This study used two training sessions and two focus groups with 17 preservice teachers (aged 20–36) completing their first teaching practicum placement during their Bachelor of Education program at an urban research university in western Canada.
The aim was to implement ideas from terror management theory (TMT) during their teaching practicum.
Participants explored how to facilitate contentious issues so as to prevent defensive reactions when worldviews clash in the classroom.
A dramaturgical analysis identified participant objectives, conflicts, tactics, attitudes, emotions, and subtexts as they explored how to anticipate and avoid worldview and self-esteem threat, navigate tense pedagogical spaces, build capacity for expressing uncomfortable emotions, and diffuse threat with humor.
Because difficult emotions are central to teaching potentially polarizing content, participating preservice teachers explored when compensatory reactions might emerge and, as a result, developed their own emotional awareness—TMT became both an experience and a teachable theory.