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Although affect is widely recognized as a powerful force in determining students’ academic success,researchers and practitioners have paid little attention to emotional barriers that often impede college success or how instructors may respond constructively when such barriers arise. The purpose of this paper is to initiate discussion of this important problem by offering a model of how an initially resistant, fearful, and/or anxious student can use emotionally unpleasant experiences to transform himself or herself into a more autonomous and successful learner. We offer prima facie support for this model by presenting the results of two cases of first year students. Although this model may not apply to all anxious first year students, it nevertheless has value (a) as a resource for instructors working with students who fit this pattern and (b) as an example of how the role of emotions in learning can profitably be studied.


Originally published:

Kannan, Jaya, Miller, John Laurence. "The Positive Role of Negative Emotions: Fear, Anxiety, Conflict and Resistance as Productive Experiences in Academic Study and in the Emergence of Learner Autonomy." International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 2.2 (2009): 144-154.