Theses Doctoral

Teaching to Transfer in the Social Emotional Learning Context: The Case for an Instructional Model of the Human Emotion System

Lyashevsky, Ilya

Social emotional learning (SEL) is an increasingly important area of study, which aims to help students develop skills critical for healthy social functioning as well as academic and professional success. There is general agreement that SEL, like other subjects, should result in knowledge transfer. However, there has been little research aimed at identifying instruction methodologies that might enable such transfer. In my dissertation, I propose that SEL knowledge transfer may be facilitated by way of direct teaching of a model of the human emotion system (HES). I provide a functional definition of the emotion system, demonstrate how the principles of the HES represent the deep structures that underlie key SEL skills, discuss why the direct teaching of the HES is necessary despite the spontaneous formation of implicit models of emotion, and propose a set of components that may comprise an instructional HES model. I then describe a pilot study demonstrating that HES model learning can transfer to new problems and produce improvements in aspects of social emotional competence (SEC), specifically other awareness and empathy. Compared to the control group, the pilot’s model learning group rated “socially inappropriate” emotional responses as significantly less blameworthy, indicating greater cognitive empathy and the transfer of emotion model knowledge to a novel set of problems. A larger, follow-up study sought to replicate the results of the pilot while conducting the intervention online and exploring several additional hypotheses. The study successfully replicated the pilot’s results with respect to other-awareness, while also demonstrating that HES model learning had a positive effect on self-awareness: participants in the Model Learning condition rated their own hypothetical undesirable emotional reactions as significantly less blameworthy than those in the control condition, demonstrating increased acceptance of emotions in the self. The results also suggest HES model learning produces a stronger short-term effect on other-awareness than self-awareness, and shed new light on the design considerations for preparation for future learning (PFL) activities in the SEL context, namely, the need for precise targeting of relevant deep structures and the potential for learning interference caused by the activation of existing emotion theories. Exploratory post-hoc analyses further point to the possibility of gender playing a role in the success of HES model learning, with males potentially being more resistant to such learning than females. I discuss the study results as well as the broader significance of the HES model learning approach to SEL.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cognitive Studies in Education
Thesis Advisors
Black, John
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 26, 2018