Objectives. To assess teachers' emotional expression about pupils using the Five Minute Speech Sample (FMSS) and coding procedures for parental expressed emotion (EE). To compare EE for disruptive and non-disruptive pupils.

Method. Twenty-one teachers provided speech samples for both a disruptive and a non-disruptive pupil in their class selected using standard behaviour rating scales.

Results. Teachers' emotional expression was reliably measured using EE codings. Teachers displayed no emotional overinvolvement (EOI) and made few critical comments. High EE, characterized by criticism and a lack of positive comments, was associated with children's behavioural difficulties. Multiple regression suggested that conduct problems rather than hyperactivity were associated with high EE.

Discussion. Results support the application of certain elements of the EE construct to teachers' emotional expression about pupils. However, there was an absence of EOI and a lack of association between relationship and other EE categories. The absence of this association suggests that EE might be most usefully considered as a measure of teachers' emotional response to pupils, rather than the emotional quality of the teacher–pupil relationship.