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Teachers’ Meta-Emotion Philosophies and Climate Change Education
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Education. Örebro Universitet, JPS.
2016 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

During recent years many researchers have started to argue for the importance of including emotional aspects in ESE. Two main arguments are often used: (1)That the complexity and seriousness of sustainability challenges such as climate change can evoke negative emotions of for instance worry and guilt among students and this needs to be taken account of in educational efforts to prevent feelings of hopelessness and promote hope and agency (Gardiner & Rieckmann, 2015; Hicks, 2014; Ojala, 2013; Stevenson & Peterson, 2015). (2) In utilizing diversity and taking account of different value-laden commitments, conflicts will inevitable occur and educators need to take account of these conflicts and emotions related to them to prevent deadlocks and to promote constructive learning (Garrison et al., 2015;Sund & Öhman,2014; Wals, 2007). These arguments often include a view of emotions as constructive forces. For instance, worry has been found to increase information search and critical thinking (see Ojala, 2013), while dissonance is seen as a pre-request for learning (Wals, 2007). Likewise “positive” emotional aspects such as hope and “passionate engagement” are seen as important motivational forces to take account of (Lundegård & Wickman, 2007; Stevenson & Peterson, 2015; Sund & Öhman, 2014). However, what’s largely missing in the literature is an exploration of teachers’ views of the role of emotions in ESE. An exception is a study showing that a group of teachers thought that ESE can frighten students and overthrow hope and thereby the teachers sometimes avoided talking about aspects that they thought was too emotion provoking (Cross, 1998). Thus, the teachers’ views of emotions influenced their didactical choices.

In the present study the focus is on climate change education and the theoretical framework is teachers’ meta-emotion philosophies. Meta-emotion philosophy has been defined as an organized set of emotions and thoughts regarding one’s own feeling and other people’s feelings (Gottman et al.,1997). The term was created in relation to parents relationships with their children. It’s about awareness of emotions, acceptance of emotions, handling of emotions, and coaching of emotions. Meta-emotion philosophies have an indirect effect since they influence how parents interact with their child in emotional laden situations, which can have an effect on how children cope with emotions (Katz et al., 2012). Studies on teachers and meta-emotions philosophies are, however, rare, and are more or less non-existing in relation to education about larger societal problems. An Italian study was recently published about meta-emotion philosophies among early childhood teachers (Ciucci et al., 2015) and a masters’ thesis dealt with the association between teachers’ meta-emotions and students’ performance and bonding to school (Ming Yan, 2010). Regarding educating about societal problems Zembylas and colleagues (2014), although not using the term meta-emotions, identified pedagogical strategies with which emotions are schooled and that classify certain emotions as ‘legitimate’ or ‘appropriate’ and others as ‘illegitimate’ or ‘inappropriate’. In addition, a study demonstrated that students who perceived their teachers as not taking seriously their negative emotions concerning societal problems were more inclined to de-emphasize the seriousness of climate change than students who felt that their teachers respected and validated their emotions (Ojala, 2015). Hence, there seems to be a relation between the emotional rules that teachers enforce and individual coping strategies that young people use in relation to the climate problem.

The aim of this study is to explore senior high-school teachers’ meta-emotion philosophies regarding climate change education. The two main research questions are: What are teachers’ views and feelings about students’ emotions concerning climate change and these emotions role in the learning process? What strategies (if any) do teachers use to handle their own and students’ emotions in the classroom?


In all 15 to 20 Swedish senior high-school teachers in geography, teaching about climate change, are interviewed. The methodological approach is phenomenological in the sense that it is the participants’ subjective experiences and interpretations of the object of study that is in focus. This relates to a well-known approach of studying ‘teacher beliefs’ in order to comprehend for instance teachers’ choices and decision-making in the classroom (see for example, Biesta et al. 2015). A stratified purposeful sampling approach was chosen to select the target group (Patton, 2001). The factors of gender, age/experience, and teaching subjects besides geography (natural science/social science) were taken account of in the sampling process. Semi-structured interviews were chosen as a data collection method. This type of interview is based on an interview guide where a number of topics of theoretical interest guide the interviews. The interviews are conducted as discussions around these themes and the order of the questions in the interview are not completely fixed but can be changed according to how the conversation develops (Drever, 1995). The interviews are recorded and written down word by word to allow analysis of the material.A thematic analysis is going to be performed on the data (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The printed interview protocols are going to be read carefully in order to identify a number of overarching themes. Thereafter a coding scheme is going to be created and each overarching theme will became a separate document in which pieces of the interviews are going to pasted (after a further review of the material). Sub-categories to the overall themes are then going to be identified. Thematic analysis can be both inductive and deductive, and in the present analysis the identification of themes is going to be influenced, on the one hand, by previous research and, on the other hand, by openness to the data at hand (Braun & Clarke, 2006).

Expected Outcomes

The data will be coded into different themes and sub-themes. The thematic analysis is going to be performed both in a deductive way, where different already identified overarching meta-emotion philosophies to a certain extent will guide the coding of the data (see Gottman et al.,1997; Katz et al., 2012; Ming Yan, 2010). These are: (a) An emotion-coaching meta-emotion philosophy - for instance an awareness and acceptance of emotions, using emotions as opportunities to learn. (b) A dismissing meta-emotion philosophy – for instance a non-awareness of emotions, but also a view that negative emotions are harmful and should be avoided or minimized (c) A disapproving meta-emotion philosophy – where emotions are seen as mostly negative and where one disapproves of emotions as part of the learning process. However, an inductive approach will also be used in which the unique meta-emotion philosophies and related sub-themes of teachers in relation to climate change education will be identified, organized, and described in detail. This will be a novel contribution to the research literature about ESE and climate change education. Teachers will most probably not be coded into only one meta-emotion philosophy category; instead some are expected to express a pattern of different philosophies. These patterns will be taken account of in the analysis. Results are going to be discussed in relation to the theory about meta-emotion philosophies and in relation to earlier studies belonging to the “emotional turn” in research about ESE. Practical implications for ESE/CCE will be elaborated on.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-284124OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-284124DiVA: diva2:919847
ECER, NW 30. Environmental and Sustainability Education Research, Dublin, Ireland,23 to 26 August 2016
Young people´s communication with parents, friends, and teachers about global environmental problems: Emotions, coping, and self-efficacy
Swedish Research Council Formas
Available from: 2016-04-15 Created: 2016-04-15 Last updated: 2016-06-18

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