Tutors’ understanding of students’ emotional experiences in assessed, online, collaborative activities

Hilliard, Jake; Kear, Karen; Donelan, Helen and Heaney, Caroline (2020). Tutors’ understanding of students’ emotional experiences in assessed, online, collaborative activities. In: CALRG Annual Conference 2020, 15-17 Jun 2020, Milton Keynes, UK.


Research is increasingly highlighting the importance of students’ emotions in online learning contexts. For instance, emotions in these settings have been found to impact student engagement, learning, and academic achievement. Despite these advances, few studies have investigated how tutors perceive and understand the emotional experiences of the students they teach and support in these learning contexts. Gaining such a perspective would not only allow for a comparison with students’ views, and therefore the extent to which their perspectives align, but also help explore the challenges faced by tutors when attempting to understand students’ emotions in learning settings which can often lack emotional richness (e.g., lack of body language, facial expressions, and gestures). This was thought to be particularly important as previous literature in both face to face settings (Hargreaves, 2000; Hargreaves, 2001) and online learning environments (Cleveland-Innes, 2020; Cleveland-Innes et al, 2019; Lehman, 2006) has highlighted that high-quality teaching and learning depends on basic forms of emotional understanding and awareness between teachers and students. In this study, a qualitative research methodology was used to explore the perspectives of tutors from the UK Open University regarding how they understood students’ emotional experiences when undertaking assessed, online, collaborative activities. Such activities are often found to be highly emotionally charged with students experiencing a diverse range of pleasant and unpleasant emotions (Hilliard et al, 2020; Hilliard et al, 2019). In this presentation, preliminary findings from the study will be reported and practical implications and areas for future research will be discussed.

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