Taking a closer look at student teachers’ experiences of learning on school placement very often reveals the emotionally charged nature of working in a school environment. It is not uncommon for student teachers’ emotions to oscillate between despair on the one hand and jubilation on the other, and thus it is not surprising that their emotional engagement with practice has been likened both to a 'whirlpool' and a 'rollercoaster'.
It has often been observed that teachers' talk about their work immediately reveals that emotions are at the heart of teaching and that teaching as always irretrievably emotional in character. But while most prospective teachers envisage that it will be their interactions with pupils that will cause the most volatile emotional reactions, many are unprepared for relationships with colleagues to be so replete with emotional resonance. However, it seems to be teachers' relations with other adults that generate the most heightened expressions of emotionality among them.
Interestingly, the emotional dimensions of learning and teaching have received comparatively little attention in the literature associated with teacher development, only recently having begun to be explored in any systematic way. If the research on teachers' emotions has remained comparatively underdeveloped, there has been a positive dearth of interest in student teachers' emotions on school placement, thus making it a fertile area for enquiry. This is a potentially exciting research area with opportunities for genuinely original contributions to knowledge.
Applicants interested in this PhD proposal will be able to research student teachers’ expressions of emotionality on teaching practice in a school placement context. In doing so, they will explore the potential of working within a sociocultural theoretical frame which claims that the emotions are not solely internal, personal phenomena, but are inseparable from the contexts in which they take shape. As a result, they will get a chance to build a research design that takes account of the socially embedded nature of student teachers’ emotions, framing the study within a sociocultural perspective. This is a broad stance with a wide range of specific theoretical concepts and tools that could be used in capturing the fascinating interplay between the individual and the contextual. Significant choice will thus be available within the broad parameters of the paradigm, offering the successful applicant flexibility in the focus of the project. Some possible areas of exploration include:
- The influence of school organisation and structure on student teachers’ emotions - The role of interpersonal relationships with pupils (and/or with colleagues) in student teachers’ emotional engagement in school placement - Positive and negative student teacher emotions, their causes and consequences for learning - How those with a role in student teacher development can facilitate awareness of the importance of the emotions in learning to become a teacher
Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit.