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Emotions are inherently social, and are central to learning, online interaction and literacy practices (Shen, et al. 2009). Demonstrating the dynamic sociality of literacy practice, we used e-motion diaries or web logs to explore the emotional states of preservice high school teachers’ experiences of online learning. This is because the methods of communication used by university educators in online learning and writing environments play an important role in fulfilling students’ need for social interaction and inclusion (McInnerney & Roberts, 2004). Feelings of isolation and frustration are commonly experienced by students in online learning environments, and are associated with the success or failure of online interactions and learning (Su, et al., 2005). The purpose of the study was to answer the research question: What are the trajectories of preservice teachers’ emotional states during online learning experiences? This is important because emotions are central to learning, and the current trend toward Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) needs research about students’ emotional connections in online learning environments (Kop, 2011). The project was conducted with a graduate class of 64 high school science preservice teachers in Science Education Curriculum Studies in a large Australian university, including males and females from a variety of cultural backgrounds, aged 22-45 years. Online activities involved the students watching a series of streamed live lectures for the first six weeks providing a varied set of learning experiences, demonstrations (e.g. modeling the use of discrepant events). Each week, students provided feedback on learning by writing and posting an e-motion diary or web log about their emotional response. Students answered the question: What emotions did you experience during this learning experience? The descriptive data set included 284 online posts, with students contributing multiple entries. Linguistic appraisal theory, following Martin and White (2005) was used to code and analyze the full corpus of blogs to identify statements of affect (feelings) and judgment (appraisal), distinguishing between degrees of emotional intensity in students’ written responses, and matched to specific online learning events. The findings demonstrated that the preservice teachers’ emotional responses to the streamed lectures tended towards happiness, security, and satisfaction within the typology of affect groups: un/happiness, dis/satisfaction, and in/security. Fewer students reported that the streamed lectures triggered negative feelings of frustration, powerlessness, and inadequacy, and when this occurred, it frequently pertained to expectations of themselves as future teachers. Exceptions to this pattern of responses occurred in relation to the fifth streamed lecture presented in a non-interactive slideshow format that compressed a large amount of content. Many students avoided indicating their emotional responses to this lecture, while some indicated intense negative emotions, such as “completely disengaged”. The social practice of online writing in the forum enabled the students to articulate, mentally organize and structure their emotion. The findings primarily contribute new understanding about student differing emotional states, including the intensity of emotions, in response to streamed live lectures and archived static slideshows in higher education external coursework, while highlighting the potentials of appraisal theory for studying human emotions in online writing.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Conference Paper

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