The emotional dimension of training to teach in the primary classroom: implications for support and pedagogy in ITE














“Teaching is even in my dreams” (PGCE trainee teacher 2017): How can initial teacher education support trainee primary teachers to develop their understanding of the emotional dimension of teaching? What are the implications for teaching, learning and student support in the university?Abstract: The act of teaching is an emotional experience (Hargreaves 1998; Zembylas , 2004; Bukor ,2015; Alsup 2006) and indeed, in the words of Nias, ( 1989) ‘teaching is emotional labour’. This presentation reports on a Masters enquiry which was the product of profound professional and personal unease. My concern was that a significant number of trainee primary teachers were reporting distress whilst on placement and this was seemingly entwined with their classroom experience. An action research methodology was adopted. Data were gathered from current trainee teacher participants on the Primary PGCE. Analysis of the data revealed that volatile emotions, the challenge of new learning, feelings of vulnerability, the struggle to adopt a new professional identity, the intensity of relationships with children and other adults and the pressures of constant judgement and accountability were all sources of heightened emotion in the classroom. These findings underpinned the content of a subsequent pilot workshop for student teachers. Participants strongly valued the opportunity to discuss their experiences with peers, as part of university based training. This model has since been incorporated into the PGCE Primary 5-11 and Early Years 3-7 programme in the Department of Teacher Education and we are working to embed the ’emotional dimension’ across the various routes to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

With the worrying backdrop of teacher attrition ( NUS 2016) , rise in young people suffering from corrosive anxiety ( Mind. org , 2017 ) , I believe that this small scale enquiry has   salient messages for those of us engaged in the education not only  of teachers but also of  nurses , social workers and indeed all professions in which relationships  with others are foundational.

Strand Student retention
Type Campfire
Learning Objective(s) I would hope to provide a model of how we might capture student perception of the emotional dimension of training to teach and to demonstrate how, through action research, these findings from trainee teacher participants (masters’ enquiry) have impacted on the teacher training curriculum and on our understanding as academics of bespoke support for trainee teachers. I also believe that the research is transferrable to other ‘caring’ professions. Finally in the process of the research I found that I was forced to hold a mirror up to my own practice as a teacher of adult learners and this in itself was valuable reflection. I would hope therefore that my talk would provoke a range of discussion with colleagues and be a door to knowledge transfer.