The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Emotional Ambience in Classroom Interaction Rituals

Adam Droppe, Department of educational sciences, University of Kristianstad (Sweden)


The aim of this paper is to elaborate on Randall Collins’ theory of interaction ritual chains, by introducing the concept of emotional ambience (EA) as a complement to Collins' concept of emotional energy (EE). Participating in successful interaction rituals (that is when the participants are “atuned” in actions and find a common intellectual and emotional focus) fills the partakers with emotional energy and induces group solidarity, while unsuccessful interaction rituals imply lack of EE, which is associated with boredom, lack of confidence and depression.[1] Researchers have fruitfully explored classroom interactions using interaction ritual theory.[2] However, researchers recurrently misinterpret the concept of emotional energy, posing it to depict the collective emotional atmosphere of the situation [3], instead of the individual emotional result of the interaction ritual.[1] Since there obviously is a need for a concept for typifying the collective emotional state in a situation I elaborate on emotional ambience (EA) as such a concept. I propose a two-dimensional model that typifies collective emotions on scales of positive and negative valence respectively high and low affect, where for example serenity is positioned as positive on the valence and low on the affect scale, and anger on the negative valence and high on the affect scale. In an interaction ritual the emotional ambience is the output of the foremost intersubjective emotional manifestations in gestures, facial expressions, speech intonation and content etc. Hence EA is methodologically observable. The strength of the EA in a situation is recognized by evaluating to which degree the participants’ actions are adapted to each other, i.e. mirroring each other in speech rhythm, eye contact and affirmative mimic. The use of the EA model is demonstrated by looking at an empirical example of a classroom interaction between a teacher and a student.


Keywords Emotional ambience, emotional energy, interaction ritual theory, relational pedagogy, teacher-student relation, education

[1] Collins, Randall (2004). Interaction ritual chains. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press
[2] For example: Bellocchi, Alberto (2015). Methods for Sociological Inquiry on Emotion in Educational Settings, Emotion Review, vol. 7. No 2.
[3] For example: Milne, Catherine., & Otieno, Tracey. (2007). Understanding engagement: Science demonstrations and emotional energy. Science Education, 91(4), 523-553.


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