University of Exeter logo

Research and Innovation blog

Home About Contact Toggle navigation Open menu

The daily lived experiences and the emotional responses of educators

9 September 2020

2 minutes to read

The daily lived experiences and the emotional responses of educators

Doha Abualsaud is a PhD student in the Graduate School of Education; her PhD thesis title is “An exploratory study into the daily lived experiences and emotional responses of EFL teachers in secondary public schools in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” – her supervisors are Dr Salah Troudi and Dr Alexandra Allan.  You can read Doha’s most recently published paper in the Journal of Advanced Research in Social Sciences and Humanities (Volume 4, Issue 6 ). 

Beginning my PhD journey

As I embarked on my PhD journey three years ago, I had little to no idea of what to expect. Feelings of doubt, fear, and uncertainty took over as I started my first day of being a PhD student. Understanding my emotions and trying to conquer each and every one of them led me to delve deeper into the exploration of emotional responses and experiences which became the topic of my doctorate research.

My interest into emotional experiences

I have been always influenced and fascinated by the work of Philip Zimbardo in which he explored the social influence and its effect on attitude and behaviour. I was eager to make sense of my own emotions and experiences as a full-time student and a lecturer. Surprisingly, my attempts to dissect my feelings have always led me to the importance of how social influences affect us and I started to become more convinced of the social dominance on our emotions, attitudes, and behaviour.

At that point, what emerged from my own experience shaped my thesis topic and I was certain that devoting my entire research journey to understanding people’s experiences and the influence of their social environments on shaping their emotional responses would be well spent and worthwhile. I also believe that our interests develop from our subconscious thoughts rather than a product of unexperienced phenomena, therefore, selecting the research group to explore was determined in a heartbeat.

As a lecturer myself, I realised that the literature does not give us justice when it comes to how we feel as we teach, nor does it aim to understand the working conditions of educators. Accordingly, my PhD journey was devoted to understanding teachers’ experiences and emotional responses in which topics of emotional labour, burnout, and working conditions were major premises of my study.

A long-lasting experience

During my data collection, I was worried about one aspect that I learned from Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, which becoming an ‘evil’ researcher, objectifying the participants, and losing the essence of what I want to explore. Therefore, since there is no golden rule of how to interview the participants, I utilised different creative interviewing methods and I chose to meet with the participants for a minimum of three times as they are the heart and core of my research.

My fear of objectifying the participants became a strength to my thesis and listening to their stories and experiences made me realise that I indeed made the right choice of topic which became one of my best accomplishments.

I cannot deny the daunting nature of crafting a PhD thesis that would take up four years if not more. Throughout the process, it feels like a lifetime and a never-ending project. However, my passion, experience, and interest made it as smooth as cutting through butter.

My whole PhD experience feels as if I entered a very long dark tunnel where I couldn’t see the light, but by the time I reached the other end, I grew to realise that I gained powerful knowledge, ability to find ground under my feet, and enough power to hold in the face of exponential uncertainty.


Doha Abualsaud


Back home