Points of Learning Instead of States of Being: Reimagining the Role of Emotions in Teacher Development through Compassionate and Developmental Supports

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The existing research on second-language (L2) teacher emotion presents emotional experiences as largely descriptive: we know what emotions L2 teachers feel, and how emotions impact L2 teachers and their pedagogy. However, current framing of emotion in L2 teaching does little to examine how L2 teachers navigate emotional experiences and how emotions factor into their learning and development process. I fill this gap in the literature by studying how L2 teacher preparation programs can support pre-service L2 teachers’ (L2 PSTs) expressed emotions and how this emotional support may impact L2 PSTs’ conceptions of their teaching and themselves as teachers. I approach this study from a sociocultural perspective which posits that the cognitive and emotional minds function as a dialectical unity and therefore, positions cognition and emotion as central to teacher development.

Central to the findings for this study is a better understanding of how teacher educators support L2 PST emotion and what this support does for L2 PSTs. Specifically, I highlight two types of emotional support that teacher educators may provide to L2 PSTs: Compassionate Emotional Support (CES) and Developmental Emotional Support (DES). CES focuses specifically on emotions by encouraging L2 PSTs in successful and challenging times, normalizing their emotions, and providing multiple opportunities for them to share their emotions. Conversely, DES focuses on cognitive aspects of emotions by exploring alternative ways of thinking, doing, perceiving, and understanding L2 PSTs’ teaching. When L2 PSTs have a greater cognitive pool of options from which to orient themselves toward their teaching, they appear to be able to change their thinking, feelings, and activity related to their teaching. Essentially, L2 PSTs transform as a result of DES.

My findings clearly indicate that emotions signify areas of significance to L2 PSTs and thus, are rich areas for exploration for learning. Teacher educators should focus on supporting cognitive understandings connected to expressed emotions to help foster L2 PST growth and development. When teacher educators approach emotions as being rooted in cognition, they are able to reimagine emotions as points of learning instead of states of being.