The Emotional World of the Learner EDGX901 - Psychology for Educators - Nicholas Oliver (4889666)

bond, maternal bond

Attached at the cheek

Psychologist John Bowlby observed that infants tend to form a bond with their primary caregiver, and that those who receive sympathetic responses form secure attachments, while those whose needs are not met form insecure attachments (Bowlby, 1980).

Throughout childhood and adolescence, students who have secure attachments are more likely to be empathetic, independent and socially competent, whereas students who have insecure attachments are more likely to have difficulty adjusting to new environments, find it hard to make friends and receive poor academic results (Urban, Carson, Egeland and Sroufe, 1991).

"Secure attachment is like a multivitamin: It increases the chances of, but does not guarantee, good health." (McDevitt & Ormrod 2004, pp. 371-372)

When teaching a classroom full of children, it is important to consider that not every student has come from a stable background and many have not had the advantage of a secure attachment with a primary caregiver in infancy.

are you ok?

Empathy arrows

From around the age of four, children begin to be able to imagine what others are thinking and feeling (Eisenberg, 1992). According the the 'theory of mind', (Barnes, 1995), empathy develops slowly as children learn to see things from the perspective of others.

Children naturally acquire this ability to see things from others' perspective; however, if they have not formed a secure attachment with their own primary caregiver, it is possible that the child's empathetic development will be adversely affected. This supports the notion that children with more secure attachments tend to be more empathetic, as they are better at regulating their own emotions (Panfile & Laible, 2012).

However, it is important that children learn about empathy from a young age, and the best way to ensure this is for them to have formed a secure attachment to their primary caregiver. Even at the age of twelve to eighteen months, children with secure attachments are more likely to exhibit empathy and positive social skills towards others (Kestenbaum, Farber, & Sroufe, 1989).

This is an important consideration when teaching children of all ages. Early childhood educators should be aware of the stages of development and variability in children's ability to empathise with others, and should attempt to foster these skills whenever possible. Older children and adolescents can still learn about empathy, even if they have not acquired these skills readily at a younger age.

born that way

What, me worry?

Every child comes with a genetic predisposition to tend towards certain attitudes and behaviours. This is known as their temperament (Vialle, Lysaght, & Verenikina, 2005).

An accurate depiction of parenting a toddler

Children who exhibit certain tendencies such as fear or anxiety in infancy tend to carry those tendencies into adulthood (Rothbart & Bates, 1998); however, social and environmental factors can change these predispositions over time (Kagan, 1998).

Wolf Blitzer

As educators, it is worth keeping this in mind when dealing with children who exhibit unusual temperaments, such as being excessively erratic, fearful or shy. It is worth considering that with consistent, safe exposure and reactions to new situations, student scan overcome their hitherto "pre-set" temperament and learn healthier ways to respond to everyday situations.

testing personality

Personality is a broader idea that temperament, and encompasses such attributes as temperament, intelligence, attitudes and ways of behaving (Vialle, Lysaght, & Verenikina, 2005). There are five dimensions of personality that are considered relevant for educators:

The "Big Five" Personality Traits

Studies have suggested that those who score highly on conscientiousness and agreeableness tend to achieve better academic outcomes.

It can be useful to discuss personality traits with students, as many will revel in the opportunity to reflect on themselves. In addition, it provides a non-judgmental way to talk about other ways of thinking and being that may not have occurred to them before.

The video below gives an excellent, simple and clear introduction to the history of personality types.

i am...

During their second year of life, infants begin to recognise their own reflection in a mirror (Lewis & Brooks‐Gunn, 1979). This is the beginning of their relationship with their own sense of themselves.

As children develop, so too does their ability to use language and analyse how they see themselves. At the age of six, students are able to distinguish themselves in terms of simple concrete characteristics, whereas at the age of eight, they have a more complicated view of themselves and are able to identify their own strengths and weaknesses (Vialle, Lysaght, & Verenikina, 2005).

As children move into adolescence, they have usually formed definite ideas about themselves in a number of areas. How they value these areas, and the way they perceive their own place within them, will contribute to their sense of self worth. Again, studies suggest that children and adolescents with secure attachments will both have better relationships with their peers and perform better academically (Deković & Meeus, 1997; Marsh & Seaton, 2013).

calm your farm

Kevin Hart and Krang

In popular culture, Emotional Intelligence is a term that broadly focuses on an individual's ability to recognise and manage one's own emotions and the hitherto under-appreciated benefits that come with it (Goleman, 2006).

Goleman believes that emotional intelligence is more important than the traditional concept of intelligence, and that these skills can be taught to children.

Below is a list of characteristics of an emotionally intelligent person, as listed in Vialle et al. (2005).

And they get more marshmallows, too

Schools nowadays pay great attention to students' emotional intelligence and try various methods to explicitly teach these skills to students. Could you convince your students to wait for that delicious marshmallow? Would you wait for it yourself or gobble it up?

i think i can, i think i can

One of the most important qualities a student can cultivate is that of resilience, which can be defined as "the ability to overcome adversity or stress and attain emotional health and social competence" (Anthony & Cohler, 1987).

During adolescence, students are particularly vulnerable to succumbing to pessimistic ways of thinking Vialle et al. (2005). Aside from parents, schools are the best places to promote resilience in a safe and controlled environment. In some cases, a well-designed systematic program can be useful in teaching the basic skills of resilience to at-risk adolescents.

Adventure education is another often-cited way to promote resilience in a controlled environment. Students, often adolescents or young adults, are placed in challenging, but controlled environments and are encouraged to find ways to persevere. They then reflect on their changes in psychology and report benefits in resilience (Neill & Dias, 2001).

"There is substantial evidence from well controlled studies that skills that increase resilience, positive emotion, engagement and meaning can be taught to schoolchildren." - (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009)

Programs such as the Geelong Grammar's Timbertop Programme, where students spend the whole of Year 9 living simply in cabins in the wilderness and learning about resilience, mindfulness and gratitude, has a focus on positive education and has been lauded as a great success worldwide (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009).

but what can we do?

As you have seen, so much of the education world of the learner comes back to what kind of attachment the child has with his or her primary caregiver. As an educator, there is nothing you can do about that particular relationship! However, Vialle et. al (2005) have provided a useful list of recommendations for teachers looking to adopt a sensitive and positive approach to students' emotions. They are as follows:

  • Provide opportunities for students to experience success on academic, social and physical tasks.
  • Focus students' attention on their own improvement rather than on competition.
  • Give constructive and encouraging feedback.
  • Communicate genuine interest in students' welfare.
  • Become aware of your own biases and remember the power of teacher expectations.
  • Create a classroom climate that is physically and psychologically safe.
  • Model emotionally intelligent behaviour.
  • Teach emotional vocabulary.
  • Increase students emotional awareness through targeted approaches.


Anthony, E. J., & Cohler, B. J. (1987). The invulnerable child: Guilford Press.

Barnes, P. (1995). Personal, social and emotional development of children: Wiley-Blackwell.

Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and loss (Vol. 3): Basic books.

Deković, M., & Meeus, W. (1997). Peer relations in adolescence: Effects of parenting and adolescents' self-concept. Journal of adolescence, 20(2), 163-176.

Eisenberg, N. (1992). The caring child (Vol. 28): Harvard University Press.

Goleman, D. (2006). Emotional intelligence: Bantam.

Kagan, J. (1998). Biology and the child.

Kestenbaum, R., Farber, E. A., & Sroufe, L. A. (1989). Individual differences in empathy among preschoolers: Relation to attachment history. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 1989(44), 51-64.

Komarraju, M., Karau, S. J., Schmeck, R. R., & Avdic, A. (2011). The Big Five personality traits, learning styles, and academic achievement. Personality and individual differences, 51(4), 472-477.

Lewis, M., & Brooks‐Gunn, J. (1979). Toward a theory of social cognition: The development of self. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 1979(4), 1-20.

Marsh, H. W., & Seaton, M. (2013). Academic self-concept. International guide to student achievement, 62-63.

McDevitt, T., & Ormrod, J. (2004). Child development: educating and working with children and adolescents. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Person: Prentice Hall.

Neill, J. T., & Dias, K. L. (2001). Adventure education and resilience: The double-edged sword. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 1(2), 35-42.

Panfile, T. M., & Laible, D. J. (2012). Attachment security and child's empathy: The mediating role of emotion regulation. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 58(1), 1-21.

Roberts, B. W., & DelVecchio, W. F. (2000). The rank-order consistency of personality traits from childhood to old age: a quantitative review of longitudinal studies. Psychological bulletin, 126(1), 3.

Rothbart, M. K., & Bates, J. E. (1998). Temperament. Handbook of child psychology.

Seligman, M. E., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive education: Positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford review of education, 35(3), 293-311.

Urban, J., Carlson, E., Egeland, B., & Sroufe, L. A. (1991). Patterns of individual adaptation across childhood. Development and Psychopathology, 3(04), 445-460.

Vialle, W., Lysaght, P., & Verenikina, I. (2005). Psychology for Educators: Thomson Learning.


Marshmallow Test:

Prince Charles Geelong Grammar:

Measuring Personality: Crash Course Psychology #22:


An accurate depiction of parenting a toddler – Retrieved from

Attached at the cheek – Retrieved from:

Empathy Arrows - Retrieved from:

Kevin Hart and Krang – Retrieved from:

The “Big Five” Personality Traits – Retrieved from:

What, me worry? – Retrieved from:

Wolf Blitzer -

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