Emotional orientations and somatic markers: expertise and decision-making in the mathematics classroom

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


Abstract: Learning to teach is learning to make the kinds of decisions in classroom situations that are the kinds of decisions teachers make. In this chapter, we explore a theoretical basis for describing this process of coming to decide as a teacher does.
We analyse the teaching and reflections of two experienced teachers using theoretical constructs at three levels. At the most general level, we adapt Maturana’s phrase “emotional orientation” to refer to a “teacherly emotional orientation”, which is the set of decision-making criteria appropriate to teaching. Having a teacherly emotion orientation simply means a person behaves as one expects a teacher to behave.
At the most specific level, we name the criteria themselves “somatic markers,” after Damasio. Individuals have many emotional orientations related to different communities, characterised by different (probably overlapping) constellations of somatic markers. For a teacher one emotional orientation is the teacherly emotional orientation, which contains somatic markers leading the teacher to make specific decisions in classrooms consistent with that identity.
At the middle level, “purposes” group somatic markers into patterns that make sense at a conscious level, linked to actions and collections of purposes, in turn, form emotional orientations. Purposes are significant for researchers, teachers and teacher educators in that they provide a level of description that allows an individual to see whether they are acting effectively or not and can lead to changing her/his behaviours.  
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnderstanding emotions in mathematical thinking and learning
EditorsUlises Xolocotzin Eligio
PublisherAcademic Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780128022184
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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