Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


ORCID IDs Lawrence C. Scharmann

Date of this Version



Scharmann, L.C., Grauer, B.L. Critical relationships in managing students’ emotional responses to science (and evolution) instruction. Evo Edu Outreach 13, 13 (2020).


© The Author(s) 2020. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License



If an instructional environment that is conducive to learning generally requires the development of good student–teacher relationships, then a classroom atmosphere of trust is an especially important consideration when we engage students in the teaching and learning of evolution. Emotional scaffolding, therefore, is crucial to the successful teaching and learning of evolution. Quinlan (Coll Teach 64:101–111, 2016) refers to four key relationships necessary to construct this scaffolding—students with teachers being merely one of the four key relationships comprising a comprehensive emotional scaffolding—the others being students with subject matter, students with other students, and students with their developing selves. Our purpose here is to examine the types of student emotional responses that secondary science teachers reported as emerging in their science classes and categorize students’ behavioral responses as being representative of the four key relationships, identified by Quinlan (Coll Teach 64:101–111, 2016), as necessary for promoting both enhanced learning and individual student growth.


The results of this current study are highly encouraging in that respect. Each of the eight teachers were able to identify the development of each of the four key relationships identified by Quinlan as crucial for instructional success. In addition, where individual teacher profiles were statistically different than the aggregate profile across all eight teachers, it was due to a trade-off in emphasis of the development of one relationship in preference to another.


The most salient recommendations to manage emotional responses to evolution instruction are to: (1) Foster relationships that engage students in positive conversations; (2) Construct relationships in an appropriate sequence—Teacher–Student and Subject–Student first, followed by student–student and finally nurturing students with developing selves; (3) Use non-threatening assessments; and (4) Allow students to privately express their honest feelings about the science being learned.