Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Education

Research Student: Zennifer Oberio

Photo of Zennifer Oberio

Title of PhD Secondary Students’ Narratives of Emotion Work While Engaging In Extended/Open Science Inquiry Projects

Submission Date: April 2016

My PhD research examines secondary students’ emotion work whilst they engage in extended/open school science inquiry. In this form of school science inquiry, students have considerable autonomy and independence in designing and conducting investigations for open-ended problems that they themselves conceptualised.  Researchers have noted that school science inquiry is an inherently emotive setting (Ritchie, et al., 2013; Zembylas, 2004); thus, it is conjectured that students might engage in emotion work. Emotion work is “the act of trying to change in degree or quality an emotion or feeling” (Hochschild, 1979, p. 561).   Using narratives of emotional experiences of student-participants from a STEM specialist school in the Philippines and ideas from psychology and sociology, my study looks at the individual processes in terms of emotive situations that engender emotion work, the strategies that students use, and the consequences of performing emotion work to the individual students. In addition, it also explores the narratives to see what they will reveal about the emotional culture prevalent in the group to which the participants belong.

It is hoped that the findings of this research might lead to a discussion of students’ potential to shape their classroom/school experiences through their agency over their emotive experiences. For science education, the elaboration of students’ emotive experiences will provide empirical support to what has largely been up to now a taken-for-granted notion of the emotiveness of open school science inquiry. Such elaboration might also result in new insights into students’ school science inquiry experience that will guide curriculum design and the provision of pedagogical support. Furthermore, an examination of students’ management of emotion within the context of their daily school life will contribute evidence that can be used to assess the ecological validity of emotion research findings from clinical and experimental settings.


I came to the University of Leeds in October 2010 as a Ford fellow. I had a grant from the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program to undertake a Master of Philosophy in Education, which I completed in June 2013.  For my MPhil thesis, I investigated secondary students’ experience of the problem finding process whilst conceptualising sophisticated research problems with links to real-world research, using a two-case study approach. 

I also hold a Master of Education degree specialising in mathematics from the University of the Philippines and a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering degree from Central Philippine University.

Before coming to Leeds, I was a secondary teacher in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) specialist school in the Philippines, where I taught mathematics courses and led an academic unit that developed a two-year science research program for high school students.  Previous to this post, I was a university instructor, teaching engineering mathematics and agricultural engineering courses at a university in Central Philippines.

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

I have always thrived in an academic environment and would like to build a career in the academe.  Doing a PhD with a scholarship grant from the School of Education, University of Leeds, would give me an opportunity to build on my MPhil research, and allow me to gain a foothold into the science education community as a practitioner-researcher.

What makes me passionate about my subject?

As a former student and teacher in a STEM specialist school, I had conducted my own open science inquiry project as a secondary student and had supervised many high school students who had undertaken their own independent projects.  By doing a PhD in this area of study, I hope that it would help me make sense of my own and my students’ experiences within a non-traditional, non-teacher- centred learning environment.    Furthermore, my MPhil research and other science education research reports (e.g., Lin, Hong, & Huang, 2012) showed that students’ emotional experiences in school science are a significant factor in their current and future engagement in science learning.  Thus, by pursuing a study in this area, I hope to make a contribution to affective research in science education, and develop a deeper understanding of students’ school science experiences that could impact my own and other science teachers’ practice

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

I envision myself as a practitioner-researcher in science education.  I also would like to join or help establish a science education research consortium amongst STEM specialist secondary schools in the Asian region.

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