Affective Education or Therapy?

There seem to be conflicting arguments about making a classroom appear as a therapy session or the view that a classroom is a place of therapeutic development and growth. A major risk to faculty who use affective pedagogy is directly related to this conflict. Students are able to exert significant pressure to stop a class from dealing with their inner growth and inner awareness issues. Some students demand that faculty be purely objective, and stay away from any affective educational methods. In 1977, William Kirman wrote Modern Psychoanalysis in the Schools because he believed it was needed to address all the unconscious issues and motivators found in the academic system. He believed students needed to look at these psychological issues at the elementary, secondary, and university levels. Most affective educators would agree.

Could it be that the risk of providing affective education is the very reason we believe it is needed—and resisted? The originator of rational–emotive therapy (RET) certainly saw a connection when he said, “rational–emotive therapy procedures are closely connected to the field of education and have enormous implications for emotional prophylaxis” (Ellis, 1989, p. 223). Is it possible that affective education has the same outcome desires as psychotherapy? An exploration of the two types of outcomes as shown in Table 1.1 should give reason for pause and may suggest that educators finally decide— should we provide classroom therapy in our teaching?

One may hear that students today are narcissistic, have external loci of control, are emotionally thwarted, resist any form of self-awareness, have low levels of maturity, are obsessive–compulsive, and are self-absorbed and inflexible. What happened to the thinking that suggests students are self-motivated, adult learners, seekers of knowledge, growth-oriented, flexible, and resilient partners in a learning-centered environment? Most educators have felt both sides, and there are times when they struggle with staying positive in their thinking about students.

Imagine being open and direct about what you would like education to do for all those who attend learning-centered educational programs. What if psychotherapy outcomes were a natural and mutually accepted process in every classroom? Do some students resist with lawsuits and condemnation of a faculty member who uses affective education in his or her learning environment because affective education seems to have the same outcomes as psychotherapy? It is easy to see why there can be resistance, and in many cases, it is resisted with a vengeance. This raises two critical issues for those providing affective teaching. First, not everyone will find the processes acceptable, and there are potential risks associated with the educational model. Second, it may be wise to use less invasive or introspective ways of

Table 1.1 Comparison of affective outcomes and Psychotherapy outcomes

Affective education outcomes Psychotherapy outcomes
Self-awareness Build self-esteem, acceptance, and selfawareness
Personal growth Better growth and achievement of potential
Create a learner–teacher partnership Provide empathy and unconditional positive regard
Get in touch with one's emotions Be in touch with one's feelings and still be able to function effectively
Build in a self-reflective learning process Promote actualized tendencies to support persons to be all they can be
Know your personal barriers and blocks Rebuild one's self-valuing system with healthier ones that reshape the self
Better awareness of others as different or the same Build a persona of positive self-regard
Develop better balance and flexibility Shifting the client from rigid modes to those that are more open and flexible
Have increased coping and conflict resolution ability To best see one's behavior, one needs to learn from internal awareness
Have a better life

Source: Adapted from Corsini and Wedding (2011).

conducting affective learning that will not easily be compared to the idea of having psychotherapy in the classroom. Teachers may consider methods that slowly build on self-awareness and provide alternatives to those who resist such learning.

The illusion of academic tolerance is a thread that has woven its way through our educational institutions from its conception (Duryea, 1987). The illusion is one of complete academic freedom that is sometimes identified as being synonymous with faculty autonomy. Duryea suggests that the two concepts are very different. Significant historical analysis (Kaplan & Schrecker, 1983; McConnell, 1987; Olswang & Lee, 1984; Slaughter, 1987) and legal cases of the 1990s (Leatherman, 1996; O'Neil, 1996; Wilson, 1997) suggest that faculty do not have complete freedom or autonomy to teach what and how they wish. However, the risks vary and are related to the institution and the social climate at the time. Perhaps the climate for classroom innovation is finally improving.


The literature supports the idea of fostering affective literacy in higher education settings. Although this goal is not universally accepted, many authors see this process as an ethical responsibility and believe faculty should be accountable for the holistic development of their students. This chapter provides the reader with a brief introduction to the origins of ways to examine teaching pedagogy with an emphasis on how they connect to affective methods. These methods challenge the reader to envision how these high-impact strategies might be used in the classroom.

Integrating multiple theoretical teaching frameworks provides the reader with a comprehensive platform from which to explore affective pedagogy beyond the simplistic view of method alone. Some theoretical lenses involve ways of knowing and their relationship to affective literacy. For the purposes of this text, it is useful to differentiate curriculum content and pedagogy into different domains of knowing and contemporary curriculum models. It is becoming more obvious what might be involved in creating current domains for using or evaluating affective pedagogy. We could use approaches such as small groups, reflection methods, pictures, psychodrama, or even role play. We could also examine affective pedagogy by looking at how the student is learning—aesthetic, personal, ethical, or intersubjective. Another approach for assessing what is occurring related to affective pedagogy is to examine our affective methods by looking at contemporary educational theories such as social, critical pedagogy, learning community, and phenomenological landscape theories or a combination of these theories.

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