Exploring Social-Emotional Cognition and Psychophysiologic Synchrony During Teaching Interactions
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CitationRodriguez, Vanessa. 2016. Exploring Social-Emotional Cognition and Psychophysiologic Synchrony During Teaching Interactions. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractConceptions of learning have evolved from behaviorist and mechanistic models to models that are dynamic, complex, and process-oriented. Educators’ and researchers’ understanding of teaching can benefit from a similar evolution, one that embodies teaching as a dynamic, cognitive skill. Because teaching is an inherently interactive phenomenon, it can be characterized as a social-emotional cognitive skill.
Using a dynamic systems and social-emotional cognitive lens, in this dissertation, I describe two studies that explored teaching from these perspectives. The first, presented in Chapter 2, used structured cognitive interviews to elicit expert teachers’ reflections on their teaching processes, as well as to illuminate the interactive nature of these processes and the factors that influence the teachers’ capabilities. In the second study, presented in Chapter 3, I borrowed methods from interactive social-emotional cognitive studies to identify periods of psychophysiologic synchrony between the teachers and students to determine if these correlated with their relational experiences.
Five themes, or awarenesses, emerged from the interview data: (a) awareness of learner (AoL), (b) awareness of teaching practice (AoTP), (c) awareness of context (AoC), (d) awareness of self as a teacher (AoST), and (e) awareness of interaction (AoI). Within each theme, I identified several categories that characterized the teachers’ reflections on the individual social-emotional cognitive processes employed during teaching. These data show that expert teaching leverages a complex, social-emotional cognitive framework to achieve learning goals.
In the second study, I observed significant increases of psychophysiologic synchrony in the teacher–student dyads that were engaged in a supported teaching task. This elevated synchrony was correlated with multiple domains of two established measures of individual social-emotional cognition. Moreover, after dividing the data by the median of achieved synchrony into an upper and lower group, strong but unique correlation patterns were observed between the teacher–student synchrony and the social-emotional cognitive survey measures. In particular, several student measures of the teachers’ perspective taking demonstrated inverse associations between the lower and upper 50th percentiles of synchrony. These data indicated that the ability to create synchrony during supported interactions was connected to the teacher’s distinct social-emotional cognitive capacity. These results also support the potential neurobiologic and psychophysiologic bases of teachers’ social-emotional cognitive processing.
Together, these two studies represent an initial step along a larger trajectory of future research that could advance the conception of teaching as a social-emotional cognitive skill that develops as a complex system.
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