Educational Practice

Educational Practice, Consultancy, Research

There is considerable understanding of our emotional systems from various different fields of study.

It is both exciting and rewarding that neurological studies seem to be arriving at similar understandings to those which have been reached by psychotherapeutic psychologies. Psychodynamic thought is the framework I know best. I like it because it requires questioning and attending to what is really happening in other fields – if you think it is just about introspection, or the inner world, not so – it is based on the interplay of inner and outer. If you think it is just about emotion, or disturbance of emotion, not so – it explore the roots of thought, and culture, organisation and society. Staying inside one’s own perspective is not being psychodynamic. (Go to my page on psychodynamics, here and thus other links, and publications here.)

From different approaches, educational practice is slowly learning to understand this thing which in experience has always been ‘known’. Emotional responses are primary; they are involved in other kinds of response, both mental and physical. Emotional responses and emotional experience can be learnt from and learnt about and quite a bit is already known. Confusingly, people who are in touch, also misunderstand, e.g. Sylwester (1994): We know emotion is important in education. It drives attention, which in turn drives learning and memory. But because we don’t fully understand our emotional system, we don’t know exactly how to regulate it in school, beyond defining too much or too little emotion as misbehaviour. I despair – why on earth use the word ‘regulate’ ? Paradoxically, I also hope, because of course, this is where learning starts.

Good or bad, what happens in the practice of education is underpinned by the emotional climate in which it takes place. Anyone can learn to listen better, for example. The emotional states of individual learners and their teachers, and the dynamics of the groups and institutions they belong to, matter a lot, whether anyone understands them or not. Emotional Education means working to educate oneself emotionally, to learn how to work within each context with its unique emotional life, whatever the capacities of people, young and old, and the kind of learning intended. Education which is emotionally educative is necessarily self-aware and founded in mutuality of respect and relationship. It will enable the emotional education of others also.

As well as this fundamental belief in mutuality, I consider that teaching with emotional education requires:

  • working with a variety of interpersonal and group skills
  • understanding the ways in which authority and roles are held within organisations
  • understanding that work being done may have an expected purpose or outcome which belongs to the role held (say being a physics teacher)
  • holding a theoretical framework for analysis and evaluation, and
  • recognition of the ethical issues, already present, which emerge strongly when engaging with feelings

In educational trainings, that is, not specifically counselling or therapeutic trainings, I developed courses in emotional education within various programmes (summary here) I learnt from each and every one of the students and each and every course. Especially, to trust: them, here-and-now, use of self (tranference and counter-transference in the psychoanalytic language) and, risk, not-knowing and how to be a container of something. Evaluation via feedback from students was naturally part of each course. Some of the interventions in undergraduate courses were analysed as part of a research project. At the moment I am trying to turn my papers which describe emotional work into pdf files for downloading. I think my work was unique in my own setting. I would like others to join me – especially others who have also worked emotionally, with individuals and with organisations and within organisations, with the body of therapeutic developmental theory as guide. I would like to learn from collaboration with others wherever they are working. If you want to enquire, explore, share your teaching programmes, comment, … please make contact.

My other papers are here