The Effects of Emotional Traits in Teaching Performance

An Empirical Study in Bogotá

Bachelor Thesis 2016 56 Pages

Sociology - Work, Profession, Education, Organisation


Table of contents




Statement of Area of Focus
General Context

Research question
Main questions
Sub questions

General Objective
Specific Objective

Literature review

Theoretical framework
Emotional traits

Review of the literature

Type of study

Data collection
Data collection – planning
Data collection – Implementation

Data analysis and interpretation
Students’ behavior correction
Class structure
English used
Students’ motivation



Limitations of the study

List of tables

List of images

List of figures

Observation Format



The purpose of this study is to illustrate some of the effects of negative emotional traits in the teaching performance of two English seven and eight grade teachers with forty students each in a public school in Suba, Bogotá. The work focused on three negative emotional traits (frustration, anxiety and lack of creativity) that are the core of a negative class environment. The research of Ferguson, Frost & Hall (2012) explores some of the physical effects such as increased blood pressure, anger, headaches, and some psychological effects such as anxiety, nervousness, tension, frustration and panic, that some teachers might experience when they are exposed to situations of high amount of stress. Furthermore, those effects can affect teacher performance when teaching classes. Two case studies described the situations that affect teachers’ performance, how teachers reacted when experiencing those situations and what the outcomes are in the classroom environment. The main situations found during the study are related with students’ behavior, students’ attitude about class activities, school demands regarding class structure and the amount of English use during classes.

Key words: anxiety, frustration, lack of creativity, emotional traits, negative effects, teachers’ performance, students’ behavior.


El propósito de este estudio es ilustrar algunos de los efectos de los rasgos emocionales negativos en el rendimiento de la enseñanza de inglés de dos maestras de séptimo y octavo grado, con cuarenta estudiantes cada una en una escuela pública en Suba, Bogotá. El trabajo se centró en tres rasgos emocionales negativos (frustración, ansiedad y falta de creatividad) que son el núcleo de un ambiente de clase negativo. Ferguson, Frost & Hall (2012) investigaron algunos de los efectos físicos, tales como el aumento de la presión arterial, la ira, dolores de cabeza, y algunos de los efectos psicológicos como ansiedad, nerviosismo, tensión, frustración y pánico, que algunos maestros podrían experimentar cuando están expuestos a situaciones de gran cantidad de estrés. Por otra parte, esos efectos pueden afectar el desempeño del maestro cuando hace la clase. Dos estudios de caso describen las situaciones que afectaron el desempeño de las maestras, cómo reaccionaron las maestras cuando experimentaron esas situaciones y cuáles son los efectos en el ambiente del aula. Las principales situaciones encontradas durante el estudio están relacionadas con el comportamiento de los estudiantes, la actitud de los estudiantes acerca de las actividades de clase, las exigencias del colegio con respecto a la estructura de clases y la cantidad de uso de un segundo idioma durante las clases de inglés.

Palabras clave: ansiedad, frustración, falta de creatividad, rasgos emocionales, efectos negativos, el rendimiento de los profesores, comportamiento de los estudiantes.


Emotions are essential for human beings. Human emotions and behaviors can construct either a healthy or an unhealthy environment for those who belong to it. Regarding the teaching environment, emotions can affect the development of students’ learning process, the class environment and how the teachers deliver their classes. Emotions are key components for educational communities when contributing to each aspect of the teaching practice.

The aim of this study is to portray how some stressful situations can generate negative emotional traits that affect not only teachers’ personal emotions but also the classes’ flow. Urbanovská (2011) explained that teachers who are exposed to high amounts of stress in any context tend to develop high levels of anxiety, panic attacks and depersonalization when dealing with students. As a side effect students and the class structure is affected by the lack of teachers’ confidence, creativity, and interest. In addition to that, Garcia (2012) highlights in his article the lack of research regarding teachers’ well-being, Garcia explains that “it considers that it exists a specific teachers’ sense of unease in the present as a result of the last social and educative changes and indicates how the well-being is determined by our own beliefs and our ability to get our life’s success. (Garcia, 2012.p.1)”

Due to the number of teachers that have been neglected by an educational system that treats teachers’ emotions as an unrelated area that should not be taken into account, and the number of students whose motivation has decreased as a result of the teachers that are not trained regarding the effect of emotions in the class environment, this study intends to bring information for educational institutions to create an educational facility in which emotions are the main subject that must be explored by teachers and students as equals. This study uses a qualitative approach in which two case studies that describe some of the negative effects and situations that affect teachers’ performance. It also explores how these negative effects disrupt the teaching practice. Students’ behavior, attitude and schools’ demands regarding class structure are the main elements that generate negative emotional traits in teachers and the areas that are negatively affected in class structure are classroom management, mastery of the subject, lesson planning, and class environment.

Statement of Area of Focus

General Context

This study was conducted to research the effects of emotional traits in the teaching performance of two English teachers at a public school located in Suba, Bogotá Colombia. The public school chosen for this study possesses 3.500 students divided in morning and afternoon blocks. It is placed in a vulnerable neighborhood where students belong to strata 1 and 2. This school was chosen due to the researcher’s opportunity to do her teaching practicum. This public school allowed the researcher to carry out the study but demanded she remain anonymous for safety concerns.


Two English teachers participated in this study. Teacher A is an eighth grade female teacher with 30 years of experience. She works with groups of 40 students. Teacher B is a seventh grade female teacher with 20 years of experience, and with groups of 40 students as well. Students are from ages 13 to 17 years old that belong to a vulnerable neighborhood (level 1 and 2 strata) in Suba, Bogotá. All students are level A1 according to the CEF (Common European Framework). For this study, only students’ negative behavior was taken into account; behavior such as yelling, playing during class time, disruptive behavior, aggressive behavior and number of students’ interest in class activities. Due to the school's concern, in this study, teachers and students’ names will be kept anonymous. Furthermore, no student was interviewed or asked any questions for this study.

Research question

The following questions will be answered through this study.

Main questions

1. To what extent do emotional traits affect the teaching performance of two secondary teachers at one public school in Bogotá?

2. Which situations unbalance teachers emotionally?

Sub questions

3. What are the situations that affect teachers’ emotional balance and students’ performance?

4. What are the effects of teachers’ negative emotional traits in students’ learning process?

5. What are the main negative teachers’ emotional traits that affect teachers?


General Objective

To describe situations that might have an impact in teachers’ emotional balance and to observe to what extent the lack of emotional balance in teachers affects the classroom environment.

Specific Objective

1. To determine specific situations that affect teachers’ emotional balance.

2. To identify the effect of teachers' negative emotional traits in students’ learning process.

3. To acknowledge some of the negative emotional traits that affect teachers.

Literature review

There have been similar studies done parallel to this research in which researchers have found different outcomes regarding the effects of emotional traits in the classroom performance. These studies have contributed to raise awareness regards teachers' feelings and emotional management. Each study describes the situations in which some teachers were exposed to a situation that affected their teaching performance, the symptoms that affected teachers due to the high amounts of stress and the average in which teachers’ present symptoms of exhaustion. All those descriptions add great information for this study, which not only support the main objective of this study, which is to find the main causes of teachers’ negative emotional traits, but also complement with extra information that teaches us the importance of teachers’ emotional features.

A study done by Ulug, Ozden, & Eryilmaz (2011) about the positive and negative influence of teachers’ attitude in students personal and academic learning process to 353 students of Istanbul Kultur University and Maltepe University, found out that negative teachers’ attitudes such as lack of interest, anger, lack of tolerance and lack of understanding had a negative impact in students’ learning process. 75.4% of the students that participated in the study claimed that the negative attitude of teachers can decrease students’ performance and decrease the quality of students’ learning process.

Maurer (2012) studied the positive and the negative effects of emotional traits in 71 teachers of National Heritage Academies that work in nine states in the USA. Maurer discovered that when teachers are supported by the organization in which they are working and they have a positive work environment, teachers tend to come up with positive perspectives when experiencing negative situations. As a result, teachers acquire high levels of resilience which is then learned by students.

Oliver, Wehby, & Reschly (2011) examined the effects of classroom management of different public schools in the USA and the Netherlands. Through 12 studies done by those researchers it was exposed the fact that incompetent classroom management has disadvantageous effects on teachers when handling disruptive behavior and pursuing classroom demands. Furthermore, teachers who are unable to manage the classroom environment and have high rates of discipline problems tend to report high levels of stress and symptoms of burnout. In addition to that, teachers that cannot handle students’ problematic behaviors are categorized as ineffective teachers that display ineffective practices.

Reyes, Brackett, Rivers, White, & Salovey (2012) researched the impact of classroom emotional climate, using a sample of 63 teachers and 2,000 students in fifth- and sixth-grade in ELA classrooms from 44 schools in a diverse school district in USA. The authors exposed that “Classrooms high in teacher sensitivity have teachers who are not only highly aware of and responsive to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs but also are effective at helping students solve problems. When their teachers are sensitive and responsive toward both their academic and their social and emotional needs, students are more successful academically Classrooms high in regards to students’ perspectives are those in which teachers personally engage students in the learning process by promoting autonomy and expression of their ideas.” (Reyes, Brackett, Rivers, White, & Salovey, 2012.p. 707) In addition, Reyes, Brackett, Rivers, White, & Salovey explained that the lack of professional programs in which teachers can learn about emotional development in classroom environment generates a disconnect between teachers’ emotions and teachers’ efficacy.

Antoniou, Ploumpi, & Ntalla (2013) researched occupational stress and professional burnout of 388 primary and secondary teachers who are teachers in public schools in Attica, Greece found that primary teachers suffer from stress more often than secondary teachers. Furthermore, the study found that stress is also connected with the years of teaching, sometimes teachers’ gender and level which led teachers to show emotional exhaustion when teaching and interacting with students.

Theoretical framework

Emotional traits studies examine how negative and positive emotions can affect an individual’s existence. Emotional traits studies have been done by psychologists who argued that emotions are necessary for human’s life. Scientists examined how emotions affect the brain and its neurological processes. To the explore of how the emotional traits of some teachers might affect their teaching performance, emotional traits theories must be explored.

Emotional traits

Izard (1977) held that emotions cannot be defined as a simple phenomenon. Izard explained that emotions cannot be defined only by one factor such as the experience of a person, the biological process or the behavior of the subject towards the emotion felt. Izard emphasized the need of combining the three areas in which emotions are perceived; the conscious feeling of emotions, the process that is ensued in the brain, and the evident face or body expressions related with the emotion felt.

In a different research published by Izard (1991), it is clarified that emotions have been defined by different scientific approaches, but there hasn’t been a consensus concerning the definition of emotions. According to Izard in this publication, even though emotions can be defined in different means, it is clear for scientists that emotions are necessary for human behavior. Moreover, Izard explains that although some psychologists, educators and philosophers contemplate that humans are rational beings, others psychologists claim that humans are based on emotions which drive them to learn through experiences or people close to them and that knowledge becomes meaningful for the individual.

When Scherer, K. R., & Ekman, P. (1984) exposed Plutchik (1980) psycho-evolutionary view about emotions, he claimed that emotions have been explained by four approaches headed by Charles Darwin (1872), William James (1880), Walter Cannon (1920) and Sigmund Freud (1904) which to some extent are integrated in current conceptualizations of emotions. Those authors have a different point view related to emotions. For instance, Plutchik (1980) explains that Darwin had an evolutionary interpretation in which emotions increase the chance of survival when the subject (human, animal) reacted aptly during emergency cases and were used as a signal of future actions. Also, Plutchik explains James' psychophysiological view regarding the order of feeling an emotion and its psychological effect on the humans’ mind. From the neurological perspective, Plutchik describes Cannon’s (1980) theory in which the emotions are seen as a reaction of the basic sense of surviving; Cannon based his arguments after doing some research of brain damage in cats who had suffered certain types of brain damages and reacted with anger afterwards. Finally, Plutchik (1980) refers to Freud’s theory which was based on the reaction of patients dealing with hysteria: Freud believes that the emotions could be modified and even eradicated if necessary, for that reason, any emotion could only be a perception of a person based on a reaction towards a situation.

In an article done by Dalgleish (2004) the neuroanatomical view of emotions is explained through the Papez circuit (neural circuit for the control of emotional expression) that shows the difference of transmission between a thought and a feeling. In this theory, the pathway of thought in the brain is longer that the one for the feeling stream which leads to a faster reaction performed by the body. The feeling stream is executed by the thalamus. Another neuroanatomical view regards emotions explained in Dalgleish article is MacLean’s theory. In this theory, emotion was a response to outside stimulus and the effect that the stimulus had in the human body; in other words, the sensations that the human body experienced because of an outside incitement which traveled to the humans’ brain where it created certain perceptions which lead to an emotional experience.

The perception of Scherer (2005) about emotions completes MacLean’s theory in the sense that Scherer not only supports the outside stimulus hypothesis but also an inner stimulus created by the subject. If an event is relevant enough, it can create a series of synchronized changes in our body which are followed by an evaluation of the event made by the brain and a response is created by the central nervous system regarding the event.

In an edition done by Pekrun & L. Linnenbrink-Garcia (2014), Pekrun & Bühner (2014) define emotional traits as “the individual disposition to frequently experience emotions of a given kind.” (Pekrun & Bühner, 2014.p.562) This definition is evident when an individual experience anxiety in different situations but not as a permanent emotion. Pekrun & Bühner also clarify the difference between emotional traits and state emotions; they declare that the difference relies on the type of situation. Emotional traits, such as anxiety, are experienced frequently in different situations (interviews, minor accidents, getting to know people, etc.) whereas state emotions are experienced depending on a specific situation (traumas, phobias). Even though the difference of emotional traits and state emotions is explained in Pekrun & Bühner theory, they also mention that emotional traits can be used for specific situations especially for explicitly academic situations in order to explain the effect of emotions in academic performance.

In this research project the emphasis will be done on certain emotional traits such as: Anxiety, Frustration and Creativity due to the fact that many teachers experience these emotional traits throughout their careers. Furthermore, those are the main emotional traits that can affect the environment of a classroom. Taking into account the above, those specific emotional traits will be explore through this study.


In an article written by Strongman (1995), different theories that explain anxiety was exposed. For instance, the Psychoanalytic theory proposed by Freud (1904) explains that anxiety is connected to fear and phobias which can be acquired in three different circumstances; the first situation is when the individual is born, the trauma of birth and the separation of the mother automatically originates a sense of despair and fear. The second situation is associated with repression towards a specific desire or thwarted from doing a certain activity; anxiety is generated and unpleasant feelings are unleashed within the individual. The third situation is a complete opposite of the second one, in this situation the individual experiences a meaningful circumstance which produces anxiety; therefore, the person refuses to experience it again due to the idea of danger and what it might cause to the individual. Strongman explains that in the psychoanalytic theory anxiety is an important element which aids humans to handle threatening environments.

Another theory explained in Strongman’s article is the learning/behavioral theory which is originally derived from Pavlov (1897) and Watson (1913). In this theory, anxiety is seen as a conditioned response of the brain after the person experiences a combination between a conditioned stimulus and an unconditioned stimulus that causes pain. The new conditioned response led by fear and anxiety can affect the development of the behavior of the individual/subject. Strongman connects this theory with Mowrer (1953), Dollard and Miller’s theory (1950) which explained that fear can be learned through different traumatic situations, and anxiety is a form of fear that can be built by an inner source or an external stimulus and motivates a negative adaptive behavior. In order to complement those theories, Strongman presents Staats (1957) and Eifer’s (1990) theory in which anxiety cannot only be acquired through adverse experiences, but also words that advocate pain or destructive scenarios. An opposite theory related with the learning/behavioral theory is Eysenck’s theory (1992), Strongman explains that, for Eysenck, anxiety was related with the personality of the individual. Eysenck divided the personality in two dimensions: extroversion/introversion and neuroticism. The neurotic individual exhibit sensitiveness in the nervous system which is whys/he is predisposed to experience increased levels of anxiety compared to extroverted/introverted people. Nevertheless, Eysenck supports the view that learned fear is created through negative experiences and the sensitivity of the individual (introverted person).

Another theory stated in Strongman’s article is the Psychological theory, which is based on empirical research in which the reaction of the nervous system has been observed when anxiety is experienced. The main theorists in the psychological theory are Panksepp (1988) and Gray (1987) who defined anxiety as a response to an external stimulus. Tt can be used as a suppress reaction or an escape reaction. Although their theories are different, they complement each other in the psychological field. Strongman also mentions the cognitive theory which is divided into two parts: Eysenck (1992) who argues that according to the particular traits that are relevant to an individual, s/he will develop a high or low-anxiety personality. This theory is based on the storage of memories in the long-term memory which can increase or decrease according to the individual’s mood. In other words, if a person gets stressed more often in different situations, those emotions and scenarios will be remembered more easily and recalled in different circumstances. According to the frequency of the memory, it will be stored in the long-term memory. The second theory was founded based on the information process done by the brain. Strongman explains that Öhman (1993), the author of the theory, describes the information process in five aspects: 1) stimulus information which is the information that is perceived biologically and goes to a more conscious perception system 2) The significance evaluators which analyze the importance of the stimulus and how the particular input of the stimulus is connected with the individual in terms of meaning and memory. 3) The arousal system sends a message to the conscious perception in order to inform if the stimulus is a potential threat. 4) The expectancy system which connects the emotions with the memory in order to understand the stimulus, the expectancy system creates a context that explains to the conscious perception why the stimulus may be a threat in the environment of the individual. 5) Finally, the conscious perception system (mind) analyzes all the information received by the other systems and creates an action plan in order to deal with the stimulus. As a result of the process, the person can act towards a potential threat or produce anxiety which leads to fear in a conscious or an unconscious manner.



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University of Colombo – UNICA
anxiety frustration lack of creativity emotional traits negative effects teachers’ performance students’ behavior




Title: The Effects of Emotional Traits in Teaching Performance