Enjoy What You Do…


…appreciate what you can; love what you can make; favor what you may achieve: see here a few amalgamations of affect and competence. Liking and performing, two realms when closely connected can do miracles. Simply because it sets in motion flow (1) i.e., the experience of happiness in doing things that challenge your abilities in a positive manner. It can happen while cooking when you try out a new self-made recipe, or in sports attempting to run far more than you normally do. It is definitely different from joy of success; it is the great feeling of doing what you do the right way. Not the accomplishment is what counts here but travelling the road (2).  Achievements have a relation with competence but really wanting to accomplish something has to do with affect, with wanting to produce an effect  – but can they be separated? A recent study affirms this.

The study found that student affective self-perceptions relate to the effort while student competence self-perceptions were related to objective achievements and less associated with student eagerness to invest in their academic behavior. Liking and enjoyment predicted their effort in school work, not their competence beliefs.

What seems to be implied here is that competence and affect travel on different roads. But still that seems a bit strange and counter intuitive. Isn’t it far more plausible that the merger between the two produce the power of learning? Because: competence without affect is idle while affect without competence is folly (to paraphrase Kant). Imagine a highly talented, competent pupil working a learning task well within her or his competent reach wouldn’t he or she be bored as hell doing that learning work? Where is the challenge, the incentive to learn? So ‘more research is needed’. Meanwhile we are better off with the assumption that competence cannot do without affect and vice versa.


  1. Katrin Arens & Marcus Hasselhorn Differentiation of competence and affect self-perceptions in elementary school students: extending empirical evidence Eur J Psychol Educ (2015) 30:405–419

DOI 10.1007/s10212-015-0247-8



  1. http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/mihaly-csikszentmihalyi/
  2. http://www.motivateus.com/stories/journey.htm

You Have Been Warned






It is quite normal for anyone to have fear of certain things; be it spiders, rodents, mathematics, or a particular teacher. These things happens. It is quite legitimate to be acceptant about some of your nightmares – everyone is entitle to have a few frights.  It would be of interest to know how they come about. Is it averseness, an intuition; something that grows through experiences and more or less the result of implicit learning?  Or, alternatively, are they acquired through social interaction, like in: Your friend saying: ‘ Arghh!!:, your mother’s warning: Don’t ..!  (1) There is definitely survival value in timely and relevantly placed verbal instructions that will enable you to prepare yourself to deal with anxiety. Better than to get your fingers burned. Some might say it is always better to get the real experience of fear in order to learn. But others trust more the cognitive control exerted by a well placed warning. In behaviorist terms one could ask; does a conditioned stimulus needs to be aligned (contingent) with an unconditioned stimulus?; in plain terms: “ can a warning be enough”.

It was experimented in a study on fear conditioning whether verbal instructions would be sufficient to only to warn and prepare someone or that indeed a fear experience needs to be elicited. Participants in the study got warning instructions, accompanied or not with a small electric shock to “ learn” when looking at  certain animals (snake, rat, spider, butterfly). It turned out that selective learning was most effective when not coupled with an electric shock. The effect was resistant to extinction, so, it remained intact. The authors interpret this in that warnings help to create a bias to expect aversive effects which can be maintained over a long period when occasional warnings are reinstated.

Teachers, parents warn all the time. It looks in vain most of the time to the effect that stronger methods are considered (2). But not necessarily, according to the study. In their words, the expectancy bias for fear return must be taken into account. Or in other words: you cannot make-up a warning; a cautioning must be realistic and truthful in order to be educative.


Can prepared fear conditioning result from verbal instructions? Gaëtan Mertens,, An K. Raesa,, Jan De Houwer. Learning & Motivation, 53(2016), 7-23.




  1. http://flavorwire.com/520346/teaching-trigger-warnings-what-pundits-dont-understand-about-the-years-most-controversial-higher-ed-debate
  2. http://www.discoveryeducation.com/teachers/



Offering Space


No one likes to be told what to do, or say, or believe. Of course not. Still, we are being ordered, coerced, or persuaded all the time. Be it sneaky or overt, concealed or blunt, convincing or forced. Main reason for our dislike is that it is confronting, and ultimately implying that “we must change our lives” (1). But what if we do not want to adjust, or follow imperatives stated for us? What if the required changes conflict with our beliefs and orientation? In education, and other helping professions, this creates a huge dilemma. A mentor, a teacher in interaction with a student, would like to point out certain learning needs, specific learning problems but this takes effect only when acknowledged by the mentee, the learner. One interesting aspect of this huge (helping) dilemma is the part that deals with the interaction between helper and the one being helped. Are they both accepting, acknowledging each other point of view? Are they creating space for bridging between another? In interactions between an advice giver and a mentee there can/will be inequality in power and position. Therefore, a bridging relationship calls for cognitive justice (2); that is, recognition of integrity in knowledge creation which starts by creating space to allow for expression of views. You cannot “force to know”.
A matter of concern would be the case when bridging faults, when the space in-between is too wide. Then the twain will never meet. An illuminative study in counseling helps to clarify this concern. It looked into the position and role of a counselor interacting with Black Pentecostal clients. These clients belong to a faith group with strong convictions and emotional ways of interaction. The study points to the importance of creating space by 1) counsellor awareness of personal cultural identity, 2) counsellor awareness of the client’s cultural identity, 3) setting up a working alliance, and 4) recognizing social justice as the foundation for practice.

Still this does not illuminate how space making would work. May be it is simply (although it never really is) to be invitational in interaction (3). Inviting to: express, clarify, show, maintain …, there are a myriad of ways to engage in interaction that allow for making a space that invites. The core of it would be: not telling what to do, say or believe but listening to what the other says, does or thinks, … in order to…

Sandra Dixon & Nancy Arthur; (2015). Creating Space to Engage Black Pentecostal Clients in Multicultural Counselling Practices Published online: 19 December 2014 by Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014. Published in: Int J Adv Counselling (2015) 37:93–104; DOI 10.1007/s10447-014-9228-x


1. http://politybooks.com/book.asp?ref=9780745649214
2. http://www.learningforchange2015.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/fin29-4-15Cognitive-justice-presentation-Gert-vd-Westhuizen.pdf
3. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-6300-058-1_10

Full Steam Ahead

03princess of norway Teachers resemble performing artists. Teachers too have to get on stage and have to deliver an engaging ‘thing’ before a critical and sometimes distracted audience. Performing can be extremely exhausting. You have to empower yourself with enough energy to give performance a go. The moment before “getting on” can be very stressful. Even experienced performing artists, dancers, show masters, actors, musicians (1) admit they have (often strong) emotions of anxiety and fear before entry for an audience. The strange thing about it is that it does not lessen or disappear with practice or experience. It stays with you no matter how celebrate you are. So how is this with teachers, especially with beginning teachers when they have to prepare for class?
A thorough and enlightening study from Germany gives more background to this. The six authors looked at the interplay of emotional exhaustion, the feeling of self efficacy (“ I am doing fine”) and the professional knowledge of beginning teachers. It turned out that the feeling of being burned out was high among these teachers but it gradually decreased over time. Being exhausted affected their sense of self efficacy (negatively). And unfortunately, being a well-prepared and knowledgeable professional did not help to reduce the dominant feeling of exhaustion (although some signs in the study indicated that it may help a bit).
To deliver requires energy, a lot. Being good, experienced, or qualified does not add much weight to abandon or overcome the exhaustion that is part of being a professional. Knowing this and accepting it might relief a bit the feelings of anxiety that accompany the act of delivery (2) . Apparently performing under pressure is the natural and normal habitat for professionals. But it does not appear that it is being regarded that way that much, both among the professional and the audience. Giving full steam ahead, however, would also imply to accept the energy it consumes.

Beginning teachers’ efficacy and emotional exhaustion: Latent changes, reciprocity, and the influence of professional knowledge By Theresa Dicke, Philip D. Parker, Doris Holzberger, Olga Kunina-Habenicht,
Mareike Kunter, & Detlev Leutnera Contemporary Educational Psychology 41 (2015) 62–72
Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.11.003 0361-476X/© 2014 Published by Elsevier Inc.


1. http://musicpsychology.co.uk/performing-music-under-stress/
2. http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/543974/Stress-can-reduce-mental-ability-to-a-child-s

Got stuck? Ask help!


Maddening devices computers can be. Or help desks, or trying to explain your complaint to a service desk. Anger management is called for in these situations. But who will deploy them in awkward and stressful situations? The study cited gives some background on what works and what not.
The answer to deal with anger has mainly to do with self-regulation (1), it seems. Luckily the study gives some handles on what to do: arranging your environment (but who can?); monitoring your motivation (“I will get through”), and having a learning orientation (by saying “this is really an interesting situation”). In anger management the study found no gender effects looking at online group work. Apparently face to face interactions matter in this respect. Cultural differences in setting (by comparing US and Chinese students) did take an effect. Comments made by your peers (even online) had a considerable corrective effect.
But what if you got stuck?; which often triggers anger and despair. The study gives a captivating and worrying outcome: in order not to jeopardize peer relationships Chinese students did not seek help or call for information from their peers. If that is true and when we relativize the Cultural we are dealing with the nasty occurrence of being stuck, and not being able to bootstrap ourselves using self-regulation strategies. It means that you are at a dead end. Call for help would be the adequate coping strategy (2) but it needs courage to do so. Let’s realize: Group work (online or in vivo) is flourishing in schools but what if you fall behind in the group you are working with? And who monitors (silent) help seeking requests? (3). I would say: Teacher know your students.

Emotion management in online group work reported by Chinese students, by Jianzhong Xu • Jianxia Du • Xitao Fan ; Published by Springer in : Education Technology Research Development (2014) 62:795–819 ; DOI 10.1007/s11423-014-9359-0
Published online: 16 October 2014; Copyright: Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2014


1: http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=search.displayRecord&uid=2001-01625-013
2: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/dev/50/5/1350/
3 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959475210000563