Some of you know that in addition to being an online adjunct and community manager at AdjunctWorld, I am also a licensed clinical psychologist. So, when I find an article that merges my two interests – mental health psychology and online teaching – well, you know I just have to share it!
Our friend and AdjunctWorld community member Dr. Bruce Johnson recently published an article on his blog titled Discover How Positive Psychology Can Transform the Way You Teach. In it, he defines the philosophy underpinning positive psychology and applies those broad concepts to online teaching in interesting and important ways.
Positive Psychology is a movement within the field of psychology that endeavors not simply to cure mental illness, but to go beyond that – helping people cultivate and live a meaningful, fulfilled life full of love and a sense of purpose. In the therapist’s office, positive psychology approaches pull upon a client’s own existing strengths and the development and attention to positive emotions, like gratitude, love, and acceptance.
How might we use similar proven and effective approaches in our online classrooms to inspire our students and create an atmosphere that encourages growth, meaning, and positive emotion? Dr. Johnson offers the following list of 7 positive perspectives – or affirmations – that online instructors can adopt that help create this atmosphere for themselves and their learners:
- “I will prompt student engagement.” We know from online education research that the more a student engages in the online classroom the more successful he or she will be. So, when we provide these opportunities by, say, mindfully creating discussion prompts in which students feel enticed to participate, then we are setting them up for success.
- “I will encourage efforts made by students.” Sometimes we get “red ink happy.” The things students should work on, or didn’t get quite right, or got wrong stick out like a sore thumb and we just have to comment on those. Which isn’t bad, necessarily. It’s just that sometimes we do so to the exclusion of encouraging their good effort at wrestling and getting their hands dirty with what is verynew material to them. We often forget that, given how “old” all of this information is to us.
- “I will encourage reflection through self-assessment.” We discussed this a bit in the weekly newsletter last week. When students take a moment to reflect on their learning and how it is helping them, the work becomes very personal. And the more personal something is, the more it resonates and, ultimately, sticks.
- “I will work to be an example for my students.” When we are our best, we inspire others to do their best. If we let the negativity of our day, our fatigue, or our burn out come into the classroom, it can infest it. So, using the classroom as an inspiration to always be our best can help our students as well as ourselves.
- “I will leverage my subject matter expertise.” Our experiences – our stories – often make text material come to life for our students. Remembering to be story tellers and not just “deliverers o’ information” is key.
- “I will always consider the perspective of my students.”Empathy is a vital component to the online classroom, particularly when working with adult learners who need a flexible, understanding, and accommodating instructor. Assuming positive intent and aiming to consider issues from the student’s perspective will create a supportive dynamic that encourages the student to try or grow vs. feel stymied or misunderstood.
- “I will lead students in applying what they learn.” When students door create something, they light up more lobes of their brains than they do when simply reading or listening. So, we should endeavor to give them these important “ah-ha!” moments that usually come when they “put it all together” in a creative, active way.
Thoughts, comments, questions, ideas? Please feel free to leave a comment below!