Posted: March 30th, 2022
Emotions can be linked to everything a person does. When students enter school, they often have trouble with learning and may develop negative emotions to education. The aim of this study was to discover and highlight what emotional regulation techniques work best with students and getting them ready for learning. The study involved 3 focus groups from two schools picked from across the country. Two were public schools. The second was a private school.
Each focus group represented an age group. The first focus group had 2 children ages 5 and 12 years old. The second group had 2 children ages 14 and 17 years old. The group from the private school had a focus group of 4 children ranging in ages from 5-17 years of age.
The results derived from the qualitative data analyses demonstrate three kinds of classroom experiences participants feel work best for motivating them to learn and removing the negative emotions that come from a stressful academic workload. The first classroom experience or classroom activity is self-awareness exercises. The second is meditation. The third is self-regulation. These activities promoted enhanced self-awareness and helped children recognize and understand their emotions.
While the younger children responded positively to a positive teacher-child interaction the most, the older children responded well to a positive learning environment and kinds of learning opportunities. These dimensions make up to a certain degree, the activities that enabled emotional regulation and recognition among the participants. As children grow more and more depressed and experience mental health problems at an early age, it is important to recognize ways to help children learn to deal with the emotions that come from poor academic performance, outside influences, and so forth. This is because there is a connection between emotion and education.
Emotional regulation is an important aspect of education. Emotions are a strong and integral force in a person’s life. When a student feels depressed from a bad grade or something happening in their personal life and they do not have the tools to regulate such emotions, it may lead to a lack of motivation and an unwillingness to complete school work or learn. By understanding a teacher’s influence on student emotion regulation, and ways teachers can provide activities to enable effective emotional regulation for students, schools may see better learning outcomes.
Emotional regulation is important at any age, especially during the early years such as when a student enters elementary school. However, as a child ages and enter middle school and high school, techniques like self-reporting can help student gauge how they are feeling and recognize what they are feeling so they can resolve the issue. “Self-report is a primary method to assess emotions. In research on emotions in education, self-report has traditionally been used to measure students’ test anxiety” (Pekrun, 2016, p. 43).
With school in the United States focused on standardized test results, test-taking, homework completion, and classroom participation could spell victory or disaster for a student. Aside from academic frustrations, children when in school may encounter bullying and peer pressure further creating emotional turmoil that will require active participation in emotion regulation activities to counter. Nevertheless, little is actually know about the formation of emotional regulation through a student’s school years. This is even more of a mystery in classroom interactions. “After children transition out of first grade, school-related research on emotion regulation decreases significantly” (Wentzel & Ramani, 2016, p. 192).
Because of the decreasing availability of knowledge on emotional regulation for children as they age, it is important to perform studies investigating what kind of mindfulness techniques help with emotional regulation when they are placed in practice in schools. Additionally, of the few classroom studies performed in the last twenty years that exist most have focused on researching the emotions of infants and preschoolers with the oldest participants in these studies being 5 or 6 years of age. There is too much divergence in research of how regulation is studied and defined (affect regulation, emotion management, emotional control).
That is why new studies need to focus on emotional regulation across a broad range of school aged children from age 5 to 17 or K-12. Deriving inspiration from adult contemplative practices for emotion regulation could prove useful and translate well with children.
Research with adults suggests that contemplative practices such as meditation and yoga impart a variety of benefits, from improved attention to reduced stress. Increasingly, these practices are being adapted for use with children and introduced into childhood education in order to foster the development of key self-regulation skills required for academic achievement and emotional well-being (Shapiro et al., 2014, p. 1).
Since self-regulation skills are an important facet to emotional regulation, this paper will focus on developing a study that examines how well certain emotional regulation techniques work on children from ages 5-17.
Of the activities meant to help with emotional regulation, some will be tailored to meet the needs of the various age groups. For example, younger children require more attention and interaction with the teacher. Older children require more autonomy and ability to self-report. ” … as well as self-reports of student emotion as students are using the learning environment” (Wixon & Arroyo, 2014, p. 471). The literature review will offer supporting evidence for why emotional regulation through meditation and self-awareness and self-regulation could improve how students deal with their emotions.
In a 2014 article discussing mindfulness-based programs, creation of such programs are aimed not to assist students in emotional regulation, but teachers.”Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE for Teachers) is a mindfulness-based professional development program designed to reduce stress and improve teachers’ performance and classroom learning environments” (Jennings, Frank, Snowberg, Coccia & Greenberg, 2014, p. 374). Since teachers are an integral part of learning, programs have been developed to help them deal with their work load and create a better learning environment for students through positive teacher experiences.
The article review major improvements in teachers when it came to emotional well-being, stress, and other aspects of teaching. “Participation in the CARE program resulted in significant improvements in teacher well-being, efficacy, burnout/time-related stress, and mindfulness compared with controls. Evaluation data showed that teachers viewed CARE as a feasible, acceptable, and effective method for reducing stress and improving performance” (Jennings, Frank, Snowberg, Coccia & Greenberg, 2014, p. 374). This is an important result because it demonstrates mindfulness exercises can have a positive impact on the emotional well-being of an individual. This program could translate well if applied to students, especially children in high school.
” … self-regulatory skills associated with emotion and attention, self-representations, and prosocial dispositions such as empathy and compassion … strengthen these positive qualities and dispositions through systematic contemplative practices, which induce plastic changes in brain function and structure, supporting prosocial behavior and academic success” (J. Davidson et al., 2012, p. 146).
In the last ten years, training in mindfulness or as some would define, the deliberate cultivation of in the moment non-judgmental focused awareness and attention, has grown from its early western applications within the medical world to other fields, with recent applications seen in education. A 2012 paper reviewed curricula and research that pertained to the incorporation of mindfulness training (both indirectly and directly) into K-12 education, through training teachers as well as directly instructing students. Recent revelations from neurobiology research of mindfulness in adults proposes that continued mindfulness practice has the possibility to improve emotional and attentional self-regulation while also promoting flexibility. This may point towards important potential benefits for teachers and students.
The review highlights early research results on three descriptive mindfulness-based educator training initiatives proposing that again, when a person has training in mindfulness skills, it can increase that person’s sense of well-being and in the case of teachers, teaching self-efficacy. Learning this helps teachers manage classroom behavior better as well as maintain and establish supportive relationships with their students. The review also mentions that since 2005, for over a decade, fourteen studies of programs directly training students in mindfulness and self-regulation have jointly validated a range of social, psychological, and cognitive benefits to a wide age range of students. (elementary (six studies revealed success) and high school (eight studies revealed positive results). “These include improvements in working memory, attention, academic skills, social skills, emotional regulation, and self-esteem, as well as self-reported improvements in mood and decreases in anxiety, stress, and fatigue” (Meiklejohn et al., 2012, p. 291). The core features, target population, and educational goals, of ten established mindfulness-based curricula provide an effective basis for future studies to use to discover appropriate mindfulness techniques for all students from K-12.
In another review examining the effects of meditation, the program provided a conceptual model that constructed two propositions of which demonstrate the assumption that meditation could help increase mindfulness in students and thus increase emotional self-regulation/regulation.
Program elements such as duration, frequency of practice and type of instructor influenced student outcomes. A conceptual model is put forward based on two propositions: proposition 1 — meditation positively influences student success by increasing cognitive functioning; proposition 2 — meditation positively influences student success by increasing emotional regulation (Waters, Barsky, Ridd & Allen, 2014, p. 103).
Meditation is just one of many potential activities that could encourage emotional regulation in students. This article helps highlight what many have deemed an appropriate tool to manage stress and reduce negative emotions in people. Creating mindfulness is integral in creating a means to regulation one’s emotions and should be considered via activities such as mindfulness.
The literature demonstrated several things. The first is, less research and information is available in emotional regulation for children past first grade than expected. The second is mindfulness activities tailored for adults have been proven to be very successful. The third is, these activities can be translated for children of all age ranges. Lastly, meditation can be one mindfulness activity that when translated from adult oriented to child-oriented can help children by encouraging increased emotional regulation.
The next section will focus on the study and the three activities that students in the focus group and their educators found were most engaging for them in relation to increased motivation, increased positive emotions and so forth.
For this study, data will be gathered through contact with principals from three schools. One from a private school and two from a public school. They will gather two students from classrooms with the private school gathering four students and have a teacher accompany them. From there, the teacher will be instructed on three exercises that will be given to them to teach the two students. This will be done during lunch. The first focus group will have a 5-year-old and 12-year-old. The second focus group will have a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old. The third focus group will have four children ranging in age between 5 and 17 years of age.
After three days of three activities, one activity per day, the principal will give the educator and students a questionnaire to fill out. On a scale of 1-5 they will state how effective each activity was. The results will be scanned or faxed and the information will be analyzed. Questions developed in the questionnaire will be derived from standard self-report measures of mindfulness that are FFMQ (Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire) and MAAS (Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale). These measures will serve as reference as well when examining the results.
The target audience are students from k-12 and teachers/educators. The research techniques applied to find suitable activities to measure effectiveness will be taken from research articles no later than 2012 found through article databases like Google Scholar, JURN.org, and RefSeek.com. These search engines provide millions of articles, theses, and chapters and search terms like ‘mindfulness training’, ‘mindfulness techniques’, ’emotional regulation activities’, ‘self-regulation’ will be inputted to produce results that could support and provide basis for formation of activities for the study. All studies researched will be qualitative in design with focus on student training. The qualitative research techniques evaluated will be participant observation, focus groups, and in-depth interviews which will be applied to the study.
The study produced significant results. The qualitative methods observed from the research and then applied to the study provided a means of collecting qualitative and quantitative data as well as assessing the validity of some of the assumptions made such as meditation being a useful mindfulness activity and which activities do well with certain age groups. The first method, participant observation was performed by the teacher and principal as the teacher taught the activity to the students and the principal observed the responses from the teacher and students when they filled out the questionnaire. The strengths in this method are that it is easy to perform because it is just observing and information can be collected from nonverbal cues making assessment easier and faster. The weaknesses are lack of communication while observing and inability to record enough information such as verbal cues and subjective responses that are often hidden.
The second method, focus groups provided a lot of information both from the research perspective and the study. Some strengths are that the focus group demonstrated that kids from ages 5-17 can use mindfulness activities to culture improved emotional regulation based on the responses given. They can also show which activities did not do well with certain age groups. The weaknesses in this method are lack of control in directing the focus group’s attention on the activities and the need for bigger samples of participants in order to get a more accurate result.
The in-depth interviews were administered by each school’s respective principal and provided detailed information and results that could only be gathered through face-to-face interviews. The second phase of interviewing came with a skype chat with each principal and receiving the results from the questionnaires via fax. The strengths of the in-depth interviews are that they reveal a lot of information that include verbal and non-verbal cues. They also provide qualitative answers in context. The weaknesses are the time and effort needed to perform the interview and the potential inaccuracy from the answers.
Overall, the younger children preferred the third activity (self-regulation exercises) that required the teacher the most and supported more teacher-student interaction. The median age children liked the first activity (self-awareness exercises) because they were easy to do and did not require too much teacher-student interaction. The high school aged students favored the second activity (meditation) because it gave them complete autonomy, quiet, and time to relax and reflect on anything that was on their minds or happened to them that day.
J. Davidson, R., Dunne, J., Eccles, J., Engle, A., Greenberg, M., & Jennings, P. et al. (2012). Contemplative Practices and Mental Training: Prospects for American Education. Child Development Perspectives, 6(2), 146-153. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1750-8606.2012.00240.x
Jennings, P., Frank, J., Snowberg, K., Coccia, M., & Greenberg, M. (2013). Improving classroom learning environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE): Results of a randomized controlled trial.School Psychology Quarterly, 28(4), 374-390. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/spq0000035
Meiklejohn, J., Phillips, C., Freedman, M., Griffin, M., Biegel, G., & Roach, A. et al. (2012). Integrating Mindfulness Training into K-12 Education: Fostering the Resilience of Teachers and Students. Mindfulness, 3(4), 291-307. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12671-012-0094-5
Pekrun, R. (2016). Using Self-Report to Assess Emotions in Education.Methodological Advances In Research On Emotion And Education, 43-54. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-29049-2_4
Shapiro, S., Lyons, K., Miller, R., Butler, B., Vieten, C., & Zelazo, P. (2014). Contemplation in the Classroom: a New Direction for Improving Childhood Education. Educational Psychology Review, 27(1), 1-30. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10648-014-9265-3
Waters, L., Barsky, A., Ridd, A., & Allen, K. (2014). Contemplative Education: A Systematic, Evidence-Based Review of the effect of Meditation Interventions in Schools. Educational Psychology Review, 27(1), 103-134. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10648-014-9258-2
Wentzel, K., & Ramani, G. (2016). Handbook of social influences in school contexts. Routledge.
Wixon, M., & Arroyo, I. (2014). When the Question is Part of the Answer: Examining the Impact of Emotion Self-reports on Student Emotion. User Modeling, Adaptation, And Personalization, 471-477. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-08786-3_42
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