The Emotional Experience of (Higher Education) Teaching and Learning

Jack McGowanCarole Nash Recital Room

That teaching and learning is a practice and a process with multiple complex, powerful and often uncomfortable emotional components is a fact which is not frequently recognised in discourse around supporting learners and lecturers alike. As scholars in the field of English literary studies we are familiar with the power and persistence of narrative in shaping the world around us, and yet the emotional narratives we attach to our own roles as tutors and which our students construct about themselves as scholars of English at a university level often go unnoticed. Taking its jumping off point from Wittenberg’s seminal study of emotion and children’s education, The Emotional Experience of Teaching and Learning, this panel is concerned with the ways in which various psycho-therapeutic models of thinking and feeling might be embedded in pedagogical practice in the field of English studies. In a moment where pressure on staff and student well-being is pronounced, this panel aims to explore what psychodynamic thinking, mindfulness practice, affect theory, and reflective discussion groups might offer us as pedagogues and practitioners and our students in terms of recognising, managing and making constructive use of the emotional aspects of what takes place in the lecture theatre, seminar room, workshop space and tutorial.

The four papers offered will provide accounts of how the models described above have been deployed practically within the speaker’s teaching practice in ways which recognise our own and our students’ status as feeling as well as thinking subjects.

Dr Jack McGowan’s paper concerns the role of affect and affect transmission in the creative writing workshop, and discusses strategies that may be adopted to successfully structure and negotiate both the sharing of creative writing and the delivery of feedback in the workshop space while taking into account an array of potentially emotive factors.

Dr Lucy Arnold’s paper speaks to how psychodynamic concepts such as projection, containment and the internal world might offer those working in English Studies in Higher Education vocabularies and strategies for dealing with common situations arising when working with students in group and individual contexts.

Dr David Arnold’s paper will offer a perspective on mindfulness derived specifically from Buddhist meditation practice, situating the capacity for ‘open compassionate awareness’ within the context of other forms of engagement with the world, such as investigation and concentration. The paper will go on to outline some of the pedagogical issues arising from this perspective, such as the distinctions between different kinds of knowledge, and the relationship between ‘learning’ and ‘transformation’.

Dr Ian Fairley’s paper will review the life of a PGR ‘Reflective Group’ that he facilitated for research students in English and other disciplines between 2015-19. In making an account of this particular model of group – of the tensions that it sought to hold, and of the tensions in which it was held – he seeks to invite further thinking about what we consider the cultivation of PG research to be. Together these contributions combine to recognise the nature of the emotional experience of teaching and learning in Higher Education and develop a pedagogy that works with and values it.

Dr Jack McGowan (University of Worcester, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing)
Dr David Arnold (University of Worcester, Senior Lecturer in English Literary Studies)
Dr Lucy Arnold (University of Worcester, Lecturer in Contemporary English Literature)
Dr Ian Fairley (University of Leeds, Lecturer in English Literature)

Sun 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm