HERO Teachers - Harbouring Empathy to Raise Opportunities: a study of teachers' burnout and students' outcomes

Last registered on December 13, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

HERO Teachers - Harbouring Empathy to Raise Opportunities: a study of teachers' burnout and students' outcomes
Initial registration date
December 06, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
December 13, 2022, 11:09 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


There is information in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access.

Request Information

Primary Investigator

LEAP, Bocconi University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
CLEAN, Bocconi University
PI Affiliation
Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano
PI Affiliation
Università di Ferrara

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
The relationship between teachers' psychological well-being and class performance is well documented observationally. However, there is scant causal evidence of the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing teachers' burnout on teachers' and students' outcomes and teacher-student relationships. This issue is pressing especially in middle schools, when relating to adolescent students is particularly challenging for teachers. By designing and evaluating a program to provide mutual support and psychological tutoring to teachers in disadvantaged schools, we aim to fill this research gap. We propose a cost-effective intervention to reduce teachers’ risk of burnout, and assess the effect of teachers’ well-being on class cohesion and students’ achievement. Our sample consists of 60 middle schools in the periphery of Naples, Italy, and it will involve 600 teachers and 3600 students. Treated teachers will meet twice a month to discuss their challenges together, supervised by a trained psychologist. We expect the intervention to (i) reduce teachers’ burnout, (ii) increase teachers’ group cohesion, (iii) improve teachers’ relationship with students and (iv) boost students’ achievements and aspirations.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Ghisolfi, Selene et al. 2022. "HERO Teachers - Harbouring Empathy to Raise Opportunities: a study of teachers' burnout and students' outcomes." AEA RCT Registry. December 13. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.10595-1.0
Experimental Details


Our treatment is inspired by the Balint (1957) group from the psychological literature. During Balint groups, medical physicians share cases and challenges faced with patients and receive support and suggestions from peers. The experience aims to improve clinicians’ relationships with patients. In our context, we ask teachers to meet twice a month to discuss the challenges they face with students, a psychologist mediates the discussion and provides guidance on how to best address the teachers’ struggles. We will organize 8 meetings in each school throughout the year.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
We measure the impact of the intervention on four groups of outcomes: i) teachers’ well-being ii) their sense of community; iii) teachers/student relationships; iv) students’ outcomes.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
We use validated psychometric scales to measure students and teachers’ well-being (MBI, BAT). We measure teachers’ sense of community through their participation in coffee gatherings we organize in treated and control schools, and via answers to open-ended survey questions (i.e., “what is your definition of working community?”).
We measure teachers/students cooperation through a behavioural task: we distribute half of lottery tickets to teacher/student pairs. The lottery tickets display a barcode with no digits. Teachers and students need to cooperate to match the missing half in order to participate in the lottery. We compare the share of matched tickets in treated vs control schools. We also track noise dynamics in three random lectures to see whether the intervention affected conflictuality in the classroom, as suggested by smoother noise dynamics.
We rely on students’ grades and their performance on a sample of questions from a standardized test to measure students’ outcomes.

We will collect three types of data: survey, observational and administrative data.
i) Survey Data: We will interview teachers, students, and schools’ principals at baseline (September 2023) and endline (May 2024), through tablet-based questionnaires.
ii) Observational Data: We will: a) collect teachers’ mood via monthly SMS; b) collect teachers’ attendance to social events organized at baseline and follow-up; c) observe students' and teachers’ cooperation in games; d) measure decibels in classrooms via noise detectors; e) use qualitative data psychologists collect during the intervention.
iii) Administrative Data: Students’ grades and attendance, high school choice (8th-graders only).

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Participants, sample and selection procedures
We recruit schools in the periphery of Naples, Italy, on a voluntary basis. In Summer 2023, we will organize an event at Ufficio Scolastico Regionale (Regional School Bureau) and contact school principals personally to explain the program. In each school, principals will identify one class for each grade between 6th and 8th with the highest risk of drop-out, and sign it up for the program. Sign-up is conditional on teachers agreeing to participate.

Research design
We will carry out a Pairwise Clustered Randomized Control Trial involving 60 middle schools. We pair schools by similarity in teachers, students and neighbourhood characteristics. Within each pair, we randomly assign one middle school to treatment (mutual support group), and one to control.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization using a computer.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
600 teachers, 3600 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
30 clusters, 300 teachers, 1800 students in T and in C group.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number