How can you affect students’ emotions?

Apr 28 2022

Key Takeaway: Social Emotional Learning (SEL) focuses on improving the learners’ interaction with others and self-management of their emotions. These SEL skills sometimes have to be explicitly taught with added practice to help students form successful relationships with peers, teachers, family and the community. —Shekufeh Monadjem

Summary: A recent article published in the journal, Research in Developmental Disabilities by Spilt, Bosmans, and Verscheueren from University of Leuven, Belgium, examined the role of special education teachers and studied whether conducting emotion dialogues with students diagnosed with severe emotional and behavioural disturbances could promote self-understanding and emotional regulation.

It is often a challenging task to teach children with severe emotional and behavioural disturbances, as unexpected triggers can cause intense emotions in these children that can manifest as temper tantrums and oppositional or aggressive behaviour. “Children with emotional and behavior disturbances often struggle to explain their own emotions and may fail to oversee the consequences of their behaviors.”

Research shows that these children are also at risk of forming poor relationships with their teachers. Teachers and caregivers can play a corrective role in the socioemotional development of these children by providing a secure and supportive environment at school that will benefit the socioemotional development of these children.

This study examined the effect of high-quality conversations referred to as “emotion dialogues” between teachers and students with a mean age of 8.3 who had been diagnosed with severe emotional and behavioural disturbances. “Emotion dialogues sensitize children for internal emotional states (e.g.“What did I feel? How did it feel?”), raise awareness of causes (e.g., “What made me feel so angry?”) and consequences (e.g., “Because of my anger I did things that are not acceptable”), and help children explore appropriate expressions of emotions or strategies to relieve stress (e.g., “What will help me calm down instead of going mad?”).”

“For a healthy socioemotional development, it is critical that children can construct meaning of emotional experiences to increase their understanding of their own inner worlds. One way to promote such understanding is by engaging children in conversations about emotional experiences,” Spilt et al. quotes Fivush et al. (1) This is done through dialogue about past emotional events, where teachers use appropriate vocabulary to label emotions, “explain causes and consequences of emotions, and teach children how to express emotions in an appropriate manner by teaching and modelling adequate coping strategies and expressions,” Spilt et al. quotes Denham et al. (2)

The study found that positive changes in students’ behaviours were seen in the following ways: Adequate task completion, decreased negativity and hostility, accepting Teacher Guidance, and more positive resolution to negative situations. These outcomes are achieved through co-regulation, which is defined as “a warm, responsive relationship in which a caregiver positively structures the environment and provides support, coaching, and modeling for self-regulation skills.”

Finally, Spilt, Bosmans, and Verscheueren conclude by stating that “by engaging children in emotion dialogues, teachers become co-regulators of children’s emotions.”

Article Summarized:

Spilt, J. L., Bosmans, G., & Verschueren, K. (2021). Teachers as co-regulators of children’s emotions: A descriptive study of teacher-child emotion dialogues in special education. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 112, 103894.

Summary By:  Shekufeh Monadjem – Shekufeh believes that the MARIO Framework builds relationships that enables students to view the world in a positive light as well as enabling them to create plans that ultimately lead to their success.

Additional References:

  1. Fivush, R., Berlin, L., McDermott Sales, J., Mennuti-Washburn, J., & Cassidy, J. (2003). Functions of parent-child reminiscing about emotionally negative events. Memory, 11, 179–192.
  2. Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., & Zinsser, K. (2012). Early childhood teachers as socializers of young children’s emotional competence. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40, 137–143.
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