An analysis of schools from the perspective of teachers’ affective-emotional zones

  • Christian Bryan-Zaykov

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


An ecological approach to space allows human constructs to become the primary prism through which to view workplaces (Nespor, 2000; Urry, 2005; Murdoch 2006). Human beings create meaning in their environments via the unity of symbolic actions and generalized meaning fields that gain their social usefulness via their affective tone. The resulting personal system becomes projected onto the world via the personal arrangement of things that are important for each person (Valsiner, 2000; Valsiner, 2005). Consequently, individual human beings constantly order parts in their environments through an affective-emotional lens when they encounter ideas, objects and spaces (Hochschild, 2003; Thrift, 2008; Boys, 2011). I use the emotional labour (Hochschild, 1983) concepts of display rules (expectations for emotional display) and feeling rules (expectations for internal affect) together with an ecological approach to space to investigate the existence of affective-emotional zones in schools. My research questions were: How do participants in a school make sense of their work environment through the lens of affective-emotional zones? How are affective-emotional zones characterized in terms of display rules and feeling rules? What challenges do teachers face when they are in particular affective-emotional zones and why? I broadly utilized a case study approach with a European international school to interview six experienced teachers using an active interview technique with open coding (Strauss and Corbin, 1998) and critical event coding (Webster and Mertova, 2007) as the principle methods of analysis. I was able to label and describe four zones that I argued are products of teacher rituals, habits, feelings (feeling rules) and emotions (display rules); the communal zone, the school zone, the student zone and the teacher zone. I further the notion of heretical feelings and emotions and describe how they constitute elements of the teacher condition. I found school affective-emotional zones are temporal as school spaces have the potential to shift from one affective-emotional zone to another as a consequence of time changes in the school day. I outline questions for future research based on my findings.
Date of Award29 Jun 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorChris James (Supervisor)


  • space
  • relational feelings
  • emotions
  • zones
  • heresy affective
  • emotional labour

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