Lecturers advised to play to students' emotions

January 17, 2008

Lecturers at the University of Leicester are being encouraged to "set aside their PowerPoints, flipcharts and overhead projectors" and tap into their students' feelings as an aid to teaching.

A recent workshop, billed as an event at which staff would learn how to "understand how feelings matter in the lecture theatre", was devoted to the subject of emotional intelligence and formed part of the university's staff development programme.

During last week's session, led by Alan Mortiboys of Birmingham City University, author of Teaching with Emotional Intelligence, lecturers were invited to think about ways of creating an environment in which students feel trustful and challenged, but not pressured.

Mark Allinson, a professor of Spanish at Leicester, attended the session. He said: "I can imagine that some people might view this sort of thing in a very cynical way. Some people think we live in a society that's too touchy-feely as it is. But I found it time very well spent."

He said emotion played an important part in learning, with fear being one of its biggest impediments.

"Students can be frightened about getting things wrong or being the person who asks the question," Professor Allinson said.

"And as today higher education is measured in so many different ways, there is a danger that teaching and learning can become a check-box system, focusing on technique and moving away from the traditional idea of a good teacher being someone who is inspiring."

Primrose Freestone, a lecturer in clinical microbiology, also attended the session, which she described as "enlightening".

"Sometimes we have to put aside our preconceptions and appreciate that students are changing. They are much more 'consumers' and expect value for money, and that means creating an environment that is as supportive as possible," she said.

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com

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