Focus on teachers’ emotional agency

by | Nov 18, 2022 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Research is showing that emotions play a role in learning1. At its best emotions are boosting and deepening the learning results. Also, learner’s motivation and performance levels are increasing. We talked about emotions linked to coaching with teachers who were introduced to coaching approach and methods during TEAMS -project. Similar interviews were made to highly experienced teacher coaches of Jamk university of applied sciences. Our intention was to investigate emotional intelligence and how it is emerging in coaching.  The interview started with the sharing stories from good and challenging coaching experiences and with dialog the focus was more on what enabling coaching sessions and making the coaching successful.

What makes coaching successful?

As a result, from the interviews TEAMS -group was stating that crucial features for successful coaching sessions are things like transparency, presence, self-confidence of the teacher-coach and motivation of the learner. Transparency in learning process means that the learning goals, actions and learning outcomes are well communicated and linked with the purpose to solve the real-life case and creating value for learners as well as for the case owner. For example, when the students were asking why they need to work in teams or go through action-based learning process, the transparency made sense making easier for teacher coach. Turning from teaching to coaching, teacher’s role in the center of the learning process is dramatically changed. For example, to be able to make observations and reassure the learning process is moving on, requires stronger presence from teacher-coaches than the normal way of carrying lectures. Teacher-coaches’ self-confidence was seen coming from trusting the learning process to create learning outcomes. Understanding that the phases in learning process helps them to be present in learning sessions.

As we were comparing interviews it seemed that more experienced coaches were talking more about the interaction with student. They were stating that active listening when coaching the team, is the key for making true impact. Guiding questions, encouraging the learner to ask questions, creating realistic view of learners’ current situation, without judging it and finding out hindrances in the learning process, were seen as building blocks of a successful coaching session. Focusing on the present situation and co-creating the plan how to proceed were in core of coaching. This approach was seen something that engages the students into the learning process but also makes the learning meaningful for them. 

All teacher-coaches were sharing the view that team coaching is more interesting and meaningful way of practicing teaching. When the students are owning their own learning the teachers-coaches job is to guide them to find the most suitable options for them and seeing the progress is very rewarding.

Teachers must be motivated as well

Emotional agency refers to state where emotional competences are being recognized as part of work and emotions are influenced at work. It has been argued that organizations should pay more attention to emotional agency if they want better results and commitment2. In this case, if emotional skills are seen as important part of successful coaching, teachers’ emotions towards coaching should be addressed as well. Sharing thoughts and emotions about their work, it commits teacher to become better coach, just as careful listening in coaching session commits student to learning.

The teacher we interviewed agreed on the importance of dialog and sharing coaching experiences. In TEAMS project sharing coaching experiences after trials was part of the process of learning from another. Discussions between the group of teacher-coaches have now become regular and the true meaning of this action was understood gradually. It had to do something beyond learning, like commitment and motivation to keep going even when experiencing negative emotions time to time.

In Jamk teacher-coaches have their own team meetings and sessions where they systematically share the experiences. To be noted, this is not something that naturally will arise or already exists in most educational organizations, ironically though. Often teachers do their work in solitude and the way one works or feels when they work is not shared properly. If we want to transform teaching, we must ensure the educational organization provides teacher teams some time and a place for reflection. In that way the change will be more effective, and teachers can grow into their new role with the help of colleagues.

References and more reading:



Eteläpelto, A., Vähäsantanen, K., Hökkä, P. & Paloniemi, S. 2013. What is agency? Conceptualizing professional agency at work. Educational Research Review 10, 45–65.

Essi Silvennoinen
Anu Raulo