Attachment Representations and Emotions in Teaching as Antecedents to Teaching Styles in Higher Education

Jonathan Mattanah, Laura J. Holt, Richard S. Feinn, Courtney Katzenberg, Elianna Albert, Ryan Boarman, Olivia Bowley, Katherine Marszalek, Thomas Visalli, Damilola Daramola, Mohammed Abduljalil


The current study explored how relational antecedents and emotional experiences were associated with faculty-centered versus student-centered approaches to teaching in higher education. One hundred and forty-one faculty members from two institutions of higher education in the United States completed self-report surveys regarding an undergraduate course they were teaching that semester. Path analyses showed that faculty reports of a secure attachment style were positively correlated with positive teaching-related emotions and, in turn, with greater use of a student-centered, inquiry-based approach to teaching emphasizing engagement with course material and restructuring of students’ knowledge. Faculty reports of avoidant and anxious-ambivalent attachment styles were correlated with greater negative teaching-related emotions and, in turn, with greater use of a faculty-centered, direct instruction teaching approach. These findings suggest that attachment theory is a useful lens through which to understand why faculty might feel more positively or negatively about their teaching and, in turn, the teaching approaches they employ. We discuss how our findings might inform the re-design of faculty training programs to encourage reflection on relationship styles and greater positive emotions about teaching.

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

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