cannot end well, especially in a collaborative context. Being emotional does not mean being impulsive, or pouring out our feelings on others without any filtering. But if we are suppressing our emotions in the collaborative context, it means that something is wrong, and if it’s not fixed, it will soon take its toll on the collaboration.

I don’t believe that a distinction between feeling (emotions/motivation) and thinking (cognition) is useful in teaching and learning situations. We experience the world in its entirety and, unless we need to design an experiment that specifically targets one aspect of this experience, we can assume that feeling and thinking are both crucial for the teaching/learning processes.

If we want to pass on our knowledge or skill, we must remember that the addressee is a feeling and thinking being. I believe that too often we tend to forget about the “feeling” side, and treat others as mere recipients of information. It starts in school – we sit there and listen, and even if we are bored to death and don’t process whatever the teacher is saying, we all learn one thing: if we are bored, we are at fault. We are there to acquire knowledge and social skills, and expressing our emotions is desired only during breaks and physical education classes.

To be honest, I am no different – when I teach, I want you to sit there and listen, and some months ago I thought that this is what you, as a student, are there for. But two years ago in March I tried to teach an orangutan in the same way. And needless to say, I failed miserably. I got showered with cold water coming (thankfully) from his mouth on the first day, and this is when my attitude started to change.

Since then, in a long yet very rewarding teaching process, I managed to teach an orangutan, five chimpanzees, and twelve parrots how to solve various physical problems that required mine and their collaboration. At the beginning, all we had was their curiosity and my ineptitude; the tasks were motorically challenging, so for some animals it took days or even months to master the necessary motor actions and solve the tasks on their own. It would be impossible if I stuck to my horrible teaching attitude of being listened and followed, instead of adapting to the needs of the student.

Each student was different, handled tools in a different way, had a different attention span; some allowed me to guide their movements when holding the tool, and some would snap if I tried to help in this way. To cut the long story short – each required an individual approach and managing his/her emotions. I trusted these students that they were doing their best, and they did; whenever they got tired or frustrated, they would get a reward and end learning for the day. According to some learning theories, they should have learnt that if they pretended to be helpless, I would do it for them and they would get the reward. But they didn’t. My trust paid off.

I believe that such trust is very important in the teaching/learning process. I imagine that some would say that the teacher needs to build authority and that trusting the students will only weaken such authority. And that when we leave the students too much freedom, they start loafing around and lose motivation. But I don’t believe that. I think that if someone doesn’t want to learn, s/he will not learn regardless of the pressure. It’s as simple as that; you can’t force passion and interest on anyone. And even if you could, you would perhaps turn into a different person in the process.

Accepting that the teacher must take the student’s emotions into account must lead to some practical solutions. The individual approach can be realised through tailored feedback, as Prof. David Boud advises in his video from 2013 (link below). The trust is something that we should bring into the teacher – student relationship, and then build it with the student because both parties should share responsibility for the teaching/learning process. To track the emotions and motivation of our students, we can use so-called S-REG application, defined as “a responsive group awareness tool designed to run on smartphones, tablets and desktops” in Hanna Järvenoja and colleagues’ paper from 2017.

  1. Boud, D. (2013). Professor David Boud: Have we been getting feedback wrong?
  2. Järvenoja, H., Järvelä, S., & Malberg J. (2017). Supporting groups’ emotion and motivation regulation during collaborative learning. Learning and Instruction,
Suppressing your emotions…