What is a Life-Changing Educational Experience from the Existential-Humanistic Perspective?

Ralph H. Quinn

Abstract

This article seeks to answer the question: “What is a life-changing educational experience from the existential-humanistic perspective?” The focus of the article is on a class titled “Moral Psychology” which the author taught as a senior seminar for more than 30 years at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Based on anonymous questionnaires distributed to graduates of the seminar, the author found four interrelated themes. The first ingredient to a life-changing class from the Existential-Humanistic perspective is to bring the course’s subject matter into the realm of the personally meaningful. The second ingredient is the assignment of the self case study where the course subject matter is wedded to vulnerable self-exploration. The third ingredient is the need to create a safe, self-disclosing community which allows for authentic self-disclosure among the members of the class. The fourth ingredient to a potentially life-changing class involves the role of the teacher/facilitator being truly vulnerable and self-disclosing himself so the students can allow themselves to be similarly open. At its close the article discusses the larger educational gains in social and emotional intelligence that such a form of educational experience could promote.

Introduction

In a recent (2018) faculty review of my teaching at UC Santa Cruz by the Divisional Committee on Academic Personnel, the chair of the committee wrote:

The positive aspects of Dr. Quinn’s teaching reviews are remarkable. Speaking in my position as chair and a member of DCAP for the last three years, I have never seen glowing reviews like these, with the combination of high averages and deeply heartfelt praise.

 

I have heard positive comments about my teaching over the years but have always been somewhat superstitious about too close an inquiry into the reasons. Perhaps I did not want to scrutinize (and thus become self-conscious about) something that seemed to be working fairly well. As my career as a university lecturer is winding down, however, I think it may be worthwhile to examine the methodology of my pedagogy for the benefit of those who follow, but also because my career at the university is in the lineage of other humanistic educational experiments (Blume, 1981; Glass & Glass, 1981; Grand & Bebout, 1981; Greening, 1981; Kahn, 1981) and we need to keep alive that worthwhile tradition.

Moral Psychology

In reviewing student evaluations of my teaching, one category of comment has always caught my attention. It is some variation of, “This class was a life-changing experience.” Even allowing for hyperbole what does that phrase “life-changing” mean and, if even relatively accurate about one’s reported experience, what would be the ingredients of a truly life-changing class?

The class for which that evaluation “life-changing” most occurs is a senior seminar that I teach entitled Moral Psychology. Senior seminars at UCSC are a graduation requirement for psychology majors. They are comprised of 25-30 senior psychology students with a faculty instructor. In Moral Psychology students are required to produce a 15-20 page paper on some question regarding moral development that they wish to explore and also to deliver a 30 minute lecture on the same topic. They are told that the paper is expected to be the best work of their university career and their lecture must be better than 75% of the lectures they have heard thus far at UCSC.

Up to this point Moral Psychology is indistinguishable in form from any other senior seminar at the university. Its aim is to stretch the students intellectually, that is, to challenge their critical thinking skills, to increase their capacity for academic writing, and to afford them an opportunity to deliver a professional lecture. Is it not, however, necessarily life-changing. To earn that evaluation it would need to stretch the students in other more life altering ways.

Paradigm Shift

When a student says that a class was a life-changing experience what might they mean? In one basic sense they are implying perhaps that they have come to see the world, i.e. to perceive reality, in a fundamentally different way. Thomas Kuhn (1962) called this fundamental perception change a paradigm shift. A paradigm is a super theory about the nature of reality that we come to accept as factual reality. Prior to Copernicus, accepted reality was that the earth was the center of the solar system. After Copernicus we had a different paradigm. Educational experiences can provide that kind of reality change. A young woman brought up in a traditional family and church who takes a class on feminism can come to a radically different view of gender roles and relations. An Environmental Studies class can change a student’s view of present reality and the future in a basic way and alter a career choice from a business major to environmental activism. Education, in one sense, is about altering, affecting, and shaping students’ conception of reality, and so fundamental, even radical changes in perception should not be altogether surprising.

I have no doubt that some students in Moral Psychology came to perceive reality differently. Comments by students gathered three months after the class ended indicate this change:

This class fundamentally changed the way I view myself, others, and the world.

 

I just think differently about the way moral decisions are made and why they are made.

 

I will never see the world the same way after this class.

 

But is there also a deeper, more affective meaning to “life-changing,” and what might that look like?

 

The Existential-Humanistic Perspective

The existential-humanistic school of psychotherapy is where I have turned for clarity. Bugental (1987) in The Art of the Psychotherapist writes, “life changing psychotherapy, more than most other forms of therapy, demands that we recognize the patient’s subjectivity as the true site of our endeavors” (p. 3). He goes on, “If one seeks fundamental change in his experience of being alive, that quest must, beyond question, take the seeker into the depths of his subjectivity” (p. 4). About that subjective world, Bugental (1987) continues, “subjectivity is that inner, separate, and private realm in which we live most genuinely” (p.7).

What Bugental is suggesting is that psychotherapy can be a process whereby the client becomes more and more present with their own authentic vulnerability. Most people have learned that it is not safe to be completely and vulnerably real. Fear of rejection, humiliation, shame and ridicule are some of the threatening deterrents, and so we learn to hide our vulnerability, sometimes so well that it is not even part of our own awareness. Life-changing psychotherapy, with a skilled and sensitive therapist can help us regain and take responsibility for that hidden or repressed material which then leads to living more genuinely.

 

Bugental (1987) calls this kind of psychotherapeutic encounter a “critical occasion” (p. 38):

"If therapy is to result in significant life changes, much work needs to be done at the critical occasions level. Only when the client makes herself truly accessible to the impact of these conversations, only when the client seeks truly to express to the therapist her inner experience, and only when the therapist genuinely meets the client in this depth – only when these essential conditions are met can one reasonably expect lasting changes and growth to occur" (p. 38).

 

This interpersonal learning though the exploration of the subjective realm and subsequent self-disclosure of that vulnerable material is in Bugental’s (1987) words, “The ideal working place for life changing therapy” (p. 38).

Carl Rogers (1961) compliments this theory of life change with his own seminal work. Rogers (1961) presented his theory of change in terms of certain, specific conditions that he looked for in the therapist. Conditions, which if met, would facilitate growthful change in the client. These conditions, well known to students of humanistic psychology, are genuineness, unconditional positive regard, and empathy. Rogers’ (1961) hypothesis is that when a client is exposed to another who is committed to being real, i.e. open to her own inner world, and part of that inner world is a feeling of warm acceptance and a desire to truly understand the other, that client will move towards healing and growth.

The process is one in which the client increasingly learns to focus on and to trust their own inner subjectivity. What at first feels like subjective vulnerability, risky, and scary, can become a highly reliable organismic process of valuing and choosing.

 

Rogers (1969) writes of it:

"There is also involved in this valuing process a letting oneself down into the immediacy of what one is experiencing, endeavoring to sense and to clarify all its complex meanings. I think of a client who toward the close of therapy, when puzzled about an issue, would put his head in his hands and say, “Now what is it that I’m feeling? I want to get next to it. I want to learn what it is.” Then he would wait. Quietly and patiently, trying to listen to himself, until he could discern the exact flavor of the feelings he was experiencing. He, like others, was trying to get close to himself.” (p. 249-250)

 

Erich Fromm (1976) in Man for Himself calls this inner, subjective affective voice our “humanistic conscience” (p. 158). While it is difficult to attend to as we grow older and become increasingly influenced by external voices and messages, Fromm (1976) reminds us that this quiet, subjective voice is “the voice of our true selves which summons us back to ourselves” and “can be justly called the voice of our loving care for ourselves” (p. 159).

The Four Ingredients of a Life-Changing Class

From this existential-humanistic perspective, a life-changing class would be both a cognitive paradigm shift but also a journey into the deeply subjective realm of authentic vulnerability where one might come upon a highly affective organismic basis of direction setting, decision making, and life-choosing which comes over time to feel exactly like our “loving care for ourselves” (Fromm, 1976, p. 159). Clearly, a class with these lofty aims would have to be willing to meld elements of psychotherapeutic process with traditional learning methods.

Bringing in the Snakes: The First Ingredient

For twenty-five years I taught a large class (300+ students) at UCSC on Humanistic Psychology. Every year I dedicated one lecture to education. I always began that talk by asking the students for input. I would say, “from your own experience, help me distinguish some examples of what you would consider a good learning experience from a bad learning experience.” We started with “good learning” and as an educator it was gratifying that several hands usually went up. What was not so gratifying was how relatively few of the examples were related to formal education. Learning to scuba dive, learning to hip-hop dance, a judo class, tennis, quilting, the flute, piano, and drums were examples that students gave in which they said there was something about the activity itself that hooked them, made them want to get up in the morning and go learn, even if the activity was difficult or frustrating to them. They wanted to learn the thing for itself. And then there were always some examples from academic classes: a poetry class where the students wrote their own poems, a chemistry course where the teacher’s enthusiasm and love of the subject carried over into the students and helped demystify a difficult subject, a class on diversity where students wrote papers on their own family history. The characteristics of good learning found in these experiences began to emerge. The learning was prized for its own sake, not because it led to a grade, praise, graduation, or some external prize. The experience was inherently exciting, even if challenging. The student thought about the experience outside of class and looked forward to it. While the teacher was identified with the class, somehow the ownership was shared. The student reported feeling some degree of “this is our class. Even my class.”

Unfortunately, when I then asked for examples of “bad learning experiences” almost every hand in the room went up. Everyone had a story about being put to sleep because the teacher was “so boring” or of being intimidated by the material or the teacher, or even of being humiliated, talked down to, or belittled.

The characteristics which emerge from bad learning and good learning appear in Table 1.

Table 1

The Characteristics of Good Learning and Bad Learning

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It follows that the first steps toward a life-changing class would be to bring the subject matter of the course into the realm of the personally meaningful. Combs (1982) tells the story of an upsurge of rattlesnake sightings in the state of Texas, which, unless you are from Texas is only mildly memorable and meaningful information. But if you live in Texas, and the sightings are reported in your region of that state, the news is more interesting. If then you are told the snakes were actually spotted in your neighborhood, the story becomes that much more interesting and meaningful. If I then tell you, in fact, there is a rattlesnake curling itself around your ankle right now, the story has just become frighteningly relevant. As an educator I have always seen my job as an exercise of bringing the rattlesnakes into the room. That is, the more personally meaningful to the students I can make the class’ subject matter, the more it will enter into their subjective realm and thus become a more impactive learning experience. 

In the Moral Psychology senior seminar, topics covered include the workings of the Freudian superego (Freud, 1989) and the attendant moral emotions of shame and guilt (Piers & Singer, 1954). We also read about Erich Fromm’s (1976) authoritarian versus humanistic conscience, Carl Rogers’ (1961) conditions of worth, M. L. Hoffman’s (1976) development of empathy and altruistic motivation, and Carol Gilligan’s (1977) relational aspects of the moral voice.

 

These are all topics that may be approached from a relatively safer, purely theoretical distance or, as we do in Moral Psychology, from a much more personal, interior, vulnerable perspective. Seminar discussions, therefore, are about each participant’s personal experience of their own superego or inner critic, their own experience of shame and guilt, or of the authoritarian versus humanistic conscience. That is what it means to bring the snakes into the room.

 

Student’s comments gathered three months after the class ended included:

The way the instructor presented the material and made it applicable to our lives really allowed us to grasp and understand it in more depth.

 

Using the class theory as a lens to look at myself deepened my self-understanding but also deepened my understanding of the theory.

 

I will always remember the role playing where we performed on shame and guilt and how well it applied to my life in junior high school.

 

The Self Case Study Approach: The Second Ingredient

Henry Murray (1938) at Harvard in the 1930s proposed the study of human lives through a case study or narrative methodology. Murray believed that “personalities constitute the subject matter of psychology, the life history of a single man [or woman] being a unit with which the discipline of psychology has to deal” (p. 3). Murray’s student R. W. White (1966) continued this approach in the personological tradition.

A subset of the personological discipline pioneered by Murray (1967) is the self-case study or self-narrative approach. The idea being there is value in exploring one’s own life through self-analysis, i.e. to look at one’s self through the lens of psychological or even clinical theory and research. Of course, this “look” will always be tainted by one’s own (unconscious) biases, but there is still value to be gained from ‘the examined life.’ M. Brewster Smith (2005) in “The Case of Brew” offers a powerful example of the self-narrative approach. Smith argues, “I write the Case of Brew at a time when the role of self-narratives in the formation of personal identity and its presentation to self and others has become the focus of widespread theoretical interest” (p. 1112).

When the self-case study approach is applied to students through a class assignment there are two interconnected results. The personal meaning of the assignment is often accelerated and the theories and research taught in the class also become more meaningful. In other words, the motivation to really learn the class material is increased when it is employed in self-study.

 

In Moral Psychology students are encouraged to look inside themselves for a current moral dilemma that they can analyze from the perspective of the class readings but also from the perspective of psychological literature which they bring in from their own library research. Examples of topics examined over the years included body image, debilitating shyness, toxic relationship, goodness as self-sacrifice, perfectionism, OCD behavior, self-sexualization, addiction, eating disorders, coming out/sexual identity, depression, and infidelity.

This 15-20 page self-case study then becomes the basis of a thirty minute case presentation which the students deliver to the rest of the seminar in the form of a lecture. The students are told that a key for making the presentation most meaningful to them, but also to their audience, is that it has a degree of vulnerability about it. The more real the material presented, the more meaningful the assignment.

Student comments collected three months after the class had ended include:

By allowing me to choose the topic for my lecture and paper it made the class even more personal to me. I think that by applying the concepts of the course to my own personal life I was able to understand the material even more. It allowed me to really go into the “red zone” and share my deepest and darkest stories with everyone.

 

This class allows us to use the concepts and ideas we learned in class and apply them to our lives. This is a class where there will be a lot of things that are very relatable and a lot of things that you won’t understand/relate to at all. By piecing together these concepts and applying them to our own lives we are able to not only better learn these concepts but also integrate and incorporate them into our lives. This class wouldn’t be effective or meaningful at all if we had to use a topic that was completely irrelevant to our life experiences and personal vulnerabilities.

 

My peers allowed a space for me to be a teacher. And teaching is the best place to learn something. Sharing a space where you are simultaneously a teach to your peers and a student of your peers is very rare but very empowering. It invites confidence, patience, vulnerability, and listening skills.

Self-case studies and presentations, where the subject matter of the class is wedded to vulnerable self-exploration, is a powerful ingredient for a transformative class.

Forming Community: The Third Ingredient

If a life-changing class involves stepping into authentic vulnerability and if a self-case study assignment invites that kind of self-disclosure, why might it still be difficult for students to access that state and how to help them get there?

 

The answer to the first question is simply, fear. Fear of exposing weakness, of showing your ‘worst’ or small self, of then being ridiculed, rejected, shamed, or humiliated for that disclosure. There is a reason we all have learned to hide our authentically vulnerable selves. We fear others’ reactions (and our own inner judgments). The second question, of how to facilitate sharing at this level of presence, then becomes crucial.

 

John Dewey (1964) wrote about the importance of affective learning. More recently, Combs (1982) and Shapiro (1997) have written on the same topic. In Moral Psychology I tell the students on the first day that we have the potential to make this time together an experience that is much more than a normal university class. But it will involve letting the snakes in. We could for instance create a genuine community through a very simple but still challenging ritual. The procedure is to begin each class by going around in a circle and checking in. The question each time will be the same: “How are you really doing right now?” I add two other instructions. “Look inside yourself into your subjective realms for what you would consider the vulnerable answer in response to the earlier question” and “If you do not want to share today, that is absolutely alright. Just say you pass.”

 

Student comments in anonymous post class questionnaires include:

 

At first it was very scary having to think about all the things I have been hiding/repressing/running away from for most of my life. But as other people felt comfortable enough with me to tell me about their vulnerabilities, it made me want to build a bond with them and tell them more about myself.

 

My fellow peers were this awesome support system that truly inspired me. Their sympathy, encouragement, and acceptance were incredible, it taught me a lot about empathy and compassion. Without the whole community this experience would not be the same.

 

People from seemingly different backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences can all share similar fears, concerns, and emotions. Before I used to think of myself as isolated, weird, and different. However, after Moral Psychology I discovered that everyone else had their own whims, quirks, and weird tendencies. Some even similar to my own!

 

Becoming vulnerable is, in my opinion, the key to learning. Learning in this class comes from addressing our vulnerabilities and realizing that they don’t isolate us or make us different. Rather, it is these vulnerabilities that make us so similar, that make us human.

 

What emerges from these comments is a description of a class that has hallmarks of Bugental’s (1987) “critical occasions level” (p. 38) of subjective presence. They also describe a class that has become a community or, as some students characterize it, “a family,” but in this case, a healthy family. One distinguished by trust, openness, care, and connection. The learning taking place has a decidedly affective component. The chance for growth in both emotional and social forms of intelligence is much more likely than in most academic university classes.

The Role of the Facilitator: The Fourth Ingredient

There is one other necessary ingredient to a potentially life-changing class and it involves the role of the teacher/facilitator in the endeavor. I have found that if I as the teacher am willing to be deeply vulnerable from the outset in my sharing during the “check in” that it will facilitate other members of the class to be similarly self-disclosing. It is very similar to what Rogerian encounter group facilitators refer to as the necessary role of authenticity in the facilitator of group process (Boy & Pine, 1990; Natiello, 1990; Rogers, 1970).

 

University students enter all classes with a set of general expectations. There will be an instructor at the head of the room, and they will be in charge of the class. Students are there to receive information, direction, and knowledge from the instructor. The material to be learned is of a cognitive nature and feelings, therefore, are not expected to be part of the curriculum.

 

Thus, when a teacher begins the first day talking about “forming a genuine community,” “bringing in the snakes,” and “self-case studies,” some degree of resistance on the student’s part should probably be expected. “What is he talking about? This sounds extremely unusual and more than a bit threatening. Is it too late to transfer to another class?”

 

Irvin Yalom (2017), an authority on group process from the existential perspective, writes about group leadership with resistant participants in his memoir Becoming Myself. "A group will not work unless members are willing to take risks and disclose intimate thoughts and feelings…In the future I came to the realization that to be an effective leader in such circumstances one must be willing to model self-disclosure by taking personal risks oneself in the group" (Yalom, 2017, p. 116).

 

The final ingredient to a life-changing class is exactly what Yalom is describing. The facilitator of the class must be willing to model the risky subjective vulnerability that is the hallmark of an authentic, deeply connected community. If the instructor is going to bring the snakes in, he or she has to be the first to embrace them.

Comments by students three months after the close of the class included:

Ralph opened up the first day, went deep and said how he was really doing in the check-in. It was genuine and trusting enough to make the whole class follow suit. That day each of us came forward with just as much openness and said how we were.

 

I think the fact that Ralph shared and opened up just as much as we did really played a huge part in my learning.

 

The willingness to self-disclose on the part of the professor and the level of honestly displayed allowed a space for me to feel comfortable and do the same.

 

The facilitator/teacher played a big role in my learning because he created a safe place for all the students to share their stories and thoughts. By sharing his personal feelings at the beginning, it created an atmosphere in which the students did not feel the presence of an authority figure. This less intimidating environment definitely allowed me to feel more comfortable and less like I was in a classroom.

 

Discussion

After reviewing what has been written, several questions emerge: Did this class work well for everyone, or more seriously, has it ever caused damage to a student? In over thirty years of teaching Moral Psychology there have been no serious complaints or feedback regarding psychological damage or trauma. That does not mean every student was purely laudatory or enthusiastic about the experience.

 

Over the years there have been a small number of students who, on anonymous UCSC post-class evaluations, wrote something like the following:

I didn’t very much need the space that Ralph set up with Moral Psychology, although there were others who did. So I don’t feel like I got very much out of the class.

 

I don’t think the check-ins were necessary. It took up a lot of time in class and ultimately, I didn’t see the point. Nor was I comfortable watching other people be so emotional.

 

Despite occasional feedback like the above, it is pertinent to note that over the thirty plus years of teaching Moral Psychology, student evaluations rated both the course overall as a learning experience and the instructor’s overall effectiveness as a teacher between 90-100%.

 

Final comments from students gathered three months after the end of the class almost entirely indicated strong positive reactions.

This experience was truly life-changing. It is not every day, especially in large universities that you can actually connect on a deep emotional level with your peers. Even more so, you don’t find professors who take the time to actually care about their students.

 

 This class has been the very definition of life-changing. It tore me apart and built me back up again. In the process it created the closest bonds I have very experienced. The experience was truly transformative.

 

I really want to stress the impact that this class had not only on my academic career but also on my personal life. In this class I feel like I experienced a different type of learning for the first time. Everything I learned was absolutely related to and relevant to my psychology degree but, for the first time, I could really apply what I learned in the class to real life. Fifty years down the road when I think back on my college years, without a doubt Moral Psychology with Ralph Quinn will be the first class that comes to mind. Moral Psych made me not only a better student of psychology, but also better at understanding others and myself, a gift I will never forget. I do not want to undermine how difficult this class was for me. The things we learned about I still often struggle with. Not for a minute, however, did I ever think it wasn’t worth it. It is not an exaggeration to say this class changed my life.

 

Furthermore, reports from former students over the years have indicated the long-term positive effects they received from taking Moral Psychology.

From five year later:

There have been a handful of decisions made in my life whose consequences have far exceeded the others. With the perspective of passing time, I can identify taking moral Psychology with Ralph as one of those decisions. As I assist first year students in my current clinical psychology graduate program, I always hold close the memorable lesson from Ralph that education is more resonate and impactful when it considers the personal experience of the student.

 

From three years later:

I am now in my first weeks of graduate school in the hope of becoming a clinician. I can say with 100% certainty that I would not be in graduate school aspiring to be a therapist if it weren’t for Ralph Quinn, Moral Psychology, and my loving classmates (we all still keep in touch!). Without these critical components, I would have never become aware of my passion for listening and being present in therapeutic relationships and I would not have forger a healthier identity for myself.

 

From fourteen years later:

I know Ralph touched countless student’s lives with his seminar. I wonder what and how they have thought about it, years after we all said goodbye to each other and moved on with our lives. Have we been able to keep our spirits alive, our Promethean inner fire? Have we forgotten what it means to be, in one of Ralph’s favorite phrases, truly alive? I know I have my share of struggles. Actually, tons of them. But memories of Ralph and the Moral Psychology seminar help me fight on, even to this day.

 

Still another question raised by this article is whether the methods employed in Moral Psychology can be generalized to other areas of the university curriculum and, perhaps more importantly, should they be. Efforts in all disciplines of university curricula from psychology to philosophy to studio art to chemistry and physics might benefit from a greater adherence to the humanistic dictum to make their assignments, their subject matter, and their lectures as personally meaningful to the students as possible. As my informal survey of students in Humanistic Psychology always showed (Table 1), students see “good learning experiences” as those in which they feel an ownership, an excitement, an increase in vitality from participation in the experience. This is what Combs (1982) meant by bringing in the rattlesnakes. Yes, it can be scary to be confronted by material that resonates deeply with one’s inner world but, if handled skillfully, that may be the class we never forget.

 

But what about introducing group process as a regular part of an overall university curriculum? Is this wise or even worthwhile? This question raises the issue of what the real goal of a university education should be. Traditionally, education has been about the intellect, the life of the mind. University education is thus about deepening critical thinking skills, increasing sophistication of student’s oral and written communication, and hopefully providing an exposure to the thinking of multiple disciples covering an array of subject matter (the social and physical sciences, the humanities, and the arts). But should education be limited to the arena of the IQ? What about emotional intelligence (EQ) and social intelligence (SQ) (Goleman, 1995)?

Should not a well-educated individual be more adept after a stay at university knowing what is going on inside their subjective world, what is deeply motivating, what their needs, wants, and feelings are, and also be better at regulating that inner realm? That is emotional intelligence and group process is an efficient means toward that form of exploration and mastery.

Similarly, is it not smart to consider that a stay at university should afford a student an increase in ability to both read and interact with others, to successfully build relationships, and to discern and navigate social situations through the development of more accurate empathy? That is social intelligence, and again, group process is an efficient means to acquire those crucial social skills.

 

How these changes might be implemented into traditional university culture is a vexing and complex question but raising it as a necessary and worthwhile goal seems both appropriate and judicious, if not also provocative.

Conclusion

In the spring of 1981 Jim Bebout and Tom Greening edited a Special Issue of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology on humanistic higher education. In their commentary Bebout and Greening (1981) write,

"In this Special Issue of JHP we present a record, a tribute and an analysis of the struggles of a score of humanistic educators who worked toward new forms of higher education between 1966 and 1980. These teachers and a multitude of student-compatriots, consultants, administrators, and staff sought to bring more into the life of students – more awareness, more soul, more heart, even more body – and to integrate these with the development of the mind that is the traditional target of educational institutions" (p. 1).

 

The goal of these experiments in education was “to educate whole persons by means of experiences which involve their thinking, feeling, sensing, and valuing capacities” (Greening, 1981, p. 13). My aim in Moral Psychology was in this experiential, wholistic tradition. Greening (1981) uses the term “confluent education” (p. 13) for this approach to learning which means “the attempt to activate and bring together as much of the student’s potential as possible” (p. 13). Or, as Brown (1990) defined it, “confluent education is the term for the integration or flowing together of the affective and cognitive elements in individual and group learning” (p. 1). In Moral Psychology, by purposefully exploring the inner, deeply subjective worlds of the students through relevant class readings and discussions, student self-case lectures and final papers, and in-depth here and now check-ins, the chance for emotional growth, deepened social connection, academic/cognitive integration, and positive life change were maximized. As the faculty facilitator in this seminar, this growth was as true for me as I believe it was for a majority of my students.

 

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