A new study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology looked at whether emotional diversity is associated with better student engagement and achievement.
“Our study explored whether students who have varied emotional experiences would also be more engaged and achieve better in school,” study author Cherry Frondozo told us. “We adapted a measure of diversity from ecology to examine the link between the diversity of emotional experiences and achievement.”
Researchers were curious about finding whether students who have a more diverse range of emotional experiences would also have better engagement and achievement beyond just looking at absolute levels of positive and negative emotions.
“We had an inkling that variety of emotional experiences might be related to educational outcomes, because previous studies found that individuals with more varied emotions also have better mental and physical health,” Frondozo told us. “This is especially true for positive emotions, since having more positive emotions is related to more engagement and achievement.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem. Seven per cent of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety. Over 3.2% of children, aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression.
“I have always been interested to study emotions, and how it influences motivation and behavior in the school context,” Frondozo told us. “However, I realized that when emotions are studied in the school context, they are generally examined as individual variables operating by themselves (e.g., how much happiness is experienced).”
However, people can differ in the variety of their emotional experiences.
“For example, a person can have one instance of happiness, two instances of relief and one instance of anger in a day,” Frondozo told us. “Of course, being able to report a variety of emotions implies that the person must also be aware of the different emotions they are experiencing.”
Researchers administered questionnaires on emotions and engagement to high school students. Teachers also rated their students’ cognitive, behavioral, and emotional engagement. They used the Shannon biodiversity index, a measure from ecology, to compute for emotional diversity of positive emotions, negative emotions and both positive and negative emotions (global emodiversity).
Researchers ran statistical analysis to see whether emotional diversity of positive emotions predict engagement (measured by student ratings and teacher ratings) and achievement (measured as an average grade across five subjects).
Researchers found that students who experience a variety of positive emotions in their daily life are more engaged and achieve more in school.
“We found that this pattern was not just due to the average levels of positive emotions that students experience,” study author Ronnel King told us. “It is time to move the conversation beyond just positive or negative emotions and start delving into the variety and diversity of one’s emotional experiences.”
Researchers were surprised to find that the variety of positive emotions influence engagement and achievement. They know about how diversity in emotions are related to better physical and mental health outcomes, so they were pleasantly surprised to find that the diversity of positive emotions also lead to good educational outcomes.
“I think this result highlights the importance of going beyond measuring positive or negative emotions and looking at the variety of emotions experienced as a whole,” Frondozo told us. “I hope that emodiversity will be examined by education researchers, especially by those that focus on emotions. This is an important aspect which has generally been overlooked for a long time.”
Patricia Tomasi is a mom, maternal mental health advocate, journalist, and speaker. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post Canada, focusing primarily on maternal mental health after suffering from severe postpartum anxiety twice. You can find her Huffington Post biography here. Patricia is also a Patient Expert Advisor for the North American-based, Maternal Mental Health Research Collective and is the founder of the online peer support group - Facebook Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group - with over 1500 members worldwide. Blog: www.patriciatomasiblog.wordpress.com