Basic Framework and Initial Practice for Affective Education
China began focusing on economic development after the Cultural Revolution was over. In 1979, the educational community proposed that school work be aimed at providing “good moral, intelligent and physical education” with learning at the core. In 1983-1984, it was gradually noticeable that only a very small proportion of the countless students who attended the national higher education entrance examination were admitted into colleges and universities, with an admission ratio of only 4%. No sooner had this phenomenon emerged than some sharp-sighted primary and secondary school headmasters and teachers took notice of it. At that time I worked at a university as a teacher and middle-level administrator for moral education of students, and I found in the school’s moral education work a blind tendency towards systematic knowledge and scientific management and evaluation—effected in the name of modernization catch-up, which led to formalism in moral education as well as a divergence of doing from knowing. In primary and secondary schools, an overemphasis on the study of signs and logical reason led a divergence in students of cognitive and emotional development from one another. In school, for instance, students good at language and literature and math were always most favored. Such bias was liable to cause a fall in students’ sensitivity, sense of morality and beauty, and creativity. These, though originally intended to “bring order out of chaos”, created a new deviation which not only led to a disjunction between school education and life and to a lack of energy for school life, but made students—if their negative feelings about learning were not properly regulated— find it hard to form friendly fellowship and a cooperative teacher-student relationship in their school lives. There is a typical case which occurred in the 1980s. Professor Lu Jie’s (my doctoral mentor’s) granddaughter returned from school and complained tearfully to her that “My classmates said to me, ‘If you get a 100 score again, we’ll give you a beating together’”. This prompted me to think: How to extend a kinship-based sense of home security into non-kinship interpersonal relations in school so as to retain a “heterogeneous” yet “isomorphous” sense of security could be the first step towards affective education in school?
In research, I paid heed to lianxi gan (K^S which later I called “lianjie gan” 1Ш®), or a sense of connection—a feeling which first appeared in human life (Zhu 2005, p. 42). I saw it as the emotional foundation of the greatest potential for differentiation development, and thought of it as initially a value whole which is formed in the earliest social connection of human beings and which can split continuously into what I call a mathematically “variant-like” variety of emotions such as intimacy, sympathy, empathy, order, goodwill and reverence—all these being the bedrock of children’s body, morality and aesthetic spirit. It is common knowledge that the UNESCO, the EU among other international organizations, facing an increasingly grim problem with balanced cognitive and emotional development of children, have formulated a series of concepts such as “comprehensive learning”, “deep-understanding learning” and “education of quality”. As to these concepts, the academic community would all pay heed to “emotion” as an important dimension of education. Looking back, the sense of connection was at the core of affective education that I have advocated. In fact, from the 1990s to the present, my students and I have researched into a wide variety of “feelings of connection”, including emotional variation, emotional quality, and emotional competence. Since 2012, we and professors from the University of Wisconsin and the Stanford University have experimented with project-based “integrative learning” in tens of elementary schools in China. The research pays particular attention to developing the experience of children about the sense of connection, letting them understand its importance and value, and exploring possibilities of guiding children to connect disciplines with disciplines, knowledge with life, people with things, people with people, and people with life. The implementation of this program further cemented my confidence in putting the sense of connection at the core of affective education.
In 1992, I defined affective education as paying attention to how the emotional mechanism as a mechanism of life works with the physiological and thinking mechanisms to achieve the best state of work (Zhu 2007, p. 15). I also conducted surveys of schools, looked up multidisciplinary documents and sorted through positive and valuable emotional manifestations in educational activities, in an attempt to describe the goals and main methods of affective education for different age groups. And in particular, based on multidisciplinary knowledge and educational experience, I pondered and sorted through relatively independent mechanisms that distinguish emotional from cognitive activity, and initially formed a cognitive framework of affective education. I think that affective education is not an independent domain of activity, but a theoretical and practical issue involving the entire sphere and process of educational activity. In 1994, I learned that in Europe there was an affective education research community that consisted of the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy, Spain etc., and they gave emotional activity a definition. Because teachers in Europe each were in charge of a class, they argued that teachers should pay main attention to aspects outside of cognitive development of children, i.e. paying heed to the emotional state of children and giving them mental care, and they placed more stress on happy and pleasant experiences of children (Zhu 2014, p. 125). At the same time, in Chinese culture there has long been a tradition of emphasizing the ability of sensory connection of feelings (Zhu 2005, p. 88), holding in esteem the so-called “synesthesia”, this inevitably influenced my research into affective education in a direction that pays more attention to teachers’ skills of affective communication as well as their intrinsic needs for cultural qualities.
When I worked as vice president of teaching work at Nanjing Normal University in the 1990s, we figured out many methods for students to experience work pleasure and special responsibility as teachers, and except regular curriculum, and actively developed hidden curriculum. We encouraged students to be with children with development difficulties in their homes, letting students learn to care for the children while accompanying them. In addition to probation, we required that our students go and stay at primary or secondary schools for half a day every week. Our attempts, I believe, were effective at that time, but later those good ideas and practices were all gradually discarded. Pedagogic scholars at university at that time often led their students to go to primary and secondary schools. For a long period of time I cooperated with grass-roots teachers at some experimental schools in studying how to push education for all-round development with emotional education. Through four to five years of cooperation, we developed a number of quality education models with emotional characteristics, based on different experimental objectives and research priorities for schools as well as on cultural traditions and teacher characters of different schools. For instance, primary School Attached to Wuxi Normal School Jiangsu’s “Happy Learning Education”—the significance that teachers’ emotion of love for and delight in learning has for happy learning of children; Second Primary School Attached to Nantong Normal College’s “Scenario-based Education”—creating diverse scenarios to encourage active learning and promote the integration of moral, intelligent and aesthetic education; Nanjing Xingzhi Primary School’s “Appreciative Education”—teachers are patient and open-minded while appreciating children; Primary School Attached to Jiangsu Danyang Normal College’s “Emotional & Intelligent Education”—teachers apply the wisdom of emotional and intelligent integration to improve educational quality; Nanjing Langya Road Primary School’s “Little Master Education”—encouraging students to be masters of study, life and the collective; Primary School Attached to Huiyin Normal College’s “Life-based Education”—stressing life as the basis of knowledge and developing children’s enthusiasm and ability to acquire knowledge in life; Jiangyin Experimental Primary School’s “Beauty to Perfection” education— finding and feeling beauty in disciplines so as to develop students in an all-round manner (Zhu 2007, p. 5); and so on.