Research

Current focus

Education

The Sharon Faye Foundation is working with Edith Cowan University to conduct research to assess the impact of building Emotional Strength in teachers on classroom climate, student-teacher engagement and teacher burnout.

In an era of unprecedented principal and teacher distress, widespread student disengagement, and rising rates of behavioural and mental health disorders in school-aged children, the strain on the educational system to meet the human needs of our educators and students is glaring. Change is essential to improve the quality and experience of Australian education for our educators, children and their families.

Schools play a crucial role in child development. Students’ emotional and academic development is fostered in safe, caring learning environments where they feel valued, respected and heard. A key challenge for 21st century principals is to support teachers to develop the Emotional Strength essential for improved student — and teacher — well-being and outcomes.

The Sharon Faye Foundation has partnered with Edith Cowan University to conduct research to assess the impact of building Emotional Strength in teachers on classroom climate, student-teacher engagement and teacher burnout.

The participating Western Australian school will work with corporate psychologist and Sharon Faye Foundation founder, Sharon Faye, in an intensive program of building Emotional Strength in teachers over the 2018 school year.

The Sharon Faye Foundation’s research is aligned with a 2017 Grattan Report highlighting the hidden problem of widespread student disengagement in our classrooms. The independent think-tank’s report, entitled ‘Engaging students: creating classrooms that improve learning’, noted that teachers are crying out for more support and called for new approaches by governments, universities, school principals and teachers.

Find out more

Emotional Health

Emotional health is a key component of overall health. People with Emotional Strength can respond openly and vulnerably in the face of intense emotion experience. Neuroscience confirms the importance of emotional health and highlights the need to move towards a wellness culture. The Sharon Faye Foundation is planning research on mapping the brain and the impact of Emotional Strength on brain function and health.

After years of being overlooked in favour of cognition, the study of emotions has emerged as a central topic in neuroscience and psychology. Emotions underscore attention, perception, memory, decision-making. They create and cement beliefs, which drive our behaviour. Emotional suppression and avoidance is linked with reduced well-being, reduced quality of relationships, and poor health.

The emerging new paradigm in neuroscience is based on what is known as “Hebb’s law”, popularised by the phrase “neurons that fire together, wire together” and, conversely, “neurons that fire apart, wire apart”. The discovery of the ability of neurons to adjust and regenerate – neural plasticity – is one of the most fascinating and important discoveries to come out of this period. This concept tells us that the brain can change – that it can heal itself. Complementary recent research demonstrates that the human brain is not an isolated entity but exists in relation to its environment. Our brains are connected through a powerful system of “mirror” neurons.

These exciting scientific break-throughs highlight the need for a move away from a health system based on tending the “ill” towards a culture of wellness. Neuroscience informs us how each person plays a crucial role in the emotional health and well-being of others and that it is never too late to change. When one person gets healthy, it has a ripple effect. By creating a wellness culture everyone can benefit from the well-being of most and thrive in a safe, supportive environment.

Building Emotional Strength – the ability to respond in an open and vulnerable way in the face of intense emotional experience – enables productive change. When people have a low capacity to engage with negative emotions, they are destined to do things the way they have always done them. People with a high capacity to engage with their negative emotions don’t need to protect themselves from feeling difficult emotions by deflecting or suppressing them but open themselves up to feedback and become more flexible in their responses.

Learning how to re-engage with our emotions generates a shift in our relationship to vulnerability and pain. Emotional pain becomes something we can embrace as instructive and ultimately healing. People who have developed Emotional Strength can respond in an open and vulnerable way, and report feelings of immense gratitude for being awake to the diverse experiences of being human.

The Sharon Faye Foundation is planning long-term leading-edge research on mapping the brain and assessing the impact of Emotional Strength on brain function and health.

Publications

In the media
Sharon Faye Interview - London Marathon April 2018

FitAdventure

Sharon Faye - Who Are You?

Mornings with Geoff Hutchison, 720 ABC Radio Perth, 1 March 2017

“Inside Out” - Feature Article on Sharon Faye

West Weekend, 26 November 2016

Sue Cruthers - Who Are You?

Mornings with Geoff Hutchison, 720 ABC Radio Perth, 2 March 2016

“Doctor tells of 40 - year anorexia battle”

The West Australian, 23 January 2016

“Why aren’t our children being heard at school?”

The Educator Magazine, 11 October 2016

Academic
Faye, S., & Hooper, J. (2018) Emotional Strength

A response type, response disposition and organizing principle for emotion experience. New Ideas in Psychology, 50, 6-20.

Faye, S., & Hooper, J. Appendix to Emotional Strength

Our vocabulary on affect