Bringing emotion into your classroom

Presenters: Amabel Hunting and Anna Jackson


This session shares insights into some of the ways that we have supported students’ social and emotional capabilities within the Design Thinking Minor in the School of Art and Design. This minor is open to students throughout AUT, which enables students to experience trans-disciplinary creative collaboration.

Design Thinking is largely seen as a business-centred process for undertaking complex problem solving, and a toolkit for developing innovative solutions. The more important and often less apparent benefits are that this framework can support the development of student’s social and emotional skills. In our teaching, the solutions and end outcomes are less important than the process students go through in developing their creative confidence, mastering social and emotional skills and their ability to adapt and be resilient in changing circumstances.

In Design Thinking, there is a key focus on human-centred design, where students learn to empathise with the people they are designing for. We found that for students to emphasise with others they first needed to learn to understand themselves. Using a strengths-based approach enables them to become more empathetic and effective collaborators. We have also carefully considered the classroom environment and social conditions that provide emotional and psychological safety. This supports students to be vulnerable in investigating their own ways on being and doing and encourages them to bring their full selves to the classroom.

As educators, the ability to empower students has required us to deconstruct traditional hierarchies in the classroom. We see ourselves as facilitators instead of teachers, and it is our role to hold the space for uncertainty and to give up the idea of a prescribed ‘right’ answer. In this session, we will discuss how this approach works in practice and the emotional states we need to bring to the classroom to be effective and affective educators.