Education Theory Position Paper Education Essay

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While walking my dog one Sunday afternoon, I saw a red tailed hawk perched high on a tall pine tree. Suddenly it took flight soaring at a rapid rate of climb into the blue sky until I lost it from view. I thought to myself: "What exhilarating freedom!" The metaphor of the free hawk represents for me the eventual freedom from the struggle of ignorance when the teacher is embedded in the community of the student. This is the pedagogy of Paulo Freire.

I chose Freire as my educational theorist for two reasons: First, he believes, as do I that learning occurs in dialogue (defined below) between teacher/supervisor and student, student and student and groups; a place where adults can learn from each other with, love, not oppression. And second, Freire, influenced by Dewey, strives for learning to emanate from the lived experience of the student (experiential learning). Dialogue as defined by Freire is: "An act of creation; it must not serve as a crafty instrument for the domination of one person by another. Dialogue cannot exist, however, in the absence of a profound love for the world and for people. The naming of the world, which is an act of creation and re-creation, is not possible if it is not infused with love. Love is at the same time the foundation of dialogue itself."a This is congruent with my vision of mutuality. Later in this paper, I discuss two of Freire's educational concepts: the "cognizable object" and the "perception of the previous perception" which guide my supervision.b

CPE is experiential adult education. During orientation, I tell students that my hope is that they will learn from the CPE experience as it is their experience. I also tell them that their freedom has limits and that from time to time I will challenge or confront them. I do this so they may have a glimpse of who I am and what my role is. I also state that I want to learn from them; from their experiences. They will learn by feeling and reflecting on real events with patients, staff, peers and supervisor. I will learn when my theoretical strategies are tested by them, which helps me refine and improve those strategies and theories. After all, in the dance or El Baile, I turn, but I also am turned.

One of Freire's beliefs is when education is treated as a product to be bestowed from on high, by the teacher, down to less knowledgeable persons/students ("banked," by his definition), it becomes a tool of oppression (Freire 1970). In banking the teacher provides information to students that students receive, memorize, and give back. Freire says that in banking, creative (his word) learning does not occur. I agree that in this model, there is lack of originality in learning. Learning emerges more readily in a free dialogical investigation of the world; in a critical thinking, interactive learner-empowering setting. Therefore, when presenting a didactic in a group setting, which relies somewhat on the banking methodology, I focus quite intentionally on discussion, inviting students to share their knowledge of the subject and to ask questions.

Freire's pedagogy of engaged free dialogue is educationally inspirational to me because it gives students a voice and an opportunity to "change the world." "It gives students dignity" (Freire 1970). This is congruent with Moltmann's theology of mutuality and love, and my own pedagogical theory of adult education.

One critique of Freire is that his orientation limits the freedom to challenge students or how to deal with conflict. In these situations I rely on Ellis and Yalom. c d Yalom states that conflict is inevitable in human relationships and must be addressed otherwise if denied or suppressed it will invariably manifest itself in corrosive and often ugly ways.c Ellis will attack and confront a patient in order to cause swift learning and change to occur.d I do not attack students but I will address conflict and will confront a student if I deem it appropriate, i.e., when a student is denying his/her feelings. Nevertheless, I recognize Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed and take from it what is in concert with how I supervise in CPE, predominantly chapters 2 and 3.

Learning occurs in many ways. Yalom says people learn individually by witnessing modeling (be like me); by action, disorienting dilemma, reflection. According to Freire people learn experientially through action and reflection and new action. It is praxis; it offers transformation. And as praxis, it requires theory to illuminate it. Human activity is theory and practice; it is reflection and action.2a According to Ellis, people learn by direction and confrontation.

Gerry discussed his learning goals with me in IS, considering what he wanted to learn. It was dialogical learning because when I engaged Gerry I suggested other goals. He felt his goals (which were within CPE outcomes) were more suitable for him. He took responsibility for his own learning, and I refrained from pressuring my outcome goals on him.

Regarding groups, according to Yalom and Freire, people learn in this setting experientially and by engaging in dialogue with each other. Yalom wrote: "Group members, through feedback from others and self observation, learn significant aspects of their interpersonal behavior: their strengths, limitations, interpersonal distortions, and the maladaptive behavior may elicit unwanted responses from others. They appreciate the impact of that behavior upon the feelings of others, the opinion that others have of them and the opinion they have of themselves."1c This process is crucial in education because students, in learning about self and their behavior, will act more judiciously with others, especially patients. Students learn in groups by openly sharing their experiences; by consulting with each other and supervisor on how they performed in the chaplain/patient encounter. According to Yalom, most group behavior is unconscious.1c I strive, therefore, to lift unconscious behavior for reflection and learning. As students learn more about self and become more comfortable in the group, students will share their more of their hidden selves and gradually begin to take off their "masks" and be themselves.

The clinical method of learning is pedagogy that Freire employs as I stated earlier, based on the concepts of the "cognizable objects" and "perception of the previous perception."1b The experience of visiting patients is in Freire's terms the "cognizable object" or action the student has taken and the basis for group discussion. The "perception of the previous perception" is the reflection of that experience. In CPE all of a student's relationships with patients, peers, and supervisors are "cognizable objects." Discussion of the case study becomes the "perception of the previous perception." For example, when George visited a patient the patient told him her only son had died in a recent car accident George left the room without exploring her comment (action). When he presented the case, I suggested George experienced counter transference and unconsciously ran away from the pain of the moment. George, through the intervention, connected the ministry to his own life experience (reflection) of losing his own nephew to a car accident. Subsequently, in later case studies, having understood the counter transference, George demonstrated a more compassionate sensitivity toward patients (new action). He was able to remain with patients despite his own feelings, allowing pastoral care to occur. This pedagogy is essential because students learn how to move past counter transference or other issues for improved pastoral care through the "perception of the previous perception," in Freire's terms. 2b In other words, a renewed action results from the learning that took place from the study of the reflection of the previous intervention. Better relational ministry evolves. Consequently, as students improve, they also learn practical skills for pastoral care.

Educational systems are products of the cultures in which they are embedded. As educators, and in order to supervise more effectively, we need an understanding of how approaches to learning and teaching differ across cultures.2c bell hooks writes in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, how cultural differences influence the educational process. Some foreign students are in "cultural shock" when they arrive in this country. Hooks teaches that they bring different values and ideas giving us an opportunity to observe the differences.2d To better understand their culture, I include didactics from students on their culture in my syllabus.

One way culture influences the educational process is that in one culture, students may not be expected to criticize their teachers, or openly differ with their fellow students. In another culture, this may not only be the norm, but even expected.2e

Rajah, a male Indian student, trained under austere British systems, faltered without my direction. Almost in tears in IS he said: "Rev. Dan, tell me what to do. I do not understand what the Chaplain is supposed to do!" I said: "Ok. Raj, I think you will understand better if we role play." Effectively, my strategy was to tell him what to do because that was the way he had been trained as a child. Some students with directive learning backgrounds can find passive process orientation confusing. For these students, and informed by Ellis, my interventions become more directive and less confusing to them. I also teach multiculturalism in didactic format for further clarification.

Cultural differences should be managed with care so that we as pastoral educators do not make assumptions about students because of the culture from which they come. For example, Juan, a student born in Puerto Rico, was a Sephardic Jew whose ancestry was from Spain. Understanding that he was influenced by two cultures was important to me in order to help Juan in his educational process. As a Jew, I understood Juan could have issues of justice because his ancestors were thrown out of Spain even though it was a long time ago. As a person of Spanish tradition raised in Puerto Rico, a patriarchal society, he could share cultural patriarchal values. During clinical seminars he was condescending to female students, treating them as if they had no right to speak; no voice. I raised this to him several times as did his female peers. He was willing to learn and eventually did, which changed his behavior towards his female peers as well as toward female patients.

Hooks reminds me of two important points: 1) the need to recognize the influence of other people's cultures and families on education and 2) the need to understand how my own culture affects my reactions and responses to students/supervisees. (Hooks 1994)

Irvin Yalom's theories of group dynamics inform my supervision/education of group process. I chose Yalom because, influenced by Rogers he believes, as do I, in a patient/student centered practice.2f Rogers will challenge patients, but Yalom and Ellis are more confrontational than Rogers. Yalom also expounds a safe group environment2f (p84-85). In this fashion, students will engage in free dialogue which is congruent with Freire's theory and Moltmann's theology of mutuality and love. Yalom's therapeutic factors and acknowledgement of process are two aspects of his theories for learning I use when supervising groups. His eleven therapeutic factors are: instillation of hope, universality, imparting information, altruism, corrective recapitulation of the primary family group, development of socializing techniques, imitative behavior, interpersonal learning, group cohesiveness, catharsis, and existential factors (Yalom 1995, 1-16). Although Yalom's theories are primarily directed for use by psychotherapists, as a pastoral educator, I adapt them for education in CPE. In CPE, group process is not therapy; it is education. However, the therapeutic factors can have educational impact in CPE, which can become components of good pastoral education and pastoral care because, in Freire's terms, as cognizable objects, students gain insight on self and learn by reflecting on their behavior which can change their behavior, as in the case of Juan.

Yalom is the group model I use in CPE. I apply his model in the clinical verbatim analysis, didactics and the Interpersonal Relations Seminar (IPR). They are a necessary part of CPE because it is the student's experience; people dialoging and influencing each other and these experiences, which can be emotional, are suitable in affecting a change in the student's previous behavior.2f It affords students, as a group, an opportunity to engage and explore personal feelings, attitudes and beliefs in the context of peer and authority relationships. I use Yalom's theory on safety to develop the group model into an atmosphere of trust which is congruent with Freire and Moltmann; a safe environment for examining fear and conflict. The paradox is that fear and conflict may emerge even in a loving, safe environment.

The open agenda peer group experience I use is IPR. According to Yalom, students learn by candidly revealing their emotions; learning what it means to really be human and vulnerable. In this fashion the group can become the support system students may need as they discuss their fears, joys, and anxieties. As they engage, students will or may not gain increased confidence. The process allows students to gain insights on transference, self, and the fabric of relational ministry that can be transformative, thus improving their pastoral care interventions skills; their ministry. As they improve in learning I affirm their growth. A safe environment can provide increased self-awareness, especially of their emotional life and how it operates in relationships, self-acceptance, and increased ability to relate and in turn help others. The process helps students to enter tough emotional, dark places of human struggle and suffering with more confidence, competence and be able to give and receive support and critique in realms of relationships with peers and authority figures. Nevertheless, conflict may arise. In fact, Yalom says that conflict cannot be eliminated from human groups and that it has positive attributes such as drama, excitement, change and development (Yalom 1995, 344).

From time to time, I facilitate empowering the group by consulting with the group, allowing the group to live and grow, especially if there is conflict or tension within the group. Harry was constantly late for group meetings. Sensing what their reaction would be, my strategy was to use conflict as education and asked the group how they felt about his tardiness. The group acknowledged his tardiness and reacted with anger towards Harry. They admonished him for his insensitivity as it interrupted the dynamics of the process. The collective wisdom of the group is important and in this particular process I was engaged with the group and facilitated the outcome. This is another method within my group theory which says that peer group process interactions can be as effective as direct supervisory interventions. I use it because it is analogous to a verdict given by a single judge versus a verdict given by a jury. The jury has more credibility and clout. At the end of each IPR session, I invite the group to share their observations of the dynamics and process what happened. If the group misses an event or two I will share my observations with them. In this example and in order to avoid Harry from becoming the identified patient, I inquired of group members how they understood their passivity in not challenging Harry. This intervention helped them focus on their own actions and not get stuck scapegoating Harry.

A partial segment of the application of Yalom's therapeutic factors (shown in parentheses below) in IPR was when Judith told the group she was afraid of what was going on in her life due to what she thought was her failing eyesight.

Don started by being pastoral and sympathetic saying that Judith needed to get some rest; that she did too much and we all experience similar situations at some point in our lives due to stress (universality). Judith acknowledged her stress and said it came from her (deceased) mother (imparting information). At this point, Judith wept. I asked what the tears were about and what she was feeling (imparting information). She said she felt fear because her mother was demanding her to do more even from the grave (imparting information). She could feel her mother's pressure (corrective recapitulation of the primary family group). Each group member gave her reassurances and affirmed her ability in sharing her pain with them (catharsis, group cohesiveness). The group responded by giving her support (group cohesiveness). Judith thanked the group and said she was happy to be part of the group because she would not have been able to express her feelings had she not felt safe (development of socializing techniques, imitative behavior) and trusted the group. After processing the dynamics, the group learned Judith trusted them; that they had provided pastoral care and what it means to be human; discerning we can share mutuality and love despite our fears and concerns and that together we can change the world. There were several factors that made this experience significant educationally; Judith initiated sharing of herself, feeling safe to do so; supervisor engaged her around her feelings; group members offered support. These examples illustrate my educational theory for group work.

Regarding student evaluations; they are a crucial part of the process because students need feedback on growth and growing edges, on their performance in accordance with their goals and objectives and on the outcomes for Level I and II CPE. Informed by Erikson and Gilligan, from the time I meet students during the initial personal interview till the end of the unit, I am assessing them. Informed by Yalom, during IS and in group seminars, I comment on their relationships with patients, staff, peers and authority figures; on their strengths and weaknesses. I assess them on their case study presentations, learning contract, behavior, and growth, engagement in group dynamics, their clinical hours and site work. At the end of the unit, I write my view of their work throughout the unit. Informed by Freire, I invite each student to review the evaluation with me in order to reach agreement on content. I also ask them to write a self evaluation as I believe self supervision is part of the learning process. Regardless of style, evaluations are an indispensable tool for learning because the student gains insight on a) progress in achieving personal goals; b) on self and self-awareness, especially of their emotional life and how it functions in relationships; c) "integration of personal history, faith tradition and the behavioral sciences in the art form of pastoral care and d) their increased ability to relate and in turn help others."3

Education Theory Position Paper