EXAMINING THE EFFECTS OF STUDENTS’ PERCEPTIONS OF CLASSROOM JUSTICE ON THEIR EMOTIONAL RESPONSES IN THE CLASSROOM
Northwestern State University (UNITED STATES)
This paper summarizes a quantitative study conducted in multiple universities throughout the United States. One purpose of this study was to examine the emotional response theory in the instructional context. This study used the emotional response theory as a framework to examine the teacher-student relationship as an interpersonal relationship. While the theory was not labeled until the 1970s, a long line of research exists that examines emotional responses in reaction to stimuli. An emotion refers to “a feeling and its distinctive thoughts, psychological and biological states, and range of propensities to act” (Golman, 1995, p. 289). In his book, The Rhetoric, Aristotle was among the first scholars to recognize that emotions can affect individuals’ judgments. He suggested that in order to understand emotions, people must try to determine (a) the mental state of the person experiencing the emotion, (b) who might be causing the emotion, and (c) the situational factors that might trigger the emotion. In 1872, Darwin analyzed emotions in more detail by identifying specific emotions people experience such as anxiety, joy, anger, fear, and helplessness. In addition to his extensive identification of emotions, he explained how individuals express emotions through the use of facial and body movements. The initial investigations of emotions by Aristotle and Darwin provided a starting point for analyzing emotions in modern research.
A second purpose of this study was to determine the predictive power of classroom justice. Classroom justice is defined as “perceptions of fairness regarding outcomes or processes that occur in the instructional context” (Chory-Assad & Paulsel, 2004b, p. 254). There are three types of classroom justice: distributive, procedural, and interactional. Distributive justice refers to perceptions that the outcomes of a given transaction are fair. Students might perceive distributive justice based on the grades they receive on individual assignments or the overall course grade. Procedural justice refers to perceptions that the procedures used to arrive at outcomes are fair. Students might perceive procedural justice based on policies and procedures outlined in the course syllabus or articulated in class that emphasize how the course is conducted, such as attendance and makeup policies, the grading scale used in the course, and scheduling of exams and written assignments. Interactional justice refers to fairness in the interpersonal treatment individuals receive from those who make decisions and if they are treated with respect. Students might perceive interactional justice based on how well instructors treat them and understand their feelings, concerns, and needs.
The effects of distributive, procedural, and interactional justice on students’ emotional response were examined. Students (N = 511) completed questionnaires about the class they had immediately before the class in which data were collected. Results indicated that classroom justice positively predicted students’ emotional response. Implications and limitations of these findings in the instructional context were discussed. In addition, directions for future research were offered.