areas they teach, and one from the National Science Foundation exploring how the mentored teaching experience impacts elementary mathematics teachers’ effectiveness during the early career stage.

Prior to joining the University of Delaware, Dr. McLean was a post-doctoral researcher and research faculty member in the School of Social and Family Dynamics and the Teachers College at Arizona State University. She earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Florida State University and Arizona State University, respectively.

Dr. McLean has been published in several outlets focusing on children’s development, educational processes, and teaching including Child Development, Contemporary Educational Psychology, and Teaching and Teacher Education and her work has been featured in news outlets including EdWeek and The Today Show.

Industry Expertise (2)



Areas of Expertise (5)

Developmental Psychology

Instructional Practices

Teachers and Teaching


Classroom Behavior

Answers (1)

Can teacher anxiety impact student anxiety and performance?

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In a recent study funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, University of Delaware associate research professor Leigh McLean and her co-authors found a strong connection between teachers’ math and science anxiety and the respective math and science anxiety of their low socioeconomic status (SES) students. When a teacher was more anxious in these content areas, their low-SES students were also more anxious; and, when teachers were less anxious, so were their low-SES students.

Media Appearances (4)

What One Educator’s Grief Reveals About the Mental Health Challenges Facing Teachers Now

The 74  online


The demand for professional support is also growing rapidly. Anxiety and depression symptoms in teachers are on the rise, highest for early career educators and teachers of color, according to Leigh McLean, a researcher at the University of Delaware.

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Schools Aim to Ease Teachers’ Tension, Burnout

VOA Learning English  online


More school systems are making an effort to deal with some of the problems teachers face, including taking care of their mental health. Many schools do not have enough teachers. Current problems facing teachers include behavioral problems and fears of shootings.

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School districts move to ease teacher stress, burnout

Associated Press  online


“It’s all pretty bad,” said Leigh McLean, the primary investigator at the Teacher Emotions, Characteristics, and Health Lab at the University of Delaware School of Education, who has found levels of depression, anxiety and emotional exhaustion among elementary school teachers that are 100% to 400% higher than before the pandemic.

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Don’t Forget the Adults: How Schools and Districts Can Support Educator Mental Health

Education Week  online


Student mental health is at the forefront of educators’ minds these days after two years of pandemic-driven stress and disruption—but district leaders forget about the adults in the school building at their own peril, experts say.

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Articles (5)

The roles of adaptability and school climate in first-year teachers' developing perceptions of themselves, their classroom relationships, and the career

Journal of School Psychology

2023 The teaching career, and especially the transition from pre-service to in-service teaching, is uniquely characterized by change. Adaptability is an internal characteristic that has been shown to benefit teachers and may be especially relevant as they begin developing initial perceptions of themselves as educators, of their relationships with students, and of the teaching career at large. Importantly though, it is likely that the impacts of adaptability depend in part on the broader context.

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Associations Between Teacher and Student Mathematics, Science, and Literacy Anxiety in Fourth Grade

Journal of Educational Psychology

2023 The present study explored associations among teachers’ anxiety for teaching mathematics, science, and English language arts and their students’ own anxiety in each content area, and how these associations varied depending on student sex and socioeconomic status (SES). Participants included 33 fourth-grade teachers and 463 students from 14 schools in the Southwestern United States. Multiple regression models with cluster-robust standard errors were run regressing students’ mid-year, self-reported content-area anxiety on teachers’ self-reported content-area anxiety at the beginning of the year and controlling for students’ beginning-of-year anxiety in that content area.

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Teachers' Well-Being: Sources, Implications, and Directions for Research

Routledge Resources Online - Education

2022 The teaching profession has long been recognized as highly demanding of its practitioners (Johnson et al., 2005; Travers, 2001), with most teachers navigating multiple career challenges including heavy workloads, difficulties supporting students' varying needs, struggles with classroom management, isolation from colleagues, limited job resources, low wages, and low professional prestige (Curbow et al., 2003; Day & Qing, 2009; Montgomery & Rupp, 2005, Raskin et al., 2015; Veenman, 1984).

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Preliminary Investigation of Teachers' Emotional Exhaustion, Teaching Efficacy, Hope, and Colleague Support during the COVID-19 Pandemic

European Journal of Psychology and Educational Research

2022 The COVID-19 pandemic required teachers to quickly adapt to changes in teaching likely impacting teachers' emotional exhaustion and feelings of teaching efficacy. Further, teachers' experience in the classroom may have shaped how they responded to the crisis and changes. Although teachers faced these unprecedented shifts, it is possible that both internal (i.e., hope) and external (i.e., social support) sources of support may act as promotive factors for teacher outcomes.

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Interphysician weight bias: A cross-sectional observational survey study to guide implicit bias training in the medical workplace

Academic Emergency Medicine

2021 Implicit bias contributes to both health care disparities and professional limitations, and it exists among physicians. Prior literature has described physician weight bias (WB) toward patients, but little research has investigated interphysician WB. This study describes the prevalence of interphysician implicit WB and investigates the relationships between implicit, explicit, and professional biases. The authors hypothesized that the majority of physicians possess interphysician implicit WB and that the degree of implicit bias has a direct relationship with explicit and professional WB.

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Research Grants (3)

Supplement: The Impacts of Preservice Supervised Field Experiences on Elementary Mathematics Teachers’ Retention and Effectiveness

National Science Foundation $250,000

Supplemental Funding for Postdoctoral Researchers to Mitigate COVID-19 Impacts on Research Career Progression, 2 years

The Impacts of Preservice Supervised Field Experiences on Elementary Mathematics Teachers’ Retention and Effectiveness

National Science Foundation $1,500,000

EHR Core Research Program, Track 1/Level 2, 3 years, July 2021–June 2024

xploring Elementary Teachers’ Feelings, Beliefs and Effectiveness across Mathematics, Science and Literacy

U.S. Department of Education $1,400,000

Institute of Education Sciences, Education Research Grants/Effective Teachers and Effective Teaching, Goal 1, 4 years, July 2018–June 2024 (timeline extended due to COVID-19 pandemic)

Accomplishments (1)

Research Institute for Implementation Science in Education (RIISE) Fellow (professional)

2022 School Mental Health Assessment, Research & Training Center (SMART), University of Washington

Education (3)

Arizona State University: PhD, Developmental Psychology 2015

Florida State University: MS, Developmental Psychology 2012

Oregon State University: BS, Human Development and Family Sciences/Early Childhood Development and Education 2010

Affiliations (4)

  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD)
  • American Educational Research Association (AERA)
  • Society for Research in Educational Effectiveness (SREE)

Event Appearances (2)

Exploring the Role of Classroom Processes on Students

SREE 2022 Conference  Renaissance Arlington Capitol View Hotel


Towards an Equitable Recovery: Discussing the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Teacher Well-Being across Teacher Groups

SREE 2022 Conference  Renaissance Arlington Capitol View Hotel