Dear scholars I have been so busy these past year so I hadn’t been able to write much on my blog. The reason is that I have been writing a book for Palgrave Macmillan and it is out!
The book is called Developing socio-emotional intelligence in higher Education scholars. It is a mix of my own personal and professional experience as well as research I have carried out and a thorough investigation of the theory behind it all.
It has been a labour of love and I hope that those interested find it useful.
Below is a link to the book and a picture of the real deal! I received them in the post yesterday and I still can’t believe it!
I feel very passionate about embedding SEI in higher Education teaching and learning and I am also on a quest to humanize higher education with an embodied relational understanding by practicing with my head, hand and heart. If you want to know more about this, I’ve written about it in the book.
Thanks for reading and let’s start a humanising revolution in higher education! The first step is to care and to want to make a positive impact.
In an environment focused on outcomes and scores, it is easy to lose track of what is essentially important in Higher Education. Too often there is a reference to students within the context of statistics and their progression is linked to targets. However, being at university and its transformative quality encompasses much more than that.
It is that learning environment which promotes a sense of self worth, increases confidence and has an impact on our wellbeing. Stronge (2007) argues that social interactions between learners and academics are of great significance to promote an effective learning environment. I think that these relationships are the basis from which students can then go on to learn not only academic skills, but much more than that. However, for this to happen these relationships should be based on legitimate interest and real concern for students and their welfare.
Within a humanistic approach, we should place the wellbeing of all learners at the centre. But, how are we as academics to value or understand learners’ aspirations or what motivates them, if we do not get to know them?
I think it is a vital component of our role to develop a student centred attitude where effective and meaningful relationships with students are forged (Rogers 2003). The way in which students are recognised and even valued, is integral to the development of their self-esteem as it is easier to be receptive and therefore learn, when there is rapport between academics and learners.
But how can we develop and nourish these types of relationships? Well I have been reading and reflecting about it for a long time and I have come up with some ideas based on relevant theory, my observations from other people’s practice as well as my own.
- We can provide an inclusive environment that thrives on enabling students to identify, articulate and develop their own needs.
- We can create opportunities for active listening, a commonly used term within education, which basically means, listening with a purpose (Wallace 2007).
- Another idea could be to allow students to share their ideas and freely contribute to the learning environment. Wallace (2007) points out that teaching and supporting should not be a battle between academics and students.
- Academics should provide an environment where everybody is part of the team, and encourage a sense of community and shared purpose (Huddlestone 1997). I suppose this is similar to the point above, but at the end of the day we are all peers in a learning journey. Understanding this rather than having a “we-they” attitude can avoid causing conflict and separation (Plax and Kearney 1999 p. 269).
- We should take into account individual needs, cultural differences and learning preferences.
- Being genuine and fair are also important. In the same way that rapport could be quite difficult to fake, so could be firmness and authority. And even though some academics may disagree, class management and genuine cooperation can be achieved without the need of being intimidating.
- Taking time to build relationships. Mendler (2001,p. 62) asserts that if academics and students have the opportunity to develop relationships over time and create a “sense of collegiality”, the process of learning becomes a team effort. Students, then feeling a sense of belonging will also feel empowered.
- Making sure that learners are being treated with respect at all times and from the first encounter is also very important. I am a great believer that we should treat everyone as we would like to be treated.
- Empathising with students and their problems with compassion, care and a nurturing attitude.
In conclusion and to answer the title of this post, I think yes, it is part of our role to take the time to develop meaningful relationships with our students to help them to succeed. This is not always possible due to class sizes or teaching commitments but I think that it is well worth the effort as it will make our experience much more interesting and fulfilling and the students’ experience all the better.
I will be sharing some more of these ideas in various posts, some I have presented in various conferences and papers, others are new ideas I have been thinking about recently which I hope you find interesting and useful.
For now, back to my studies to get ready for the VIVA!
Thank you for reading and remember to smile and spread the joy on this wonderful ride that is life.
- Hudleston, P., 1997. Teaching and Learning in Further Education. London, UK: Routledge.
- Plax, T. G., And Kearney, P., 1999. Classroom management: contending with college student discipline. In: A. L. Vangelisti et al. (Eds). Teaching communication: Theory Research and methods. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. p. 269-286.
- Mendler, A. N., 2001. Connecting with students. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
- Rogers, C. R., 2003. Client- centered therapy. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd.
- Stronge, J. H., 2007. Qualities of Effective Academics. (2nd Edition). Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.
- Wallace, S., 2007. Managing behaviour in the lifelong learning sector. (2nd Ed). Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd.
What is is about us that defines who we are?
So I attended the European Conference on Positive Psychology in July 2016. It was the first time I had attended this conference and I was very excited. In 2016 it was held in Angers, France, a gorgeous little city in the wine growing region. Getting there from Poole in a wheelchair is not an easy feat, but after 3 taxis, a train ride and a flight (not in that order) in a very small and noisy plane we arrived. Thankfully the hotel we had booked was next to the conference centre, overlooking beautiful gardens. The staff at the hotel where very kind and helpful and our room was very comfortable. I say we, as my daughter was accompanying me in her capacity as my assistant to help me be able to function as an able body (I probably should mention here that I am a wheelchair user). In fact it was she who organised all the details of the trip and I was very impressed with her efficiency. We were staying there for the whole of the conference in order to be able to learn as much as possible.
Well, who would have thought that I would feel as if I belong at last! This was going to be the type of conference where I would learn a lot and perhaps feel a bit out of my comfort zone. I was prepared for that. I was prepared to talk about my research and yes share my passion and enthusiasm, but also have difficult questions to answer and even have to admit I did not know it all, because well, I never will and that in itself is exciting – especially for someone who loves learning. I have to say I met some wonderful people and heard very interesting perspectives from various points of view. In a future post I will share some of the amazing things I learned.
What I was not prepared for was the rush of praise that followed my conference presentation. People interested in my research, handing me their card and asking me to contact them. Others suggesting that we work together and even an invitation to join a steering group in education for my expertise in the subject. It was amazing! It was reassuring, it was empowering, it was a feeling of being accepted, acknowledged. For the first time in my professional career I felt I had arrived. I had something meaningful and important to contribute and it was not only important to me! It was also relevant to others; it had been observed although not documented by others apart from me but it was transferable. Other academics, professionals and practitioners told me so. It was me who knew the data and had the relevant information, and people wanted to know about it, they wanted me to share my expertise.
A bit surreal I have to admit, I have never assumed to know more than others, in fact I have always enjoyed learning from them. Even as a teacher I have always felt that we all bring different things to the classroom and we all know different things, not more or less, just different based on our culture, our experiences and our social interactions. However, when it came to me sharing my knowledge with other colleagues in a sense I always felt like an impostor (apparently there is such a thing as impostor syndrome), someone who would be found out for not being clever enough or critical enough or interesting enough. A wannabe scholar with oh so much to learn! But here I was the same as everybody else, at last I was seen as an expert in my field, someone to contribute and it felt good. Of course that does not mean that I have gotten where I am meant to be as I believe that life is a learning journey and we are always learning something new, something surprising something transformational if we are careful enough to see it.
During our time in Angers, we managed to visit some of the sites although I have to say that the cobbled streets are not ideal for a wheelchair and my poor back was a bit battered. Oh, and going out after 7pm was not in the cards because the only disabled accessible taxi driver, who is one of the nicest people I have ever met although we could not speak at all, only worked until 7 pm so I missed on a couple of events but to be fair I was so tired that I didn’t mind that much.
The locals were ever so kind not making fun of my French which is non-existent, probably because I made very good use of my smile and hand gestures to get them to understand me, it mostly worked apart from one night when I ended up ordering raw fish by mistake!
Coming back home was just as eventful, the Angers Airport is probably one of the smallest airports, at least the smallest I have ever been to. And it is quite surprising that it is manned by what seems to be the same 5 or 6 people. By that I meant that the people working in the only cafe are the ones that check you in and take your bags and do the security and take you, yes take you to your plane. Well in my case pushed me to the plane and spent ages trying to figure out how to take me up the stairs which they ended up doing in a special chair (very embarrassing) and then how to put my very heavy electric wheelchair in the cargo. I could see people scratching their heads and looking at instructions trying to do so. And although that had not been an issue on our way in, which was on the same plane, this time it seemed to baffle them. Still we made it safe and sound.
It was an amazing experience and it helped me feel better about my professional identity. I no longer feel that I am an impostor, well at least not all the time, which probably means I am a recovering from impostor syndrome! I now know that I have to keep my feet grounded and my wandering mind centred so that I can continue learning and growing in every aspect of my life and that I do have a voice that matters and can influence positive change.
Thank you for reading and remember to be the change you want to see! 🙂