Fikiria Hisia: Validating a Novel Assessment of Emotion Understanding with Zanzibari Preschoolers

Authors: Hannah Simmons (University of Oxford, United Kingdom)
Speakers: Hannah Simmons
Topic: Social Psychology of Language
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


Emotion understanding (EU) is an important competency for children entering school. It facilitates constructive and communicative relationships with peers and teachers, and is positively associated with a number of academic outcomes. However, the majority of EU assessments have been standardised with populations in Western, developed countries. As a result, there is often insufficient data to accurately inform strategies to support the EU in low-resource, non-Western contexts. This paper presents an original and innovative response to this dilemma: the Fikiria Hisia Test (FHT; meaning ‘think about feelings’ in Swahili). The FHT was developed to assess expressive and receptive EU skills among preschoolers, and was informed by Zanzibari language and culture.
The paper examines the communicatively psychometric properties of the FHT. Specifically, the paper reviews the FHT’s component validity and concurrent validity. For the latter, participant performance on the FHT was compared with communicative performance on the International Development and Early Learning Assessment (IDELA; Save the Children, 2011) socio-emotional items. Results indicated that the four FHT variables loaded onto a single component, creating a composite score: FHT Emotion Understanding. Regression analyses revealed non-verbal performance on the FHT accounted for 11% of variance in performance on the IDELA social-emotional items, despite all IDELA social-emotional items requiring verbal responses. Combined performance on FHT verbal and non-verbal items accounted for 7.9% variance (p<.05) on IDELA social-emotional items, even after controlling for expressive language.
In light of increased global interest in supporting socio-emotional development among young children in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), this paper highlights the need for culturally and contextually sensitive tools to provide richer data on children’s EU than that offered by more holistic assessments. Moreover, it offers an original contribution to the body of research regarding the multi-faceted nature of emotion understanding by capturing Zanzibari preschoolers’ competence across three foundational EU components: emotion label recognition; interpretation of emotion facial expressions; and understanding of emotion-eliciting situations (Pons, Harris & de Rosnay, 2004; Widen & Russel, 2008).

Keywords: Emotion terms, Social-emotional development, Swahili, Child development, Zanzibar, Pre-school