Date of Submission



Emotional literacy (EL) provides a basis for understanding how relationships between teachers and students contribute to effective learning. This facet of schooling is central to the growing interest in positive education and the place of positive psychology in schooling. As schools are relational organisations, EL provides a cornerstone for building pro-social values and social-emotional skills that can help make schools more satisfying places to work and learn. The thesis comprises two interrelated studies of multiple stakeholders’ perspectives of EL in a case study school (school executive (n=4), school counsellors (n=2), teachers (n=89), students (n=509)). An ecological systems view provided the theoretical underpinning for utilising a participatory action research (PAR) approach. Study 1 examined the status of EL to determine strengths, barriers, and areas that would benefit from school-derived EL interventions. Multiple stakeholders (n=215): leading teachers (n=3), School Counsellor (n=1), teachers (n=33), and students (n=178) participated in Study 1 by completing a survey and participating in focus groups (n=2) and interviews (n=4). Study 2 explicated and implemented school-derived EL interventions through PAR and elucidated the impact of the EL interventions on EL. Study 2 aimed to identify the features of an emotionally literate school. Multiple stakeholders (n=396: School Executive (n=3), School Counsellors (n=2), teachers (n=56), and students (n=331)) participated in Study 2 by completing the survey utilised in Study 1 in two waves of data. Teachers (n=6), students (n=4), and school counsellors (n=2) participated in focus groups or an interview after the EL interventions were implemented to determine the impact of the interventions and how their views about EL evolved. Using qualitative analysis methods the research findings informed school-derived EL intervention strategies. Research data was coded against the research questions and ascribed meaning. On this basis patterns and themes emerged, enabling understanding and insight about the research findings. The ecological framework used in this research informed my thinking about the data and the way I derived meaning from the data. Study 1 found stakeholders’ views about EL were influenced by school social environment perceptions. Students confirmed their positive view about the role of socialemotional skills and relational quality for academic outcomes, as found in other research (Dix, Slee, Lawson, & Keeves, 2011; Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnick, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011). Study 2 found that emotionally literate school leadership played a key role in how teachers feel about their roles and contributions to school. The findings suggested that activating teacher and student voices adds to a positive school ambience and builds teacher self-efficacy. In Study 2, the PAR approach elucidated that while quality implementation of EL is the ideal, EL change could be promoted through a ‘ripple effect’, if embedded in the school culture through teacher ownership. A teacher EL development model using teacher professional practice, knowledge of self and others, and positive education approaches is another outcome of the research. Using pedagogical approaches akin to EL, teachers can model pro-social values, EL skills, and grit, enabling students to develop EL. The research findings imply that teacher well-being provides a foundation for building EL through value-laden approaches embedded in the school philosophy.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


342 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Health Sciences