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Neal, the experiential

Neal had taught 12 years in a private residential college in one of the Plains states at the undergraduate level. In addition to full-time teaching, he had a counseling practice both at the student counseling center on campus and at his church.

How he taught

He taught the theories course weekly in a face-to-face format. Neal enjoyed interacting with his students and shaping his lecture to their questions. He was so confident about his expertise that he could approach the class without notes and keep in mind a clear idea of the topics to cover that day. The flexibility and communication skills he developed as a crisis counselor allowed him to extemporize. Neal became very excited talking about the process, which seemed like play to him. The process he described sounded very similar to what the education theorist Csikszentmihalyi (1998) referred to as “flow”:

When I walk into a classroom, I usually don’t use PowerPoint. I like to start on the left hand side of the board and I work my way across as I develop my lecture, as I interact with the students. I build my lecture based upon my study and their comments, blending them to meet their needs and my needs and the discipline’s needs. And I share myself with my students, my stories, my life, my insights, I invite them to share theirs as well with me.

Neal’s beliefs combined the holistic, the analytical, and the existential points of view. His teaching methods fit both with the stage of development of his undergraduate students and with his personal philosophy of teaching:

I believe that teaching is exponential in that it involves me and all that I am, my students and all they are, and between us is the subject matter and we must understand it, dissect it, and apply it to our lives. What does the information do for me, with me, and around me? How does it affect my life? It’s not just a body of knowledge to be learned and repeated on a test. How will it change my life? Using Bloom’s taxonomy we look at critical thinking and ask, what can I do with it in my life, as I interact with others, and as I mature as a person? My teaching is always in-depth, personal, and I always believe in the need of the moment--it is the culmination of personality and truth, because it comes through both.

Neal explained that he liked using experiential activities with his classes. He wanted the students to be fully engaged and actively participating. From Neal’s counseling experiences, he knew the kinds of topics that the students couldn’t resist.

I like to do things simply to get people’s attention to help them think of learning in different ways. I know that one technique I use is very helpful. We talk about family systems, and I’ll have a group of students in front of my class, and there’ll be six or seven of them in a circle. I’ll invite someone else to come up, and the only instruction I’ll give them is don’t let them in. And immediately, without any conversation, they know what to do about boundaries. We talk about boundaries, and how to open up boundaries, how to close boundaries. What are healthy boundaries and what are unhealthy boundaries? What does this family system look like, the parental system and the sub-systems? And think of their family and how that works.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Faculty use of courseware to teach counseling theories. OpenStax CNX. Oct 14, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11130/1.1
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