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Taking emotions seriously in sustainability education: A theoretical exploration of “emotional scaffolding” and how it can be used in research and practice
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education. (UmSER)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9667-2044
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3614-1692
2021 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Background: Research has shown that emotions profoundly affect teaching and learning in all disciplines and at all levels of education. Emotions may be particularly important in environmental and sustainability education (ESE) due the seriousness and complexity of sustainability concerns and the presence of conflicting norms and values (Lönngren, Adawi, & Svanström, 2019; Ojala, 2015). For example, emotions may motivate students and teachers to engage in discussions about controversial topics (such as climate change) and guide judgment and decision-making in the face of uncertainty and ambiguity. However, they may also lead to denial of uncomfortable knowledge (Bossér & Lindahl, 2019; Ojala, 2013). 

Despite the importance of emotions in ESE, research on this topic is only emerging at this point. In addition, most of the existing research focuses on emotions as individual and private phenomena (Zembylas, 2007), such as hope or individual emotional regulation. However, research also suggests that expressing emotions in social contexts may play an important role in ESE. Emotions are closely related to personal values and explicating personal values is important in ESE (Ojala, 2013). An interesting theoretical concept for exploring emotions in ESE as social and relational phenomena is “emotional scaffolding” (also called affective scaffolding), which refers to pedagogical support teachers provide to influence students’ emotions in order to improve learning (Rosiek, 2003). While emotional scaffolding has been used previously (Park, 2016; van de Pol, Volman, & Beishuizen, 2010), we argue that it is conceptualized in a narrow way and remains under-theorized. Specifically, the current definition of emotional scaffolding seems to be based on a narrow empirical context or a narrow set of identified discursive practices, and it ignores recent theory and research on emotions in education. 

In this theoretical contribution, we draw on a nascent body of research on emotional scaffolding across various disciplines as well as a typology of academic emotions to (1) develop a broader and more theoretically informed definition of emotional scaffolding, (2) explore ways of researching emotional scaffolding, and (3) suggest ways of drawing out educational implications from research on emotional scaffolding. 

Method: To this end, we start from Rosiek’s widely cited definition of emotional scaffolding as “teachers’ pedagogical use of analogies, metaphors, and narratives to influence students’ emotional response to specific aspects of the subject matter in a way that promotes student learning” (Rosiek, 2003, p. 402). We broaden and unpack this definition in four important ways. First, to broaden it beyond the “use of analogies, metaphors, and narratives”, we identify additional tools and strategies teachers can use, such as acknowledging and validating expression of emotions (Ojala, 2013; Park, 2016), providing encouragement and reassurance (Lönngren et al., 2019; Meyer & Turner, 2007), adjusting subject content to students’ needs (Lönngren, 2017; McCaughtry, 2004), and building positive relationships in the classroom (Ojala, 2013; Park, 2016). Second, to unpack the definition of “emotional response”, we draw on research describing different types of emotional responses, such as emotional experiences (e.g. confidence rather than anxiety) or expressions (e.g. expressing trust or engagement) (Meyer & Turner, 2007; van de Pol et al., 2010). Third, to broaden the definition beyond students’ emotional response to “subject matter”, we use Pekrun and Linnenbrink-Garcia’s (2012) typology of academic emotions, according to which emotional responses to subject matter can be described as topic emotions. The typology contains three additional types of academic emotions that are relevant for emotional scaffolding: achievement emotions (i.e. emotions related to students’ perception of their academic performance, such as worry about not being able to provide a perfect solution to a sustainability problem), epistemic emotions (i.e. emotions related to the process of learning, such as grappling with uncertainty and ambiguity), and social emotions (i.e. emotions related to classroom interaction and social relationships). Finally, we adopt a critical lens to unpack the overall aim of emotional scaffolding — what it could mean that emotional scaffolding in ESE “promotes student learning”. Here, we ask questions such as “What types of learning?” and “Learning for whom?”. 

Based on our broadened definition of emotional scaffolding, we then explore ways of researching emotional scaffolding in terms of possible types of research questions, empirical contexts, and methods for data collection and analysis. This includes how we are planning to use positioning theory (Harré & van Langenhove, 1999) to explore emotional scaffolding in ESE in the context of engineering education. We also explore what types of results could be obtained and how those results could be made useful in and for ESE practice. 

Expected outcomes: In conclusion, this theoretical contribution seeks to take stock of the current understanding of emotional scaffolding, develop a broader and more theoretically informed definition of emotional scaffolding, and draw out implications for educational research and practice. We argue that emotional scaffolding is conceptualized in a narrow way and remains under-theorized: It fails to recognize the wide range of pedagogical tools and strategies teachers can use to influence a variety of types of students’ emotional responses. Most notably, emotional responses should be broadened to include all four types of academic emotions: topic emotions, achievement emotions, epistemic emotions, and social emotions. Our broadened definition of emotional scaffolding opens up a large array of research questions that should be highly relevant not only for ESE but also for educational research more broadly. 

References 

Bossér, U., & Lindahl, M. (2019). Students’ Positioning in the Classroom: a Study of Teacher-Student Interactions in a Socioscientific Issue Context. Research in Science Education, 49, 371-390. 

Harré, R., & van Langenhove, L. (1999). Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Malden: Blackwell. 

Lönngren, J. (2017). Wicked Problems in Engineering Education: Preparing Future Engineers to Work for Sustainability. Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg. 

Lönngren, J., Adawi, T., & Svanström, M. (2019). Scaffolding strategies in a rubric-based intervention to promote engineering students’ ability to address wicked problems. European Journal of Engineering Education, 44(1-2), 196-221. 

McCaughtry, N. (2004). The Emotional Dimensions of a Teacher’s Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Influences on Content, Curriculum, and Pedagogy. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 23, 30-47. 

Meyer, D. K., & Turner, J. C. (2007). Scaffolding Emotions in Classrooms. In P. A. Schutz & R. Pekrun (Eds.), Emotion in Education (pp. 243-258). Cambridge: Academic Press. 

Ojala, M. (2013). Emotional Awareness: On the Importance of Including Emotional Aspects in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 7(2), 167-182. 

Ojala, M. (2015). Hope in the Face of Climate Change: Associations With Environmental Engagement and Student Perceptions of Teachers’ Emotion Communication Style and Future Orientation. The Journal of Environmental Education, 46(3), 133-148. 

Park, M.-H. (2016). Emotional Scaffolding as a Strategy to Support Children's Engagement in Instruction. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 4(10), 2353-2358. Abstract till European Conference of Education Research (ECER) 2021 

Pekrun, R., & Linnenbrink-Garcia, L. (2012). Academic Emotions and Student Engagement. In S. Christenson, A. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Student Engagement. Boston: Springer. 

Rosiek, J. (2003). Emotional Scaffolding: An Exploration of The Teacher Knowledge at the Intersection of Student Emotion and the Subject Matter. Journal of Teacher Education, 54(5), 399-412. 

van de Pol, J., Volman, M., & Beishuizen, J. (2010). Scaffolding in Teacher-Student Interaction: A Decade of Research. Educational Psychology Review, 22, 271-296. 

Zembylas, M. (2007). The Power and Politics of Emotions in Teaching. In P. A. Schutz & R. Pekrun (Eds.), Emotion in Education (pp. 293-309). Cambridge: Academic Press. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2021.
Keywords [en]
emotional scaffolding, sustainability education
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
didactics of natural science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-183068OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-183068DiVA, id: diva2:1554543
Conference
ECER 2021, European Conference on Education Research, Online, September 6-10, 2021
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2020-03907Available from: 2021-05-15 Created: 2021-05-15 Last updated: 2021-10-01Bibliographically approved

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Lönngren, JohannaBerge, Maria

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