Physiological Data and the Study of Mathematics Teachers’ Emotions: Using GSR-data to Trigger Teacher Reflection


  • Elizabeth Lake University of East Anglia
  • Elena Nardi University of East Anglia


mathematics teacher education research, emotional intensity, mathematics teachers, professional development, GSR sensor, physiological data, reflection on video data


Teachers’ emotions while they teach and how these may play out in their students’ experience of mathematics lessons is under-researched. Here, we present a proposition for the incorporation of a type of data not typically included in the study of teacher emotions while they teach: physiological data. Specifically, we present our use of a GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) sensor as a tool that offers approximate indications of how teacher emotions vary during lessons. We report from a study in which experienced secondary mathematics teachers were interviewed before and after observation and video recording of their lessons, during which they wore a GSR device. Episodes from the lessons—selected on the evidence provided by the video recordings, the observations, and the GSR sensor—were used to trigger teacher reflection in the post-lesson interviews. A particular focus in the interviews was placed on the interplay between how the teachers’ emotional intensity varied during the lesson and their teaching actions. The findings show that the use of the GSR sensor revealed aspects of this interplay not evidenced in the other data sources. The findings are presented using evidence from two participants. We propose that the use of GSR data in tandem with other types of data has the capacity to strengthen teacher reflection on how their emotional intensity may vary during a mathematics lesson and the impact of this variation on the lesson. The paper concludes with outlining the benefits for teacher education and professional development of using this unobtrusive yet insight-generating technology as an effective trigger for pedagogical reflection.


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