A new study was recently published that broadens our understanding of how emotions relate to academic achievement. It’s old news that emotions play a role in students’ achievement and school functioning, but this study uses a different lens by looking specifically at emotional regulation rather than simply positive or negative feelings in students.
The newest data support the notion that emotional regulation affects academic engagement which, in turn, affects academic functioning (e.g., achievement on standardized tests, teacher ratings of engagement). The authors point out that our emotions affect how well we are able to “allocate and utilize cognitive resources and skills” including those necessary for learning. Poor regulation of emotions, wherein our feelings may flood our mind, could lead to avoidance of academic tasks.
There are two important implications of this research. First, it reminds us that just as negative emotions and poor emotional regulation might affect achievement in a negative way, positive emotions and effective regulation are actually related to higher achievement. This means that rather than always placing a focus on targeting students with poor emotionality and trying to decrease sadness or anger, we should also remember to invest some resources into increasing happiness and exuberance. Second, it may be beneficial to directly teach students the skills necessary for effective effortful control, including emotional regulation. While many students develop these skills independently, there are many others who experience significant difficulty in school because they are expected to be able to control their behaviors, attention, and emotional expression without ever having been explicitly taught how to do so, and without being given room to practice without facing negative consequences.
Kwon, K., Hanrahan, A.R., & Kupzyk, K.A. (2017). Emotional expressivity and emotion regulating: Relation to academic functioning among elementary school children. School Psychology Quarterly, 32(1), 75-88.