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Emotional labor and conflict in schools: Teacher perceptions of the emotional display rules necessary for negative teacher-student interactions

Cribbs, Amanda J. (2016) Emotional labor and conflict in schools: Teacher perceptions of the emotional display rules necessary for negative teacher-student interactions. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Teaching requires emotional work. Some days teachers experience positive emotions (joy, pride, hope) in conjunction with students learning new concepts or forming new relationships. Other days teachers experience negative emotions (frustration, annoyance, anger) in response to negative conflict between themselves and their students. The ability to interact with students, navigate emotions and appropriately express or suppress them can be challenging for educators. The emotional labor completed to express or suppress emotions based on job standards and norms (display rules) is explicitly studied in most service industries, but continues to be understudied in education. This paper provides a descriptive analysis of the emotional labor and emotional displays teachers experience during one specific portion of their workday, negative interactions with students. The study also describes teacher perceptions of and the training received for the emotional display rules (EDRs) necessary for such interactions.
Study participants included 26 teachers and teaching assistants from one Mid-Atlantic charter school. The educators completed a short demographic survey and a 45-minute in-person interview. Interviews included 15 open-ended questions detailing the descriptions of negative teacher-student interactions, subsequent emotional responses and any relevant training received during pre-service, professional development sessions or through personal research.
A review of the findings uncovered patterns in interactions, emotional displays and forms of training. Findings reveal that teachers experience emotional labor during negative teacher-student interactions in the absence of explicit display rules and training. Revealed sources of negative emotions for educators include: the interactions with students and the apparent lack of display rules and necessary emotion training. Teachers emphasized the need for training and explicit display rules.
Although there is a wealth of literature on emotional labor, it continues to be an area under studied in education. This paper adds to the current body of literature and includes implications and recommendations for practice and future research in the area of explicit display rules for educators. We must continue to research and define EDRs for educators and provide them with the appropriate pre-service training and professional development in order to help them successfully navigate the challenging emotional labor they experience daily.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Cribbs, Amanda J.ajc123@pitt.eduAJC123
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKerr, Mary Margaretmmkerr@pitt.eduMMKERR
Committee MemberBickel, Williambickel@pitt.eduBICKEL
Committee MemberTrovato, Charlenetrovato@pitt.eduTROVATO
Committee MemberValenti,
Date: 4 January 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 5 October 2015
Approval Date: 4 January 2016
Submission Date: 2 December 2015
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 139
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: emotional labor, display rules, negative teacher-student interactions
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2016 16:57
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:31


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