The Affective Dimension of Teacher Education: Based on Interaction Between Personal Academic Interest, Social Change and Education Reform

Xiaoman Zhu

This chapter is based on the speech I gave on the Second Global Summit of Teacher Education held at Beijing Normal University in 2014. Thank the conference for giving me this speaking opportunity. I am now an old teacher at the Institute of Teacher Education, the Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University. Before it, I worked for a number of educational institutions, where I worked concurrently as university teacher and administrator—a position known as “shuangjian tiao” (ЯХМЭД) in China, or “double shoulder job”—over a span of 33 years during which I witnessed multiple university education reforms and basic education reforms, some of them I was deeply involved in. My speech is a rough account of my personal academic experiences mingled with education reforms of this period, to shed light on how educational ideals could break out of difficulties in reality.

From the mid-1980s onwards, I was sensed and concerned about the lack of affective dimension in education, and thus began paying attention to emotional competence of teachers. First of all, I would like to make a mention of—and express thanks to—the thinkers and scholars who had an important influence on me in different phases of my personal academic development. Main influences on me from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, during which I engaged in my postgraduate studies in the history of Western philosophy, were Baruch Spinoza, Hegel (his Phenomenology of Spirit), as well as Aristotle of ancient Greece; they inspired me to take an interest in the emotional development of human beings. In 1986, I was influenced by Prof. A.^ TrnrapeHKo of the former Soviet Union, the director of the Committee on Ethics Education and the director of the Department of Ethics in the Philosophy Faculty of Lomonosov Moscow State University (he served as chairman of the International Ethics Society around 1990). Prof. TrnrapeHKo found a

X. Zhu (H)

Center for Teacher Education Research, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

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X. Zhu et al. (eds.), Quality of Teacher Education and Learning,

New Frontiers of Educational Research,

DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-3549-4_9

rationalist tendency in Western positivism and psychology, and argued that the tower of ethics could not be built by ignoring sensibility and overstressing logic and reason (Zhu 2013, p. 115). He reaffirmed the value that taping the five senses and acquiring plenty of perception is of—which young Marx stressed—to human morals and spiritual growth. His essays inspired me greatly. A prominent figure of Western Marxism of that period, Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization and OneDimensional Man, as well as Chinese philosopher Li Zehou’s thought, also had a considerable influence on my academic thinking. The main manifestation in me of this influence was that for the first time in my academic thinking, I was clearly conscious of emotion as the most important living resource and cultural condition for shaping personal morality. From the 1990 onwards, influences on me included American developmental psychologist Howard Gardner’s personality intelligence thoughts in his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Japanese scientist Hideaki Koizumi’s view of emphasizing from the brain science’s perspective the role of education in empathy development, American educationalist and philosopher Nel Noddings’ ethics of care, and French philosopher Edgar Morin’s complexity theory. These thinkers made me particularly interested in how education should promote the shaping process of an interactive, open and annular cycle between environments and human emotion and nervous system (Morin 2004, p. 39). Had I not been charged with so many administrative tasks, I would have devoted more of my energy to this area of research that fascinates me. In addition, over the past decade, I have also been considerably influenced by Canadian scholar Max van Manen’s phenomenological methodology that stresses teachers’ career experience (van Manen 2001, p. 13), and Japanese Professor Manabu Sato’s “approaching existence” research methodology. Being put in China’s education development and reform, I have kept refining and enriching my research methods and angles of view in an attempt to look more closely and clearly at teachers as a community and ponder how to make them develop awareness about morality in a professional environment and fathom the moral meaning of life, rather than merely regulate them with policies, administrative orders or ethical criteria and even constrain their vigor of life.

This chapter consists of three parts. The first part is a reflection on my initial attempts—starting off with doctoral studies—to advocate affective education in China from the mid-1980s to the later part of the 1990s, including the basic framework and initial practice. The second part talks of China’s reform policies at national level and grass-roots practice in the last years of the 1990s, including not only great achievements but negative problems—which prompted me to contemplate the paradoxes involved. In the third part, I will examine a period from the turn of the century to the present and beyond. Relying on grass-roots practical creativity and encouraging emotional vitality of teachers is an important way to improve teacher quality and break out.

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