Personalized Learning

Mind and Brain Education                           

Mental Health

Children’s ability to learn effectively can be impacted by social and communication deficits and difficulties adapting to changes in their environment. To improve outcomes for children, it is important to provide timely and effective interventions. This review summarizes the range and effectiveness of AI-assisted tools, developed using machine learning models, which have been applied to address learning challenges in students with a range of neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). Our review summarizes the evidence that AI tools can be successfully used to improve social interaction and supportive education.

Neurodevelopmental Disorders Do Not Usually Appear Alone

Globally, childhood-onset mental disorders are becoming more prevalent, with a rate of 10–20%. NDDs are now recognized as a leading cause of morbidity in children, with a huge impact not only on the individual child but also on their families and society. Moreover, there is frequent overlap between NDDs and Mental Health Disorders (MHD). For example, between 30% and 50% of children with ADHD are reported to have a comorbid MHD, such as depression, and over 70% of children with ASD are reported to have a comorbid MHD, most commonly including anxiety (40%) and ADHD (30–40%). The complex web of comorbidities between NDDs and MHDs can contribute to the severity of learning disabilities in individual children and can further reduce the quality of life. This complex comorbidity can be associated with poorer long-term prognosis and has implications for tailoring treatments for individual children.

Most Learning Tools Have Been Created for ASD Students

The systematic review was conducted by analyzing the most relevant studies (2011-2021) on assistive tools developed to address learning disabilities. The study looked at different tools used to help students with ADHD, dyslexia, and ASD in their learning.

It found that most tools are made to help ASD students, with application-based tools being the most common. Robots and application-based tools are popular tools for students with ASD as they can help with social interactions and meet individual learning needs. More technology and AI tools are used for ASD compared to other learning disabilities, likely because ASD presents challenges in learning and social communication. Deep learning models are used to develop robots for ASD because ASD is different from person to person. 

Application-based tools are used to help students with dyslexia, offering personalized learning features. For ADHD, a mix of wearable devices, robots, and application-based tools is used, but not all tools are personalized to each student’s needs. The study suggests that AI tools should have personalized features to meet each student’s unique learning needs, as these needs vary greatly among individuals.

Safeguards Need To Be Put in Place To Protect Younger Students

Educational assistive technologies are commonly used with adolescents, therefore ethical concerns arise over privacy, data security, and informed consent. Safeguards need to be in place to ensure data cannot be hacked, and educators should ensure ethical considerations are in place before any student data is collected when an assistive tool is being used.

The AI-based tool is also able to perform data analysis rapidly and provide deeper insights

and hence is competent in offering real-time personalized recommendations to users.

While AI in cloud computing may generally lower costs, a well-trained staff needs to

be employed to operate the complex AI system which may incur some costs. The cloud

system would also require a continuous internet connection to work well; weak internet

access can impair the benefits of the cloud system.

Notable Quotes: 

“The model will then be able to predict the user’s learning needs accordingly

and provide personalized learning to suit the child’s learning needs.”

“This review highlights that despite being in its infancy stage, assisted tools have been proposed to address the learning needs and quality of life of children with the most common NDDs: ADHD, dyslexia, and ASD.”

“Inclusive approaches are recommended so that students with NDD can be included in mainstream schools whenever possible. However, mainstream classroom settings can worsen symptoms of ADHD, especially when children are expected to sit still, remain quiet and stay focused.”

Personal Takeaway: 

As a special education teacher, this study gives me a lot of hope. Adding AI to the toolbox of students with learning disorders can be a huge bonus but it should be implemented carefully. Reliance on the tool should be limited until the student is mature enough to realize that there are instances where they cannot rely on AI. Teacher involvement and training is also a big part of introducing AI to schools.—Shekufeh

Barua, P.D.; Vicnesh, J.; Gururajan, R.; Oh, S.L.; Palmer, E.; Azizan, M.M.; Kadri, N.A.; Acharya, U.R. Artificial Intelligence Enabled Personalized Assistive Tools to Enhance Education of Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders—A Review. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 1192. https://

Key Takeaway: 

Students with a specific learning disability (SLD) have various factors that contribute to their social, emotional and behavioral challenges. This study shows that low family income, exposure to antenatal smoking, short breastfeeding period, and long screen exposure place children with SLD at a higher risk of behavioral problems. Teachers should be aware of this study and provide a multidisciplinary approach to supporting children with SLD. —Tanya Farrol

Approximately 5-15% of school children have a specific learning disability (SLD),1 which is described as “when children’s mathematical skills, reading, writing and self-expression skills are low according to their age and education level.”2 Students with SLDs have difficulties not only at school but also socially, such as limited interactions with peers and avoidance of social games that require attention. Early intervention is key to support these students with their emotional, social and behavioral issues.

The Role of Family Characteristics in Specific Learning Disabilities

This study examines the role that “family, natal, postnatal and childhood characteristics” have on the behavior of children with SLDs. It predicts that children with SLD have a “high risk of social, emotional and behavioral problems” relative to their peers. A Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was translated into Turkish and administered to 278 families with at least one child diagnosed with an SLD.

 Here are the findings from the study:

  • Children from low-economic families experienced more emotional difficulties and stress. The literature supports this, stating that children growing up in a financially disadvantaged home experience increased exposure to problems, such as “unemployment, broken family, mentally unhealthy parents, and the use of improper education methods.”3
  • Children who are exposed to antenatal smoking have difficulties in their cognitive development in the long term. Neural images showed that the neural changes were “similar to ADHD and functional involvement” with prenatal exposure to smoking.4
  • Children who were breastfed longer (over 12 months) had improved cognitive development, less behavioral difficulties, and fewer social problems. This was the same for children diagnosed with SLD. If a child with SLD was not breastfed or only breastfed for a short amount of time, then the child was more likely to experience difficulties with peer relationships in the future.
  • Families who had more hospitalizations in early childhood had more comorbidity with SLD and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD). In the study, this comorbidity was significantly higher in children diagnosed with SLD before the age of 8. One hypothesis suggested by the authors was that children who are more hyperactive, get into more accidents and therefore are more likely to visit the hospital.
  • Prosocial behavior problems increased in children with SLD the younger they were exposed to their first screens. It is suggested that “inappropriate parental attitudes” and less monitoring of screen time, especially during preschool years, impacted cognitive development, emotional issues, and problems at school. Children were deemed to have long exposure to screens with greater than four hours per day.

In summary, financial issues, exposure to antenatal smoking, short breastfeeding period, hospitalizations, early first screen use, and sustained screen use during preschool years are associated with problematic behaviors in children with a SLD. In essence, the authors found that the families’ circumstances increased the risks for children with SLD. Schools need to be aware of this study and implement a multi-disciplinary approach to providing appropriate support.

Summarized Article:

Ayar, G., Yalçın, S. S., Tanıdır Artan, Ö., Güneş, H. T., & Çöp, E. (2021). Strengths and difficulties in children with specific learning disabilities. Child: Care, Health and Development, 48(1), 55–67. 

Summary by: Tanya Farrol – Tanya believes that the MARIO Framework is a personalized learning experience that develops skills and empowers learners to become an integral part of their learning journey.

Additional References:

  1. Karande, S., & Kulkarni, M. (2005). Specific Learning Disability: The Invisible Handicap. Indian Pediatrics, 42(4), 315–319. 
  2. Heller, T., Harris, S. P., & Gill, C. J. (2018). In Disability in American life an encyclopedia of concepts, policies, and controversies. ABC-CLIO, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC. 
  3. Lindström, M., Hansen, K., & Rosvall, M. (2012). Economic stress in childhood and adulthood, and self-rated health: A population based study concerning risk accumulation, critical period and Social Mobility. BMC Public Health, 12(1). 
  4. Holz, N. E., Boecker, R., Baumeister, S., Hohm, E., Zohsel, K., Buchmann, A. F., Blomeyer, D., Jennen-Steinmetz, C., Hohmann, S., Wolf, I., Plichta, M. M., Meyer-Lindenberg, A., Banaschewski, T., Brandeis, D., & Laucht, M. (2014). Effect of prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke on inhibitory control. JAMA Psychiatry, 71(7), 786. 

Key Takeaway

There appears to have been a decline in self-esteem and self-efficacy among teachers forced to make a rapid switch to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the cases of teachers working closely with students with learning disabilities. —Shekufeh Monadjem

Relationships Matter

The importance of relationships, and in particular those in school settings, is a theme that has begun to come to the forefront in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cataudella et al. (2021) from the University of Cagliari in Italy investigated how the pandemic has affected teachers’ self-esteem and self-efficacy while trying to maintain meaningful relationships with their students. 

The sudden shift from face-to-face learning to online learning has “made policy-makers and educators realise the importance of human socioemotional aspects in the relationships between teachers and students”. Teachers suddenly had to deliver their lessons using technological tools, including specific online platforms, in order to reach their students. 

Although some teachers were ready to face the situation, a large majority had to adapt their teaching in a short time “without training, with insufficient capacity, and little preparation.” As a result, students became deprived of social, face-to-face interaction among their peers, and teachers and parents were forced to be more involved because of the need for monitoring school lessons at home. 

Teacher Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy: Measurement and Results

The research in this article focused on the self-esteem and self-efficacy levels of the teachers, respectively defined as an “individual’s consideration of his/her own self as competent and important, as well as perceiving oneself as successful and valuable” and “a person’s conviction in their ability to succeed in a particular situation.”  Job satisfaction levels were measured among the teachers, as well as psychological, physiological, and environmental conditions that can generally guarantee positive feelings towards work,1 which, in turn, increase the rate of productivity and sense of well-being. “Among the variables found in the literature, self-esteem and self-efficacy were found to play an important role in job satisfaction and in the ability to meet or address changes.” The variables which had an effect on teachers’ job satisfaction were also found to have an effect on teacher-student and teacher-parent communication, as well as the aspect of collaboration. 

The results of this study “showed lower self-esteem and lower self-efficacy levels in the teachers who were involved with distance learning as compared with the normative sample.” Self-esteem and self-efficacy also decreased in teachers with greater service seniority at work, and it was usually these teachers who supported students with learning disorders. A consistent supportive context was present for the majority of students with learning disabilities who were successful in their online learning environment. This aspect of providing remote support, which added extra stress, resulted in the decline in job satisfaction rates among teachers in senior positions.

Summarized Article:

Cataudella, S., Carta, S. M., Mascia, M. L., Masala, C., Petretto, D. R., Agus, M., & Penna, M. P. (2021). Teaching in times of the COVID-19 pandemic: A pilot study on teachers’ self-esteem and self-efficacy in an Italian sample. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(15), 8211.

Summary by: Shekufeh – Shekufeh believes that the MARIO Framework builds relationships that enable students to view the world in a positive light as well as empowering them to create plans that ultimately lead to their success. 

Additional References:

  1. Baluyos, G. R., Rivera, H. L., & Baluyos, E. L. (2019). Teachers’ job satisfaction and work performance. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 7(08), 206.

Key Takeaway

The current diagnostic system for learning disabilities is not accurate enough to allow for all children to receive support when they are experiencing challenges in academic skills across the curriculum. —Frankie Garbutt

In this article, Peterson et al. (University of Colorado) investigated to what extent specific learning disabilities (SpLD) are truly specific because they argue that academic skills “correlate across the curriculum.” The researchers took a sample that was “overselected for learning disabilities.” To do this, they “intentionally included children across the full range of individual differences in this study in response to growing recognition that a dimensional, quantitative view of SLD [specific learning disability] is more accurate than a categorical view.” The authors analysed the data of almost 700 children ranging from age 8-16.

Often Students Struggle Across the Curriculum

The basis of their research was that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition collapses diagnoses of “Reading Disorder, Mathematics Disorder, Disorder of Written Expression, and Learning Disorder” into one overarching category of SpLD. Through their analysis of how learning disabilities are measured and diagnosed the authors argue that all skills overlap as “a student with difficulties in one area of the curriculum is more likely to have difficulties in other areas.”

An Umbrella Diagnosis Is Reasonable in Most Cases

The conclusion drawn from their intensive analysis was that the hierarchical nature of academic skills under a single umbrella of SpLD is reasonable. However, one argument is that diagnosing a student with a SpLD in spelling is not meaningful because this affects word reading, thus linking to SpLD in basic reading or dyslexia. Moreover, the data shows that students, who experience difficulties in writing and need support in this area would “benefit from support for other academic skills as well.” 

Therefore the question of “how to classify children who struggle across academic domains” within the current diagnostic system remains. Some children, who perform low across a range of academic skills, yet do not qualify for SpLD, lose out on support because there is “so little specificity to their profile” and the diagnostic system does not have enough specifiers “to describe children who have widespread academic difficulties and subsequent need for educational services.” 

Summarized article:  

Peterson, R. L., McGrath, L. M., Willcutt, E. G., Keenan, J. M., Olson, R. K., & Pennington, B. F. (2021). How specific are learning disabilities?. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 0022219420982981.

Summary by: Frankie Garbutt- Frankie believes that the MARIO Framework encourages students to become reflective, independent learners who progress at their own rate.

Key Takeaway

Although students with learning disabilities (LD) may experience difficulties throughout their academic career, they can develop strategies to overcome them—at times, without professional guidance. Yet, “active use of mentorship, coaching and support service units for students with LD will also contribute to ensuring greater success in higher education.” —Frankie Garbutt

Firat (Adiyaman University, Turkey) and Bildiren (Adnan Menderes University, Turkey) were intrigued by the increase in number of students with learning disabilities amongst university students overall. They wanted to know how these students may experience difficulties when compared to neuro-typical students because only a small percentage of students with LDs eventually graduate from university.

What Was Measured

The researchers collected a range of qualitative data on one student with learning disabilities (defined as ongoing problems with literacy and numeracy as well as verbal language use). They measured the strengths and weaknesses of the student throughout his academic life (from preschool to university) and how the student worked to build methods to overcome barriers to their academic progress. 

The participant’s strengths over his education career included motor development, problem-solving, social skills, a desire to develop, and self-advocacy. His weaknesses throughout his educational career included subject content, social skills, executive functioning, and metacognitive skills. 

Many of the difficulties he experienced in primary school continued through university, while one of his specific weaknesses in preschool, social skills, became a strength in his university years. 

He was able to develop strategies to succeed on his own by studying lessons, improving memory methods, and learning to speed read. Interestingly, the student had not been identified with learning needs until he entered university and took a course on learning disabilities. Alongside his academic career, the participant learned to grow his self-esteem with activities outside the classroom like “chess or wrestling.”

Recommendations and Limitations

“Socio-emotional and academic difficulties experienced by students with LD may also continue throughout their university education. In this context, academic staff may receive additional training for increasing their awareness on the requirements of students with LD and for learning how they can support these students better.” 

There are limitations to this research because “the study was carried out with a single student in the final year of his university education. Accordingly, the opinions of a greater number of students could be examined to yield more generalisable insights.”  

Furthermore, the study data relied on interviews with the participant which may be tainted by him not accurately remembering the strengths and difficulties he experienced throughout his academic career. “The acquired data are limited by the self-awareness level of the student. Hence, this can be taken into consideration in future studies and the opinions of the student can be taken together with those of their peers, students, and family members.” 

Summarized Article:

Fırat, T., & Bildiren, A. (2021). Strengths and weaknesses of a student with learning disabilities: from preschool to university. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 45(7), 958-972. 

Summary by: Frankie Garbutt- Frankie believes that the MARIO Framework encourages students to become reflective, independent learners who progress at their own rate.

Key Takeaway: Children with reading disorder (RD) have an increased risk of anxiety disorders, the most common mental health disorder in children. Fortunately, preliminary research suggests that an improvement in anxiety symptoms is associated with an improvement in academic performance over time. These findings highlight the importance of practitioner awareness of the common co-occurrence of RD and anxiety and provide support for: 1) screening for anxiety disorders in children diagnosed with RD and 2) comprehensive intervention that addresses both academic and mental health needs of children with RD. —Ashley Parnell

Reading disorder (RD), a type of specific learning disorder (SLD) that involves impairment in word reading, reading fluency, and/or reading comprehension, is common in the general population, with reported prevalence ranging from 5% to 17%. Children with RD have an increased risk for developing other psychiatric disorders, including anxiety disorder, and show higher anxiety levels than children without learning disabilities. However, “this co-occurrence is often under-recognized and under-treated resulting in less than optimal outcomes in all areas including emotional outcomes.”1

Given these concerns and statistics, the purpose of the current study from Hossain, Bent, and Hendren was to examine the association between anxiety symptoms and overall academic performance in children with RD, in hopes that a better understanding of this relationship would result in improved screening and treatment. 

Participants included 128 children (aged 7-14) from three special education schools that specialized in teaching students with RD. Teachers completed two rating scales every three months for two years, one that measured anxiety symptoms and another that measured academic progress in content areas including reading, writing, and math. 

Comparison of the two measures occurred over the two-year time period and at each time point of survey completion, both revealing a significant association between anxiety and academic performance with increased levels of anxiety symptomatology being associated with poorer academic performance in children with RD. Of specific importance, findings suggest that an improvement in an individual’s anxiety symptoms is associated with an improvement in their academic performance over time. 

Given the prevalence of anxiety and RD in isolation and comorbidly, these findings highlight the importance of screening for anxiety disorders in children that have been diagnosed with RD upon diagnosis and on a regular basis. Once identified, an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, targeted intervention that addresses both academic and mental health needs is recommended.

Summarized Article:

Hossain, B., Bent, S., & Hendren, R. (2021). The association between anxiety and academic performance in children with reading disorder: A longitudinal cohort study. Dyslexia.

Summary by: Ashley M. Parnell — Ashley strives to apply the MARIO Framework to build evidence-based learning environments that support student engagement, empowerment, and passion and is working with a team of educators to grow and share this framework with other educators.

Additional Reference: 

  1. Hendren, R. L., Haft, S. L., Black, J. M., White, N. C., & Hoeft, F. (2018). Recognizing Psychiatric Comorbidity With Reading Disorders. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9, 101.

Key Takeaway: Across three studies, students’ belief in a growth mindset only predicted increased engagement in math learning for those students who also had sufficient metacognitive skills to monitor their own learning.  Thus, metacognitive skills, when paired with a growth mindset, provide complementary skill sets and may be particularly beneficial for students in low socioeconomic school settings. However, the impact of these interventions could vary depending on contextual factors, such as socioeconomic status and teacher-student relationships, and should be taken into consideration. —Kristin Simmers 

In their article, “More Than Growth Mindset: Individual and Interactive Links Among Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Adolescents’ Ability Mindsets, Metacognitive Skills, and Math Engagement,” Wang et. al (2021) (University of Pittsburgh) emphasize the following key ideas in relation to Self-Regulation: 

  • Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) shows motivation can help learners; however, metacognitive skills are likely needed for students to fully engage with learning and monitor their overall progress.
  • Recent research suggests the impact of growth mindset may be context specific. Students from low socio-economic status (SES) contexts are more likely to demonstrate fixed mindsets about academic ability and are more likely to benefit from developing growth mindsets. 
  • If students lack sufficient metacognitive skills, a growth mindset alone may not increase learner engagement. As Wang et. al states, “Metacognitive skills may be necessary for students to realize their growth mindset.”
  • Positive teacher-student relationships are likely a significant factor in supporting the development of metacognitive skills and a growth mindset, as well as promoting academic engagement. 
  • Teachers should create environments that support metacognition and growth mindset within their specific contexts. 

Self-Regulated Learning (SRL)

To help further understand the lens of SRL in the context of metacognition and growth mindset, Zimmerman and Moylan’s (2009)1 SRL model proposes three phases of the learning process: forethought (before learning), performance (during learning), and reflection (after learning). In this model, metacognition is present in each stage, and it is plausible that students who are metacognitively able to monitor their learning process may also be more motivated to persevere and demonstrate a growth mindset. Conversely, if a student does not have sufficient metacognitive skills, simply believing in a growth mindset may not significantly improve student learning engagement. 

Math Metacognitive Skills & Growth Mindset

Flavell (1987)2 defines metacognition as the awareness and regulation of one’s thoughts, and Zimmerman & Moylan (2009)1 identify planning, monitoring and evaluating as three skills generally involved in metacognitive regulation. Meanwhile, Dweck (2000)3 defines growth mindset as a belief that intelligence is malleable, rather than fixed. Thus, the study shared in the article suggests that motivation may be beneficial to students, but metacognitive skills are also likely needed in order for students to optimally engage with math learning.4

Ultimately, academically vulnerable students may particularly benefit from metacognition & mindset interventions.4,5 

Summarized Article

Wang, M. T., Zepeda, C. D., Qin, X., Del Toro, J., & Binning, K. R. (2021). More Than Growth Mindset: Individual and Interactive Links Among Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Adolescents’ Ability Mindsets, Metacognitive Skills, and Math Engagement. Child Development.

Summary By: Kristin Simmers—Kristin supports the MARIO Framework’s efforts to connect teachers and researchers to improve student learning.

Additional References:

  1. Zimmerman, B. J., & Moylan, A. R. (2009). Self-regulation: Where metacognition and motivation intersect. In D. J. Hacker, J. Dunlosky, & A. C. Graesser (Eds.), Handbook of metacognition in education (pp. 299–316). New York, NY: Routledge. 
  2. Flavell, J. H. (1987). Speculation about the nature and development of metacognition. En F. Weinert y R. Kluwe (Eds.), Metacognition, motivation, and understanding (pp. 21-29).
  3. Dweck, C. S. (2000). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press.
  4. Rosenzweig, E. Q., & Wigfield, A. (2016). STEM motiva- tion interventions for adolescents: A promising start, but further to go. Educational Psychologist, 51, 146–163. 
  5. Schneider, W., & Artelt, C. (2010). Metacognition and mathematics education. ZDM-International Journal on Mathematics Education, 42 (2), 149–161.

Article Abstract

This is the first issue of Metacognition and Learning, a new international journal dedicated to the study of metacognition and all its aspects within a broad context of learning processes. Flavell coined the term metacognition in the seventies of the last century (Flavell, 1979) and, since then, a huge amount of research has emanated from his initial efforts. Do we need metacognition as a concept in learning theory? Already in 1978, Brown posed the question whether metacognition was an epiphenomenon. Apparently, she was convinced otherwise as she has been working fruitfully for many years in the area of metacognition. Moreover, a review study by Wang, Haertel, and Walberg (1990) revealed metacognition to be a most powerful predictor of learning. Metacognition matters, but there are many unresolved issues that need further investigation. This introduction will present ten such issues, which are by no means exhaustive. They merely indicate what themes might be relevant to the journal.

MARIO Connections

Veenman et al.’s description of the evolution of thought surrounding metacognition and its role in education broadened and deepened MARIO’s own definition of metacognition. MARIO envisions metacognition as an active process, constantly evolving, in part due to its complex nature as described in this study.

Article Abstract

Erik de Corte describes a progression in which earlier behaviorism gave way increasingly to cognitive psychology with learning understood as information processing rather than as responding to stimuli. More active concepts of learning took hold (“constructivism”), and with “social constructivism” the terrain is not restricted to what takes place within individual minds but as the interaction between learners and their contextual situation. There has been a parallel move for research to shift from artificial exercises/situations to real-life learning in classrooms and hence to become much more relevant for education. The current understanding of learning, aimed at promoting 21st century or “adaptive” competence, is characterized as “CSSC learning”: “constructive” as learners actively construct their knowledge and skills; “self-regulated” with people actively using strategies to learn; “situated” and best understood in context rather than abstracted from environment; and “collaborative” not a solo activity.

MARIO Connections

De Corte’s work defines how learning is currently understood to be an active, self-regulated, social experience rooted in authentic context. MARIO, in all aspects, espouses this view of learning. It is fundamental to how MARIO defines the learner’s role.

Key Takeaway: Social Emotional Learning (SEL) focuses on improving the learners’ interaction with others and self-management of their emotions. These SEL skills sometimes have to be explicitly taught with added practice to help students form successful relationships with peers, teachers, family and the community. —Shekufeh Monadjem

Summary: A recent article published in the journal, Research in Developmental Disabilities by Spilt, Bosmans, and Verscheueren from University of Leuven, Belgium, examined the role of special education teachers and studied whether conducting emotion dialogues with students diagnosed with severe emotional and behavioural disturbances could promote self-understanding and emotional regulation.

It is often a challenging task to teach children with severe emotional and behavioural disturbances, as unexpected triggers can cause intense emotions in these children that can manifest as temper tantrums and oppositional or aggressive behaviour. “Children with emotional and behavior disturbances often struggle to explain their own emotions and may fail to oversee the consequences of their behaviors.”

Research shows that these children are also at risk of forming poor relationships with their teachers. Teachers and caregivers can play a corrective role in the socioemotional development of these children by providing a secure and supportive environment at school that will benefit the socioemotional development of these children.

This study examined the effect of high-quality conversations referred to as “emotion dialogues” between teachers and students with a mean age of 8.3 who had been diagnosed with severe emotional and behavioural disturbances. “Emotion dialogues sensitize children for internal emotional states (e.g.“What did I feel? How did it feel?”), raise awareness of causes (e.g., “What made me feel so angry?”) and consequences (e.g., “Because of my anger I did things that are not acceptable”), and help children explore appropriate expressions of emotions or strategies to relieve stress (e.g., “What will help me calm down instead of going mad?”).”

“For a healthy socioemotional development, it is critical that children can construct meaning of emotional experiences to increase their understanding of their own inner worlds. One way to promote such understanding is by engaging children in conversations about emotional experiences,” Spilt et al. quotes Fivush et al. (1) This is done through dialogue about past emotional events, where teachers use appropriate vocabulary to label emotions, “explain causes and consequences of emotions, and teach children how to express emotions in an appropriate manner by teaching and modelling adequate coping strategies and expressions,” Spilt et al. quotes Denham et al. (2)

The study found that positive changes in students’ behaviours were seen in the following ways: Adequate task completion, decreased negativity and hostility, accepting Teacher Guidance, and more positive resolution to negative situations. These outcomes are achieved through co-regulation, which is defined as “a warm, responsive relationship in which a caregiver positively structures the environment and provides support, coaching, and modeling for self-regulation skills.”

Finally, Spilt, Bosmans, and Verscheueren conclude by stating that “by engaging children in emotion dialogues, teachers become co-regulators of children’s emotions.”

Article Summarized:

Spilt, J. L., Bosmans, G., & Verschueren, K. (2021). Teachers as co-regulators of children’s emotions: A descriptive study of teacher-child emotion dialogues in special education. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 112, 103894.

Summary By:  Shekufeh Monadjem – Shekufeh believes that the MARIO Framework builds relationships that enables students to view the world in a positive light as well as enabling them to create plans that ultimately lead to their success.

Additional References:

  1. Fivush, R., Berlin, L., McDermott Sales, J., Mennuti-Washburn, J., & Cassidy, J. (2003). Functions of parent-child reminiscing about emotionally negative events. Memory, 11, 179–192.
  2. Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., & Zinsser, K. (2012). Early childhood teachers as socializers of young children’s emotional competence. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40, 137–143.