Design for online and blended learning: Comments on emotions
In this blog, I will simply focus on the few words that I exchanged with Marti Cleveland-Innes during the webinar on 26 November. I told her that I would like to see if my students or colleagues are happy when I teach a course or chair a meeting but that I had realized that I cannot necessarily see it. In other words, I may misinterpret how the situation went. She commented that the students do not always need to feel happy but that it suffices if they feel safe.
Since I have specialized on the various senses of English words for emotions, I will stop a little here to comment on the meaning of the adjective happy. Marti’s reaction suggests to me that she did not think of such bleached senses that can occur when people say, for example, that they are happy to do something, or ask a customer if they are happy. Instead, she probably thought of an emotion such as expressed by the German adjective froh, or French joyeux. Of course, to be really sure, I should ask her. The point here nevertheless is that speakers of languages other than English often feel that they would not use their own word for ‘happy’ on all occasions when speakers of English use happy. They feel that their word is too strong and that no such emotion is actually being discussed.
Be it as it may, the point about the students feeling safe really hit me. While discussing the matter in a smaller group, I realized that rather than feeling especially happy, my students might often feel safe. This is because I try to give them many opportunities to express their ideas and emotions and to tell me what they think and how they feel about the courses I teach or about my teaching. I am also open about my own thinking and emotions and can say, for example, that I am particularly tired on a certain day and might say something silly or make a mistake.
I would nevertheless like to add that experience tells me most students are unlikely to be open about these kinds of things after the first or even the second seminar. For example, today I talked to a student face to face and when they left, they said that they were feeling completely exhausted. My gut feeling is that this student would not have told this in the beginning of the term because they seemed reserved and somewhat intimidated by me. Therefore, if you wish to introduce openness about emotions in a course, I recommend that you be consistent and persistent in creating room for it. You cannot force expression of emotion but you can let students understand that it is allowed.