Physical education student teachers' perceptions of applying knowledge and skills about emotional understanding studied in PETE in a one-year teaching practicum

Klemola, U., Heikinaro-Johansson, P. and O'Sullivan, M. (2013) Physical education student teachers' perceptions of applying knowledge and skills about emotional understanding studied in PETE in a one-year teaching practicum. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 18 (1). pp. 28-41. ISSN 17408989 (ISSN)


Background: Recently, there has been growing interest in the emotional aspects of teaching and learning in general education and in physical education (PE). Scholars have argued that high-quality teaching and learning depend on a teacher's knowledge of students' emotions (Hargreaves 1998, 2000, 2002; McCaughtry 2004; McCaughtry and Rovegno 2003; Owens and Ennis 2005; Poulou 2007; Sutton and Wheatley 2003). To this end, three course modules in social and emotional learning (SEL) were added to the degree programme for PE students in Finland.Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine student teachers' retrospective perceptions of implementing social and emotional strategies to build emotional understanding with students during a one-year teaching practicum.Participants and setting: The participants were 17 (eight women and nine men) PE student teachers at a university in central Finland in the fourth or fifth year of their PETE programme. The present study used a descriptive and interpretive case study methodology.Data collection: The data were collected via an open-ended questionnaire and focus group interviews. The focus was to gather information on participants' self-reported perceptions of implementing SEL.Data analysis: The unit of analysis was an expression or sentence which addressed a student's or a student teacher's emotions. The data were analysed inductively by individual case analysis and group level analysis.Reliability: Three strategies were used to enhance the reliability of the interpretations: (1) data triangulation to ensure that findings were accurate; (2) scrutinizing the data for discriminate cases; and (3) member checks by two of the participating student teachers.Findings: Physical education student teachers found using the SEL strategies for building emotional understanding was positive yet difficult. Positive experiences were reported aroused when the student teachers responded to students' emotions and when they expressed their own emotions to their students. Responding to students' emotions by using SEL strategies facilitated student teachers' communication with adolescents and helped students to accomplish assigned tasks. The student teachers' expression of their own emotions reportedly reduced students' off-task and inappropriate behaviour. In addition, the student teachers' emotional self-expression helped them to re-focus on teaching after a conflict with students.The challenges using SEL related to difficulties remembering which strategies to use, reacting to the diversity of students' emotions while organising a lesson, incorporating SEL instinctively into their teaching and managing their own surges of emotion. As a whole, all student teachers pointed out the importance of practising strategies on emotional understanding and they wanted more SEL studies in their teacher education programme.Conclusions: The findings provided some evidence for the value of SEL as a component of a teacher education programme. These student teachers found the strategies to enhance their emotional understanding helpful for themselves and their students. We recommend experiences on social and emotional learning to be included in teacher education programmes in helping newly qualified teachers to handle the emotional aspects of their work more effectively. © 2013 Copyright Association for Physical Education.

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