Quick Tips for Teachers
This page offers suggestions for ways that teachers can help students to self-regulate their emotions and will be based on empirical evidence in the most recent research.
Make student self-reflection, and goal-setting a regular part of your curriculum.
A recent study by Diane de Saint Leger (2009), found that students who participated in regular cycles of self assessment appreciated and valued the process. An end of course questionnaire completed anonymously by students revealed that 70% of the students felt that it was a helpful exercise and felt that self-assessment should be kept in the program. In addition, the process promoted learner agency by encouraging students to recognize that they control many of the factors that determine their successes and failures. Teachers also benefited from the information the students shared with them in their journals and gained an awareness of the difficulties students were facing.
de Saint Leger, D. ( 2009). Self-assessment of speaking skills, and participation in a foreign language class. Foreign Language Annals, 42 (1), 158-178.
Allow plenty of class time for you and your students to get to know each other
Invest time in team building and getting-to know-you activities. This is especially important in a language classroom where collaboration is required and students need to feel comfortable. Researchers Bown and White (2010) found that the learning environment and the social relationships within that environment affected language learners’ emotions.
Bown, J., & White, C. (2010). A cognitive and social approach to affect in SLA. IRAL, 48, 331-353.
Let your students know it is okay to make mistakes
Crazy as it might sound, making mistakes is okay and in fact necessary for language learning. This may not be easy for some students to get used to. Be aware that students are from many cultures where classroom rules and expectations may be very different. Students from some countries may view making a mistake as ‘losing face’ in front of the teacher and classmates. Help to create a supportive environment where students feel it is safe to expose the gaps in their linguistic knowledge. Language learning takes place when gaps are exposed in the students’ speech so that students ‘notice’ them. Swain believes that the ‘noticing’ that happens in output allows for deeper syntactic processing than occurs when listening and reading. This can lead learners to modify their speech and consequently their ability to use, and their knowledge of the language.
Swain, M., and Lapkin, S. (1995). Problems in output and the cognitive processes they generate: A step towards second language learning. Applied Linguistics, 16 ( 3), 372-391.
Don’t take students’ emotions personally
Emotions are changeable by nature. Remember that academic emotions are a natural part of the learning process and that although you are there to help, ultimately students have to take responsibility for regulating their own emotions.
Pekrun, R. (2006). The control-value theory of achievement emotions: Assumptions, corollaries, and implications for educational research and practice. Educational Psychology Review, 18, 315-341.
Encourage students to set goals relating to mastery of the language, not grades or performance
Although the reality is that school and university programs are grades and test oriented, as much as possible, students should be encouraged to set goals focusing on mastery of the language – not goals focusing on achieving a grade. Daniels et al (2009) found that mastery goals were positively related to enjoyment of learning and negatively related to boredom and anxiety. Performance goals, on the other hand, were positively related to anxiety.
Daniels, L. M., Stupnisky, R. H., Pekrun, R., Hynes, T.L., Perry, R. P., & Newall, N. E. (2009). A longitudinal analysis of achievement goals: From affective antecedents to emotional effects and achievement outcomes Journal of Educational Psychology, 4, 948-963.