Explorations of affect in learning: The importance of intersubjective embodied experience in creating authentic pedagogy

Year: 2012

Author: Hodson, Linda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


While there has been a great deal of research into the role of affect in quality teaching in schools, understandings of pedagogy in tertiary settings are constrained by conceptions of thinking as an individual cognitive process. In this paper, I present the findings from a case study of the pedagogy of Paul, a teacher educator consistently rated as outstanding by both students and colleagues. Using an arts-informed approach to narrative inquiry, pre-service teachers' experiences of Paul and his classes were explored in focus group discussions. The themes that emerged from these discussions along with those identified in interviews with Paul were further explored in the light of video-recordings of his classes. These themes were then recreated in a storied form that used magical realism to render participants' experience of Paul's pedagogy palpable. A video-story was also created that combined episodes from Paul's classes with excerpts from discussions and interviews. In this presentation, the video-story will be shown in order to offer a multi-sensory experience of Paul's pedagogy, and to invite discussion on the forces that underpin it, and the qualities it helps to engender.

The findings suggest that the embodied ways that teachers engage with students and engage them in the subject are central to engendering feelings of trust, inclusiveness, non-judgment, deep engagement and enjoyment in learning. The findings also reveal that these embodied dimensions of pedagogy are enabled by the generation and cultivation of two powerful and interrelated forces in the learning environment; creativity and responsiveness. The inter-subjective experience of these qualities can give rise to experiences of affect attunement; a phenomena well documented in research in early childhood (Bruner, 1983; Stern, 1985, 2010). Experiences of affect attunement frequently engender vitality affects which, as research (Malloch and Trevarthen, 2009) into the musical basis of communication suggests, enables direct shared experiences of being in dynamic flow. Experiences of attunement and vitality affects may be central to engendering deep approaches to learning and thinking of the generative kind because they create openings in students' bodies that enhance their capacity to directly perceive new possibilities for synthesis. Such a view is supported by ecological perspectives on learning and perception (Gibson, 1979), along with research in neuroscience (Damasio, 1996, Overton, 2008). These findings highlight the importance of the embodied dimensions of pedagogy and suggest that dominant conceptions of deep thinking and its origins in the tertiary context need rethinking.