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Teaching and Teacher Education 54 (2016) 22e31

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Teaching and Teacher Education


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/tate

Teachers' emotions and emotion regulation strategies: Self- and


students' perceptions
Jingwen Jiang a, *, Marja Vauras a, Simone Volet b, Yili Wang a
a
b

Department of Teacher Education, University of Turku, Finland


School of Education, Murdoch University, Australia

h i g h l i g h t s
 Antecedent-focused emotion regulation may be more desirable than response-focused.
 Reappraisal may be more effective than suppression in emotion regulation.
 Suppression in emotion regulation should be discouraged.
 Future research on teacher emotion regulation should include teacher beliefs.

a r t i c l e i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 8 April 2015
Received in revised form
21 September 2015
Accepted 12 November 2015
Available online xxx

Based on Gross's process model of emotion regulation, this study related 53 lower-secondary school
students' perceptions of their teachers' emotions to four of their teachers' emotion regulation while
teaching. A mixed method approach, combining students' surveys and teachers' interviews, revealed
associations between teachers' positive or negative emotions as perceived by their students, and
teachers' reections on their emotion regulation. Antecedent-focused emotion regulation appeared more
desirable than response-focused emotion regulation, and in particular, reappraisal more effective than
suppression in increasing positive-emotion expression and reducing negative-emotion expression. Implications for teaching, teacher education and future research on teacher emotion regulation are
proposed.
2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords:
Teacher emotions
Student perceptions
Emotion regulation
Suppression
Reappraisal

1. Introduction
The present research aims to investigate teachers' emotion
regulation strategies, and relate them to students' perceptions of
their teachers' emotions. It is widely accepted that emotion is
intertwined with cognition and integral to teaching (Hargreaves,
2001), and that teachers' emotions play a crucial role in students'
learning and teacherestudent relationships (e.g. Hamre & Pianta,
2005; Turner, Meyer, & Schweinle, 2003). Furthermore,
Hargreaves (1998) claimed that good teaching is charged with
positive emotions, and good teachers display their passion during
teaching, which in turn enthuse their students. Similarly, it has
been proposed by Frenzel, Goetz, Stephens, and Jacob (2009) that

* Corresponding author. Department of Teacher Education, Faculty of Education,


University of Turku, Assistentinkatu 5, 20014, Turku, Finland.
E-mail address: jinjia@utu. (J. Jiang).
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2015.11.008
0742-051X/ 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

recurring teachers' positive emotions are associated with exible


and creative teaching strategies that stimulate student motivation,
whereas recurring teachers' negative emotions damage such exibility and creativity, which in turn affect student learning outcomes. In fact, researchers have paid much attention to teachers'
emotional experiences during regular teaching and their impact on
teachers' and students' lives (e.g. Cross & Hong, 2012; Hagenauer &
Volet, 2014a; Hargreaves, 1998, 2000, 2001; Schutz, Cross, Hong, &
Osbon, 2007; Sutton, 2004; Sutton, Mudrey-Camino, & Knight,
2009; Sutton & Wheatley, 2003; Zembylas, 2005). For example,
negative emotions such as anger and frustration, which are
frequently reported by teachers, are found to reduce teachers'
intrinsic motivation and increase students' negative emotional
experiences (Sutton & Wheatley, 2003). Abundant research has
focused on how teachers' accumulating negative emotions damage
teachers' well-being and hinder students' learning achievement
(see Chan, 2006). Generally, teachers' emotions are crucial factors

J. Jiang et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 54 (2016) 22e31

in education, and as Fried (2011) claimed, a new direction in


emotional research is to explore how teachers' emotions, especially
negative emotions, could be regulated.
Researchers are only beginning to investigate teachers' emotion
regulation (Sutton & Harper, 2009). Failure to understand teacher
emotion regulation has been found to lead to teacher burnout and
emotional exhaustion (Carson & Templin, 2007), and ineffectiveness of teaching and classroom management (Olivier & Venter,
2003), as well as teacher attrition (Macdonald, 1999). In this regard, investigation into teachers' emotion regulation is in urgent
need. Early research (Sutton, 2004) has explored teachers' emotion
regulation strategies in relation to their teaching goals. According
to Sutton, teachers employ a wide variety of emotion regulation
strategies such as preventive strategies (e.g. diverting attention and
self-talk) and responsive strategies (e.g. deep breathing and controlling facial features). However, even if teachers attempt to mask
their emotions, for example by controlling their facial features, it is
revealed by Sutton and Wheatley (2003) that students can still be
aware of their teachers' emotions through observations of teachers'
vocal changes such as pitch, and physiological changes such as
facial expressions and body language. In Sutton and Wheatley's
literature review, a teacher's example was provided, who reported
that her students knew it when she was not herself because her
words were inconsistent with her body language. Therefore, it
appears important to investigate teachers' emotion regulation in
light of students' perceptions of teachers' emotions to examine the
relation between these two factors.

1.1. Emotions in teaching


Appraisal theory advocates that emotions are responses to
evaluations or judgments of events, rather than events themselves
(Roseman & Smith, 2001; Smith & Lazarus, 1990). In primary
appraisal, people evaluate whether the situation is relevant or
important to their needs or well-being, and whether the situation
is consistent with their goals, so relevance and goal congruence
are two most important components in the signicance of an
emotional stimulus (Lazarus, 1991). In the classroom context,
Chang (2009) argued that the more a teacher cares about his or
her students, the more likely an emotional encounter would be
judged to be important; a student's disruptive behaviors might be
a threat to a teacher's goal achievement, if a teacher's goal is to
teach students academic skills. Consequently, according to Chang,
teacherestudent relationships and teaching goal congruence are
two most important components in teachers' primary appraisal
and contribute greatly to teachers' daily experiences of emotions.
It is not surprising that in the context of teaching in higher education, Hagenauer and Volet (2014b) placed the affective dimensions of the teacherestudent relationship in the center of
their framework for future research. To be more precise, Sutton
and Wheatley (2003) suggested that appraisal theory explains
why the same classroom event elicits different emotions in individual teachers or why individual teachers experience different
emotions in response to the same student behavior. Moreover, a
number of empirical studies (e.g. Emmer, 1994; Godar, 1990;
Hargreaves, 1998; Oplatka & Eizenberg, 2007; Sutton &
Wheatley, 2003; Zembylas, 2005) have revealed that in everyday
teaching teachers frequently experience positive emotions such as
joy, excitement, warmth, and affection, and negative emotions
including anger, frustration and anxiety. Therefore, as claimed by
Hargreaves (1998), teaching is an emotional practice, and it is
necessary for teachers to regulate their emotions when they sense
that a particular emotion expression is inappropriate in a particular situation (Sutton, 2004).

23

1.2. Emotion regulation


From the perspective of social psychology, Gross (1998a)
dened emotion regulation as the processes by which individuals consciously or unconsciously inuence which emotions
they have, when they have them, and how they experience and
express them. Gross (1998a, 1998b) also distinguished between
two broad classes of emotion regulation: antecedent-focused
emotion regulation, which occurs before emotions are generated,
and response-focused emotion regulation, which occurs after
response tendencies are triggered. According to Gross (1998a,
1998b), antecedent-focused emotion regulation includes situation
selection, which refers to approaching or avoiding certain people or
situations to modify their emotional impact; situation modication,
which involves directly changing a situation to regulate emotions;
attention deployment, in which individuals focus attention on or
move attention away from a situation to change the inuence of the
situation on individuals' emotions; and cognitive change, which
refers to modifying one's evaluations of a situation or one's ability
to manipulate a situation in order to alter its emotional impact.
Response-focused emotion regulation involves modifying the
physiological, experiential or behavioral responding after an
emotion has been generated. The effects of these two broad classes
of emotion regulation including their certain forms were also discussed by Gross.
Gross' (2002) literature review of emotion regulation showed
that his theoretical and empirical studies (Gross, 1998a, 1998b;
Gross & John, 2003) on emotion regulation are derived from the
coping theories of Lazarus and colleagues (Lazarus, 1966; 1993;
Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). In his model, and consistent with
Lazarus conceptualization, Gross refers to situation modication as
problem-focused coping, aimed at changing the personenvironment realities behind negative emotions or directly
changing a situation to regulate emotions. Emotion-focused coping
is another strategy proposed by Lazarus, which involves reducing
unpleasant emotions through dealing with the emotion itself, or
internally changing the appraisals of the demanding situation. It
could be argued that Lazarus' emotion-focused coping overlaps
with Gross' cognitive change, which also involves altering the
appraisal of a situation. Therefore, and as posited by Chang (2013),
Lazarus' coping and Gross' emotion regulation are connected with
each other, and both are believed to be mediating factors in the
emotion processes.
Gross (1998b) speculated that antecedent-focused emotion
regulation (e.g. reappraisal) might be better than response-focused
emotion regulation (e.g. suppression) in consideration of individuals' physical and psychological health. This is because, according to Lazarus and Alfert (1964) (also see Lazarus & Folkman,
1984), reappraisal is a way of reinterpreting the meaning of an
emotional stimulus so as to alter its emotional impact, whereas
suppression is dened as the inhibition of ongoing emotionexpressive behavior (Gross & Levenson, 1993; Gross, 1998b). In
addition, reappraisal affects the emotion response tendencies early
in the emotion-generative process (Gross & John, 2003). It is worth
noting that Gross (1998b) also carried out an experiment to identify
the inuences of reappraisal and suppression on emotional
expression and experience. In this experiment, undergraduate
participants were assigned to either a reappraisal or a suppression
condition, when watching a negative emotion-eliciting lm. He
found that reappraisal led to an increase in both the experience and
expression of positive emotion and was effective in reducing both
the experience and expression of negative emotion. Another
nding in this experiment was that, suppression occurred after the
emotion response tendencies had been generated, and reduced the
expression of negative emotion to some extent. However, it was

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J. Jiang et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 54 (2016) 22e31

ineffective in the relief from the experience of negative emotion


and might have prevented the expression of positive emotion. The
empirical research on teachers' emotion regulation strategies,
grounded in Gross's model of emotion regulation, is reviewed in the
next section.

emotion expression. Therefore, getting insights into how students


perceive their teachers' emotions and how their perceptions relate
to their teachers' own accounts of emotion regulation strategies is
important and was examined in the present study.
1.4. Students' perceptions of teachers' emotions

1.3. Teachers' emotion regulation strategies


Prior to reviewing the empirical literature on teachers' emotion
regulation strategies, it is essential to highlight their mediating
factors. It has been suggested that emotional experience involves
person-environmental transactions, which includes personal
characteristics and environments (Lazarus, 1991; Lazarus &
Folkman, 1984). Based on this assumption, a multitude of empirical studies have revealed that teacher personalities such as
emotional intelligence (e.g. Chan, 2008), self-efcacy (e.g.
Schwarzer, Boehmer, Luszczynska, Mohamed, & Knoll, 2005), and
negative mood regulation expectancies (e.g. Mearns & Cain, 2003)
inuence teacher coping or use of emotion regulation strategies. In
addition, environmental factors such as school management, student behavior management, and workload also have been found to
have an impact on coping or emotional regulation (Chan, 1998).
Gross's model of emotion regulation has had a strong inuence
on research (e.g. Gong, Chai, Duan, Zhong, & Jiao, 2013; Hagenauer
& Volet, 2014a; Sutton, 2004; Sutton et al., 2009) into teachers'
emotion regulation. The categories of emotion regulation in Gross's
model have guided educational researchers' classication of
emotion regulation strategies in teaching. For example, Sutton
(2004) found that teachers employed various preventive strategies (antecedent-focused), such as making the whole class work
quietly, thinking of positive aspects, diverting attention, self-talk,
and responsive strategies (response-focused), such as taking a
deep breath and controlling facial expressions to regulate their
emotions. In addition, Gong et al. (2013) reported from the interviews that teachers used situation selection (e.g. walking to
another group), situation modication (e.g. telling a joke), attention
deployment (e.g. neglecting a situation), cognitive change (e.g.
thinking of the positive side of a thing) and response modulation
(e.g. hiding in mind) as their emotion regulation strategies.
Another proposal related to emotion regulation during teaching,
is the distinction between up-regulating and down-regulating
emotions (Sutton & Harper, 2009), which was expanded based on
Gross's (1998a) assumption that both positive and negative emotions could be regulated. Sutton and Harper dened up-regulating
as attempts to increase the intensity or duration of the emotion
experience. They argued that teachers may up-regulate a positive
emotion such as joy or enthusiasm in order to communicate positively with students; teachers may also up-regulate a negative
emotion such as anger in order to educate the students not to break
the rules. In turn, they dened down-regulating as attempts to
decrease the emotion experience. They argued that teachers
frequently down-regulate their negative emotions such as anger to
maintain the classroom management and to develop positive relationships with students. However, as noted by Sutton et al.
(2009), recent research has drawn more attention to downregulating negative emotions than up-regulating positive emotions. Therefore, it was important in the present study to explore
both up-regulation and down-regulation.
Finally, grounded in Gross's model, Gross and John's study
(2003) in social psychology linked individual use of emotion
regulation strategies to peer-reports of individuals' emotion
expression in everyday life using quantitative methods in order to
examine the effects of reappraisal and suppression. In the classroom context, it can be expected that teachers' emotion regulation
strategies could be related to students' perceptions of teachers'

A series of ground-breaking projects, by Rudduck and Flutter in


the UK since 1990s (e.g. Rudduck, Chaplain, & Wallace, 1996;
Rudduck & Flutter, 2004), have provided empirical evidence that
students' perceptions of the teaching and learning processes tend
to be very astute. These can be transformational experiences for
teachers, which enable teachers to gain new insights into teaching,
learning and schooling from the perspectives of their students.
Interestingly though, there are no recent studies on students' perceptions of their teachers' emotions despite justication from
studies like Rudduck's, growing emphasis on student voice, and,
discussions earlier in the review by Sutton and Wheatley (2003) on
teachers' emotions evidencing that students can be aware of their
teachers' emotions through observation. Furthermore, empirical
research by Gross and John (2003) in social psychology has foregrounded our assumption that students' perceptions of teachers'
emotions tend to be important in exploring teachers' emotion
regulation strategies. In addition to justifying the rationale behind
our focus on student perceptions, it is signicant to pinpoint an
important methodological gap.
To the best of our knowledge, earlier research involving students' perceptions of their teachers' emotions, has often investigated how teachers' emotions inuence them, mainly obtained
from interview data. For example, Thomas and Montgomery
(1998)'s interviews of the elementary school students revealed
that teachers' yelling hurt their feelings; in the study of Perry,
VandeKamp, Mercer, and Norby (2002), the primary school students reported that they were aware of their teacher's unhappiness
when they were making mistakes; in the study of Phelan, Davidson,
and Cao (1992), the high school students indicated that teachers
who were perceived as caring would win their students' cooperation in studies, while those who were viewed as not caring would
not motivate their low achieving students to do schoolwork so
easily. In addition to the above-mentioned lack of recent studies on
student perceptions of their teachers' emotions in general, there is
almost a total lack of studies employing quantitative methods.
In order to identify studies involving teachers' perceived emotions using quantitative methods, we conducted a systematic
search through the databases Academic Search Premier, ERIC, and
Psycinfo, covering the years 1990e2015. Empirical journal articles
were selected if teacher emotion or teacher affect was referred to in
combination with either perceived or student perception, and with
either questionnaire or quantitative in the title, the abstract, and/or
keywords. This search revealed that the study of Kunter et al.
(2008) was the only one, which used quantitative method to
assess teachers' emotion of enthusiasm from the perspectives of
lower-secondary school students. Their questionnaire focused on
two factors: teachers' enthusiasm for mathematics and teachers'
enthusiasm for teaching mathematics. Based on this systematic
search, we concluded that quantitative studies regarding students'
perceptions of teachers' emotions appear important but rare.
Consequently, in order to address this research gap, and to test the
reliability and validity of quantitative methods in this type of
research, the present study used questionnaires to examine students' perceptions of their teachers' emotions.
2. Research questions
In light of increasing emotional demands in today's schooling

J. Jiang et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 54 (2016) 22e31

both for teachers and students, and the lack of recent studies, there
is a vital need for fresh research and theorization on teachers'
emotion regulation strategies in relation to students' perceptions of
their teachers' emotions. As pointed out in the introduction,
teachers' negative emotions and failure to understand teacher
emotion regulation may lead to serious well-being consequences
(e.g. Carson & Templin, 2007). Therefore, the present study aims to
investigate teachers' emotion regulation strategies and simultaneously examine them in light of students' perceptions. As far as we
are concerned, no study has conducted this before in higher education or the school context. Further, the present study aims to ll
the methodological gap in this domain by exploring students'
perceptions of their teachers' emotions using quantitative methods.
Finally, the following research questions were generated as below.
1) How do students perceive their teachers' emotions during
teaching?
2) What emotion regulation strategies do teachers report
employing during teaching?
3) How do students' perceptions of teachers' emotions relate to
their teachers' self-reports of emotion regulation strategies?

3. Method
3.1. Participants
The participants were 4 teachers and 53 students in Grades 7e9
from an international lower-secondary school in Finland. Due to the
exploratory nature of this study, the number of participating
teachers was kept low, at the same time guaranteeing the relevant
sample size of students in order to assess reliability and validity of
quantitative methods used to examine students' perceptions of
their teachers' emotions. The four participating teachers (2 males
and 2 females, 3 Finnish and 1 Canadian) were the subject teachers
of math, English, history and biology. Except for the English teacher,
the math, history and biology teachers were the form teachers of
Grade 7, 8, and 9 respectively, who had more contact with the class
they were responsible for than the other subject teachers. The years
of teaching experience of the math teacher, English teacher, history
teacher and biology teacher were 2, 22, 6 and 15 respectively (see
Table 1). The student sample consisted of 3 classes, with 16 students from Grade 7, 19 students from Grade 8 and 18 students from
Grade 9. Their ages ranged from 12 to 16 years (M 14.3 years,
SD 1.0), with 52.8% girls and 47.2% boys. It is important to note
that 47.2% of the students were Finnish, 5.7% were American, 5.7%
were Australian, and the other minority included Afghan, Albanian,
Brazilian, British, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Indian, Iranian, Philippine, Romanian, Russian, Sinhalese, Spanish, Swedish,
Thai and Vietnamese. Table 2 provides detailed information of
gender and cultural background of each class of students.
3.2. Procedure
All students completed the surveys of their teachers' perceived
emotions during teaching. The 7th graders lled in the
Table 1
Background information of the teachers.
Teacher

Teaching grade

Gender

Nationality

Teaching years

Math
English
History
Biology

7
7
8
9

M
M
F
F

Finnish
Canadian
Finnish
Finnish

2
22
6
15

25

Table 2
Information of gender and cultural background of the students.

Grade 7
Grade 8
Grade 9
Total
Percentage

Male

Female

Finnish

International

7
9
9
25
47.2%

9
10
9
28
52.8%

10
8
7
25
47.2%

6
11
11
28
52.8%

questionnaires twice, once in relation to their math teacher and the


second time in relation to their English teacher. The 8th graders
only evaluated the emotions of their history teacher and the 9th
graders of their biology teacher. After the students had completed
the surveys, each teacher participated in a semi-structured interview in English which lasted 25e40 min. They were asked questions concerning their emotional experiences and emotion
regulation strategies when teaching a particular class.
According to Smith and Lazarus (1990)'s appraisal theory,
matching students' and teachers' responses is of great importance
since it is very likely that teachers' specic emotional experiences
are related to specic classes and vary from class to class. Reciprocally, it is also likely that the same class of students has different
perceptions of emotions of different teachers. Therefore, in the
present study the students were instructed to complete the questionnaires in regard to a specic teacher and each teacher to
respond in regard to a specic class during the interviews.
3.3. Instruments
3.3.1. Questionnaire
The eight-item questionnaire captured the students' perceptions of their teachers' emotions. The students rated the frequency
of display of the teachers' emotions during teaching with a 5-point
Likert-scale ranging from 1 (never) to 5 (always). The eight items
(happy, inspired, tender, affectionate, angry, annoyed,
nervous and distracted) were only emotion adjectives, based on
positive emotions such as joy, excitement, warmth, affection, and
negative emotions including anger, frustration and anxiety, which
teachers report frequently experiencing (Emmer, 1994; Godar,
1990; Hargreaves, 1998; Oplatka & Eizenberg, 2007; Sutton &
Wheatley, 2003; Zembylas, 2005).
3.3.2. Semi-structured interview
The core questions of the semi-structured interviews shown
below were adapted from those used in the study of Sutton (2004).
1) Which emotions in the list do you often experience when
teaching Class X? (List: Happy, Inspired, Tender, Affectionate,
Angry, Annoyed, Nervous, and Distracted)
2) Do you ever try to control, regulate or mask your emotional
experiences when teaching this class?
3) How do you increase your positive emotion such as when
teaching this class?
4) How do you reduce your negative emotion such as when
teaching this class?
5) Why do you try to control, regulate or mask your emotional
experiences when teaching this class?
The interview questions were designed to assist the teachers to
reect on their emotional experiences and emotion regulation
strategies during the lessons in a specic class. It is important to
note that the eight emotion adjectives in the list were the same as
the eight items in the students' questionnaires. This made it easier
to explore how these teachers regulated their emotions, the display

26

J. Jiang et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 54 (2016) 22e31

of which their students were invited to evaluate. However, the


main function of the emotion list was only to prompt the teachers
to think about their emotion regulation strategies. It was made
explicit to the teachers that they were welcome to discuss their
experiences of other emotions in addition to those in the list.
3.4. Data analysis
3.4.1. Survey data
Because the 7th graders lled in the questionnaires twice to
provide their perceptions of emotional display of the math teacher
and the English teacher respectively, while the 8th graders evaluated emotional display of only the history teacher and the 9th
graders of only the biology teacher, two datasets were generated.
Both datasets consisted of the 53 students' perceptions, with
Dataset 1 related to the math, history and biology teachers, and
Dataset 2 related to the English, history and biology teachers.
DeVellis' (1991, p.85) criteria were used to interpret the internal
consistency reliability gures, namely, that Cronbach's alpha between .80 and .90 can be considered very good, values from .70 to
.80 respectable, and those between .60 and .70 acceptable. The
internal consistency for the 4-item subscale assessing positive
emotions was very good in Dataset 1 (a .84), and respectable in
Dataset 2 (a .78). The reliability of the 4 items assessing negative
emotions was very good in Dataset 1 (a .85) and acceptable in
Dataset 2 (a .67). Interestingly, the reliability of negative emotions in Dataset 1 was much higher than Dataset 2, which suggested that the reliability of perceived negative emotions of the
math teacher was higher than the English teacher.
In addition, Principal Component Analysis was conducted to test
construct validity and extracted two components for the 8 items
assessing positive and negative emotions. Although the loadings of
the items on the two components differed considerably in both
datasets, Tables 3 and 4 indicate that happy, inspired, tender,
and affectionate had high loadings on Component 1, and these
items measured positive emotions; whereas angry, annoyed,
nervous, and distracted had high loadings on Component 2, and
these items measured negative emotions.
3.4.2. Interview data
All of the interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. The
present research was conducted based on Gross (1998a)'s process
model of emotion regulation, which included situation selection,
situation modication, attention deployment, cognitive change and
response modulation. Therefore, the deductive template approach
(Crabtree & Miller, 1999) was employed to frame data analysis, in
which the coding categories were developed a priori on the basis of
the research questions and the theoretical constructs. Several rereadings of the transcripts were undertaken, and the relevant
texts were selected and highlighted. The ve coding categories
were then applied to the relevant texts to be categorized into

Table 3
Rotated component matrix of dataset 1 (N 53).
Component
1
Tender
Affectionate
Happy
Inspired
Distracted
Nervous
Annoyed
Angry

2
.871
.781
.705
.696

.479
.551

.332
.518
.846
.835
.719
.661

Table 4
Rotated component matrix of dataset 2 (N 53).
Component
1
Inspired
Affectionate
Tender
Happy
Angry
Distracted
Annoyed
Nervous

.814
.795
.786
.556

2
.365
.501
.753
.722
.684
.569

meaningful segments. Finally, the verbatim quotes were selected as


illustrations.
In order to enhance trustworthiness of this study, two researchers coded each transcript independently. A coding was
considered to be in agreement only if both coders assigned the code
to the same text unit. All discrepancies were resolved through
discussion. Intercoder reliability was calculated by dividing the
number of coding agreements by the number of agreements and
disagreements combined (Miles & Huberman, 1984, p. 63). The
negotiated agreement approach helped to raise intercoder reliability from initially 50% to nally 80%. Although there is no
consensus on reliability standards of qualitative data, agreement of
80% or greater is considered acceptable in most situations
(Lombard, Snyder-Duch, & Bracken, 2002). Finally, all remaining
disagreements were resolved through discussion.
4. Findings
4.1. Students' perceptions of teachers' emotions
Because in the questionnaires the students evaluated how often
the teachers displayed particular emotions, Table 5 below indicates
how often the teachers' emotions were perceived to be displayed
during teaching. The math teacher was the only one who was
perceived by the 7th graders to often display negative emotions
including anger and annoyance, and to rarely show positive emotions. In contrast, these 7th graders perceived their English teacher
to sometimes display positive emotions including happiness,
inspiration and tenderness, and rarely negative emotions. The 8th
graders perceived their history teacher to often show happiness,
and sometimes inspiration, tenderness and affection, and rarely or
never negative emotions. Similarly, the 9th graders perceived their
biology teacher to often express happiness, and sometimes inspiration, affection and tenderness, and rarely or never negative
emotions.
Since how emotion is viewed and experienced is highly inuenced by culture (Mesquita & Ellsworth, 2001) and gender
(Blackmore, 1999), and this study was conducted in a culturally
diverse international school, the extent to which students' cultural
background and gender impacted their responses was examined.
Cultural background was investigated by dividing the students into
a Finnish group and an international group in each grade.
Independent-samples t-tests showed no signicant difference between the group means of the teachers' perceived emotions.
However, concluding that cultural background is unrelated to students' perceptions of their teachers' emotions cannot be made, rst
because of the small sample, but mainly because the international
group was quite diverse compared to the Finnish group. Therefore,
it can only be concluded that in the present study, the Finnish and
the international groups did not differ from each other in their
perceptions of their teachers' emotional display. In addition, there

J. Jiang et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 54 (2016) 22e31

27

Table 5
Students' perceptions of teachers' emotions.
Teacher
Math of Grade 7
English of Grade 7
History of Grade 8
Biology of Grade 9

M
SD
M
SD
M
SD
M
SD

Happy

Inspired

Tender

Affectionate

Angry

Annoyed

Nervous

Distracted

2.81
1.05
3.56
.73
4.37
.96
4.39
.61

2.75
1.18
3.38
.89
3.84
1.07
3.61
.61

2.69
1.08
3.13
.96
3.47
1.39
3.44
1.15

1.94
1.00
2.31
1.01
3.11
1.49
3.50
1.10

4.00
.97
2.19
.83
1.74
.87
1.44
.51

4.19
.91
2.56
.89
1.89
.94
1.67
.84

2.31
.95
1.63
.62
1.42
.51
1.33
.49

2.69
1.40
2.06
1.06
1.63
.83
1.44
.71

Note. According to the 5-point Likert-scale in the questionnaire, 1 never, 2 rarely, 3 sometimes, 4 often, and 5 very often.

was no signicant gender difference in the perceptions of the


teachers' emotions, except that the girls (M 4.00, SD 1.23) in
Grade 9 perceived the female biology teacher to have a higher
frequency of display of tenderness than the boys (M 2.89,
SD .78); t(16) 2.29, p < .05.
4.2. Teachers' emotion regulation strategies
The teachers' emotion regulation strategies were analyzed on
the basis of the teachers' semi-structured interviews. Consistent
with Gross's model, ve categories of the teachers' emotion regulation strategies were generated namely situation selection, situation modication, attention deployment, cognitive change and
suppression (see Table 6).
4.2.1. Situation selection
Situation selection refers to approaching or avoiding certain
people or situations to modify their emotional impact (Gross,
1998a, 1998b). As presented in Table 6, only the biology teacher
reported using situation selection. She revealed that when she was
really angry, she avoided talking to her students and stepped out of
the classroom for a while, because she was afraid that she could say
something bad she would regret later. She explained that she
preferred avoiding situations when an outburst of temper tended
to occur easily, and would return to deal with the situation after she
had calmed down.
There were two times when I'd been so angry that I left the
classroom for a while to the corridor and tried to calm down and
then went back, and explained why I was really angry. They
were really quiet, whispered. What happened? Where did she
go? She's coming back. When I went back, some students had
trouble looking straight at me. They were looking down I am
afraid that I'm going to say something so bad that I'll regret
later.
Interestingly, consistent with Gong et al. (2013)'s ndings, only

one teacher reported employing situation selection by walking to


another group in class to regulate negative emotions.

4.2.2. Situation modication


Situation modication which involves directly changing a situation to regulate emotions (Gross, 1998a, 1998b) was employed by
three out of four teachers. In order to modify a situation and
regulate negative emotions, the biology teacher talked with students with misbehaviors; the history teacher talked with disruptive
students outside the classroom during the lesson; both of them
informed students of their own emotional states; the math teacher
conducted an exercise break and talking freely.
The biology teacher reported that she tried to talk with students
not only to inuence students' behaviors but also to reduce her
negative emotions:
What I always try to do is to sit down and talk, and I try to
understand why they do or behave the way they do. Because I
think that's the key, not just (to ask them) sort of do this and
do that, but really understand why the person is behaving like it.
I have discussions with that particular student many times and I
think that helps, because I don't want to build any negative
feelings towards any students, because that might happen if you
don't sort of talk through it, so that's my strategies of getting
over these negative feelings.
The history teacher reported that she likes to talk with students
with disciplinary problems outside the classroom for a moment to
regulate her annoyance:
If sometimes I am very annoyed with one student or two, and
usually I would ask them to step outside with me even during
the lesson, so can have the talk with them very quietly outside,
and then it feels like they get my point much better than if I
would say in front of the class that, You stop or you have to
So it's better that I can move them outside and talk to them
privately for a minute, usually just one minute is enough. They

Table 6
Teachers' emotion regulation strategies.
Emotion regulation strategies

Examples of these strategies

Teachers who employed these strategies

Situation selection
Situation modication

Avoiding talking to the students when being angry


Exercise break and talking freely
Talking with the disruptive students outside the classroom during the lesson
Talking with the students with misbehaviors
Informing the students of her own emotional states
Focusing on the students' maturity and interest in studies
Focusing on the students' increasing competence and learning gains
Reappraisal
Self-talk
Empathy
Hiding negative emotions

Biology
Math
History
Biology
History & Biology
History
Biology
English & History
English
English
Math

Attention deployment
Cognitive change

Suppression

28

J. Jiang et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 54 (2016) 22e31

understand I am serious if I take them outside and tell them


okay, and then we can come back to class and we can move on
from there. Usually that really works the best.
Similar strategies were employed by the teachers who gave
warning cards to students to stop their misbehaviors interrupting
the class, so the teachers' negative emotions were less likely to be
triggered (Sutton, 2004).
Both the biology and history teachers reported that they shared
with students when they had a bad day to inform students of
their own emotional states and relieve their negative feelings. The
biology teacher reported:
If I am tired, if I have some bad days, I will always say to the
students that now I am having a bad day, it's not because of you,
this happened to me and then so they could understand.
Because if I don't say that, they have the feeling that they are
causing the emotions, and usually they are not.
The history teacher expressed the same idea that she didn't
want students to attribute her negative emotions to their fault. She
reported:
But if I am in general feeling displeased or annoyed, or you
know, negative feeling, just talking, telling them that I really feel
frustrated because of this Sometimes you go to the lesson and
you are in a bad mood because of something that's not related to
them in any way, so it's fair to tell them that I am having a really
bad day, and it's not because of you, but I am really angry today,
but I am not angry with you.
This is consistent with Sutton (2004), who reported teachers
employing similar strategies to modify situations and regulate their
negative emotions by telling students that they were not feeling
well psychologically or physically.
The math teacher described modifying situations using discipline management techniques such as an exercise break and
talking freely, to modulate students' misbehaviors and regulate
his own negative emotions:
I have to do something about the whole situation. If the children are not focusing, I just have to take a break, have an exercise break for a couple of minutes or stuff like that, and then
we'll continue, and usually that helps. Just doing stretches and
stuff like that, like everyone in the classroom stops doing the
math for a couple of minutes and (starts to) do the exercises,
stuff like that usually works, or if it seems like talking to each
other all the time, (when) they are not paying attention We
take a break for a couple of minutes for just talking, just say, Talk
now, now you can talk freely. And then we'll continue with the
subject If I can x the thing that makes me upset, usually (the
negative feeling) just goes away.
Similar discipline management techniques were reported by the
teachers who asked their students to do something quiet at the
desks in the studies of Sutton (2004) and Gong et al. (2013).
4.2.3. Attention deployment
Attention deployment refers to focusing attention on or moving
attention away from a situation to change the impact of the situation on individuals' emotions (Gross, 1998a, 1998b). Both the
biology teacher and the history teacher reported up-regulating
positive emotions by focusing on positive aspects of students. The
biology teacher described focusing on the students' increasing

competence and learning gains, which was an essential source of


inspiration for her.
Because they're 9th graders and they have the ability to discuss
even quite complex issues, and they have the ability to connect different things together, and they are able to share also
with each other, and those inspire me. I like discussions a lot.
That's why I feel inspired a lot with them.
The history teacher also focused on the students' maturity and
interest in studies, which increased her affection for them:
So for example last year, I didn't feel very affectionate or tender
towards them, but this year I've been feeling more cos they're a
bit older and a bit more mature, and you can see that they are
more into the topics that we talk about. They are more interested, so perhaps in that way they also inspire me cos you can
see that there's interest and they ask questions and we can have
discussions about things.
Similarly, Cross and Hong (2012) found that two teachers who
worked in a school with low resources maintained their positive
emotions such as joy and contentment by refocusing their thoughts
on the aspects of their environment that they could improve for
better outcomes.

4.2.4. Cognitive change


Cognitive change refers to modifying one's evaluations of a situation or one's ability to manipulate a situation in order to alter its
emotional impact (Gross, 1998a, 1998b). Both the history teacher
and the English teacher used reappraisal to reduce negative emotions. The English teacher employed self-talk, and empathy, in
addition to reappraisal.
The history teacher indicated that she tried to reshape how she
thought of a challenging student, by evaluating him or her from a
different point of view and regarding him or her as a nice kid who
just doesn't like to be in my class. In this way, she regulated her
negative emotions triggered by his or her misbehavior and demotivation in class:
Sometimes if you have a challenging student, you start to think
of them always being very difcult and kind of create this
negative thought about that person and it's difcult to
remember that actually he's just a kid and probably a nice kid
who just doesn't like to be in my class. So if you can kind of see
them from a different point of view, then it helps you to kind of
keep positive I try to make sure I don't develop really kind of
negative thought about any student no matter how difcult they
are but it's not really easy. I try Well, this person has a very
nice side.
The English teacher also employed reappraisal by adopting a
big picture perspective of the students' education rather than
despairing of their underachievement.
So I am very patient you see, I don't panic, so I know that if the
student does not do so well, I know that it's a long term process.
This is only grade 7 and there's going to be grade 8, 9, 11, 12. I
know by the end of grade 12 mostly students would be very
bilingual, they will be able to read a novel and understand and
write a poem and analyze I can see the big picture.
Reappraisal of a situation to regulate negative emotions was also
reported by some teachers in the study of Hagenauer and Volet

J. Jiang et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 54 (2016) 22e31

(2014a).
In addition to reappraisal, the English teacher employed the
strategy of self-talk to regulate his fatigue and anxiety. He reported
that he listened to and accepted his own negative emotions by
dealing with them internally, which involved cognitive processes.
Interestingly, self-talk was also reported by the teachers in Sutton's
(2004) research, as one of the emotion regulation strategies identied as cognitive change. The English teacher in this study
reported:
If I am really tired, I can see myself saying, I feel tired today.
Come on. There's 20 minutes left seem to be anxious and
settle down . I am willing to basically, you know, express my
emotions, but I think it's important to see present in myself. I
feel tired, I accept that feeling and I can process it quite quickly.
The English teacher also displayed great empathy towards
challenging students, as he tried to understand them from his own
experiences of school, which helped to regulate his negative
emotions:
I remember what it was like when I was at school. My schooling
wasn't really happy years, the teaching wasn't very good. I know
what it was like to be in a school, to be in a classroom, (when)
you had very bad teaching. So I understand that So I use that
kind of background of myself to understand a very typical student. I wasn't a moral kid myself I was a little bit restless I
think I understand it's very important not to be critical to realize
I was once 12 years old and their teaching didn't make
school So I have to help them not experience my experience.
It is signicant to note that empathy refers to the capacity one
has to understand and respond to the affective experience of
others, and involves a perspective-taking component (Batson, Fultz,
& Schoenrade, 1987; Decety & Jackson, 2004). Moreover, empathy
is mediated by cognitive appraisal (Lamm, Batson, & Decety, 2007),
which indicates the relation between empathy and cognitive processes. The English teacher in this study placed himself in the
students' positions and felt what they felt. This strategy was also
used by the teachers who drew on their own familial experiences to
understand a student's harsh life circumstances and her theft
behavior, rather than just being angry with her (Cross & Hong,
2012).

4.2.5. Suppression
Suppression is dened as the inhibition of ongoing emotionexpressive behavior, and is categorized as response-focused
emotion regulation (Gross, 1998b). Surprisingly, in this study suppression was mentioned only by the math teacher to regulate his
anger.
(Q. Do you show your anger to your students?) No, no, because
they can see it, it just gets them more excited. (Q. How can you
not show it if you are angry?) I guess it takes a bit of practice, so
you practice it a bit so that it doesn't show. (Q. Does not showing
mean hiding?) Yeah. Because you cannot show the students that
you are angry about something they've done, because you lose
your authority if you lose your temper. Of course, not all emotions are bad for showing but the negative emotions are the
things that I am trying to hide.
This teacher explained that he suppressed his anger to maintain
authority in front of students. In contrast, in the study of Hosotani
and Imai-Matsumura (2011), the teachers reported suppressing not

29

only negative emotions such as anger and sadness in order to retain


their students' attention, but also suppressing positive emotions
such as genuine joy in order to encourage students to develop their
abilities further. Other studies (e.g. Gong et al., 2013; Hagenauer &
Volet, 2014a) have also found evidence of teachers using suppression to conceal negative emotions.

4.3. Relation between students' perceptions of teachers' emotions


and teachers' emotion regulation strategies
The elaboration below aims to answer our third research
question: How do students' perceptions of teachers' emotions
relate to their teachers' self-reports of emotion regulation strategies? The ndings revealed patterns of association between
teachers' positive and negative emotions as perceived by their
students, and teachers' accounts of their emotion regulation strategies. However, due to the small teacher sample and the exploratory nature of the present study, no generalization can be made
beyond the scope of this study.
Findings from the students' surveys showed that the English
teacher was perceived by the 7th graders to sometimes display
positive emotions including happiness, inspiration and tenderness,
and rarely show negative emotions. The history teacher was
perceived by the 8th graders to often display happiness, and
sometimes inspiration, tenderness and affection, and rarely or
never negative emotions. Similarly, the biology teacher was
perceived by the 9th graders to often express happiness, and
sometimes inspiration, affection and tenderness, and rarely or
never negative emotions. Furthermore, ndings from the teachers'
interviews revealed that these three teachers tended to employ
antecedent-focused emotion regulation, which occurs before
emotional response tendencies are triggered to manipulate the
input to the emotion generation system (Gross, 1998a, 1998b).
On the other hand, ndings from the students' surveys indicated
that the math teacher was the only one who was perceived to
frequently display negative emotions including anger and annoyance, and rarely express positive emotions. Additionally, in the interviews he was also the only teacher who reported using
suppression, a form of response-focused emotion regulation, which
occurs after an emotion is triggered to manipulate the output to the
emotion generation system (Gross, 1998b).
The math teacher and the English teacher reected on their
emotion regulation strategies while teaching the same class of
students, and their emotional expressions were evaluated by the
same class of students, which provided an opportunity for comparison. The analysis revealed that the English teacher, who used
reappraisal, a form of cognitive change and an antecedent-focused
strategy (Gross, 1998b; Gross & John, 2003), was perceived to
display positive emotions much more frequently and negative
emotions considerably less often than the math teacher who
employed suppression. In this study, it appears that suppression
did not successfully hide the math teacher's negative emotions and
his efforts at suppression left him with more negative emotion
expression rather than less. Possible reasons why these two
teachers reported such different emotion regulation strategies and
why their emotional expressions were perceived so differently by
the same class of students, are discussed in the next section.
The integration of the quantitative and the qualitative data
suggests that antecedent-focused emotion regulation may be more
desirable than response-focused emotion regulation during
teaching. In particular, reappraisal was shown to be more effective
than suppression in increasing the expression of positive emotions
and reducing the expression of negative emotions.

30

J. Jiang et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 54 (2016) 22e31

5. Discussion
The present study explored students' perceptions of teachers'
emotions and teachers' emotion regulation strategies during
teaching, and simultaneously examined teachers' emotion regulation strategies in light of students' perceptions. The teachers in this
research talked about their experiences of negative emotions and
the strategies of down-regulating negative emotions more than
their experiences of positive emotions and the strategies of upregulating positive emotions. Only two teachers mentioned upregulating their positive emotions in the strategy of attention
deployment. This nding is consistent with Gong et al.s (2013)
study, which revealed that more teachers down-regulated negative emotions than up-regulating positive emotions. It is not surprising that Sutton et al. (2009) indicated up-regulating positive
emotions had received less attention in research. In this regard, our
research has contributed to more evidence that up-regulation is in
need of attention among teachers and researchers.
In addition, this study indicated that reappraisal was more
effective than suppression in increasing the positive-emotion
expression and reducing the negative-emotion expression. Interestingly, Gross (1998b)'s experiment regarding reappraisal and
suppression showed different ndings. In Gross's experiment, undergraduate participants were assigned to either a reappraisal or a
suppression condition, when watching a negative emotion-eliciting
lm. In this experiment, Gross found that both reappraisal and
suppression reduced negative emotion-expressive behavior. In order to address the short-term consequences in a particular
emotional context, by using questionnaires, Gross and John (2003)
related individual differences in the use of emotion regulation
strategies to peer-reports of individuals' emotion expression in
everyday life among a group of undergraduates. They found that
reappraisal increased positive-emotion expression and reduced
negative-emotion expression, whereas suppression reduced
positive-emotion expression but had no relation to negativeemotion expression. Nevertheless, neither the lm experiment
nor the questionnaire study reported any indication that suppression increased negative-emotion expression. However, our present
study provided evidence that suppression not only reduced
positive-emotion expression but also increased negative-emotion
expression in the everyday school context.
Given that ndings from this study suggest that suppression can
be ineffective in decreasing teachers' expression of negative emotions and is very likely to reduce their expression of positive
emotions, teachers should be encouraged to refrain from employing suppression as their emotion regulation strategy. As Gross
(1998b) suggested, one of the important functions of emotion is
to convey individuals' wishes and needs to others, but suppression
shuts down this function, and may result in negative interactions
with others emotionally. Therefore, suppression may hinder the
development of positive teacher-student interactions. Furthermore, if teachers frequently experience negative emotions such as
anger, frustration and anxiety, the employment of suppression will
only lead to the accumulation of the negative feelings in a vicious
circle. In critical situations, teachers may suffer from severe physical issues and experience high levels of burnout (Carson &
Templin, 2007), which could also trigger negative teacherestudent relationships. It may be speculated that the use of suppression as a strategy by the math teacher in this study contributed
to less positive relationships with students, which in return
increased his experiences and expression of negative emotions in
the classroom in a cyclical process. The evidence suggests that
suppression as a strategy should be discouraged and those strategies found to be effective such as reappraisal should be developed.
Finally, the present study suggests important directions for

future research, for example the extent to which teacher emotion


regulation is associated with teacher beliefs. It is important to note
that the English teacher in this study, who had a strong belief about
empathy, regulated his emotions more effectively than the math
teacher, who taught the same class of students and had a belief
about teacher authority. These different teacher beliefs were
revealed when they were talking about their emotion regulation
strategies in the interviews. The English teacher showed great
empathy towards challenging students and tried to understand
them from his own experiences of school, which he reported
helping to regulate his negative emotions, whereas the math
teacher believed in the importance of maintaining teacher authority, which he believed he could achieve by suppressing his
negative emotions. This nding suggests that both teachers' emotions were intertwined with their cognitions (in terms of their
understandings of teaching or teacher beliefs), which is consistent
with Hargreaves' (2001) conception of the integration of emotion
and cognition. The above conclusion is also consistent with Cross
and Hong (2012)'s as well as Day and Qing (2009)'s empirical
research, which showed that teacher empathy leads to resilience in
the face of difcult situations and contributes to teachers' positive
emotions. It has also been argued by McAllister and Irvine (2002)
that teacher empathy promotes a positive teacherestudent relationship. It is, therefore, likely that the English teacher who had a
belief about empathy developed positive relationships with his
students, which increased his experiences and expression of positive emotions in the classroom in a positive cyclic process. This
study suggests that exploring teacher beliefs would be a valuable
inclusion in future research on teacher emotion regulation.
6. Conclusion
The results of the present study suggest that antecedentfocused emotion regulation might be more desirable than
response-focused emotion regulation. In particular, reappraisal
appears more effective than suppression in increasing the expression of positive emotions and reducing the expression of negative
emotions. Additionally, this study suggests that suppression as a
strategy should be discouraged given that it may decrease positiveemotion expression and increase negative-emotion expression, and
may hinder the development of positive teacherestudent relationships in a cyclic process. Finally, the present study indicates
that teacher beliefs play an important role in teachers' interpretation of challenges and their employment of emotion regulation
strategies. However, this exploratory and case-oriented study does
not aim to draw rm conclusions from the small sample, nor make
generalizations beyond the scope of this study. Rather, the ndings
from the four cases provide some indicators and tentative directions for future research.
The implications of these ndings for teacher education are
two-fold. First, teacher education programs should promote effective emotion regulation strategies such as reappraisal, and provide
pre-service, novice and experienced teachers with various insights
into the way of interpreting challenges meaningfully and dealing
with them more adaptively. Second, promoting empathy beliefs in
teacher education would be valuable since embracing such beliefs
appear to help interpreting challenging situations and modulating
emotional experiences, and fostering close and supportive relationships with students.
Finally, this study provides support for the value of collecting
quantitative data from students to explore teachers' display of
emotions and connect it with teachers' own accounts of emotion
regulation strategies. This yields implications for future studies to
learn about teachers' perspectives and simultaneously hear students' voice over such issues via interviews.

J. Jiang et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 54 (2016) 22e31

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