ADDED DEMANDS ON INSTRUCTORS: ADOPTING MINDFULNESS AND AN EDI (EQUITY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION) APPROACH
In higher education it appears that we are faced with additional issues in our classes around emotional, cognitive, social and moral developments. Add to that mix, factors brought by students coming from various socio-economic backgrounds and culturally and linguistically diverse families and additional trauma (Gouleta, 2002) and it is clear that the need for counseling skills in teaching is ever-increasing (Cormier & Hackney, 1999).
Various researchers have made recommendations as regards special education needs (Erford, 2003), multicultural contexts (Holmgen,1996; Paisly & Hubbard, 1994), yet there are additional areas of concern, especially as regards mental health. As a result the implementation of active and deep listening has been advocated (Himelstein, 2013; Hutchins & Vaught, 1997). Dr. Himelstein is a proponent of trauma-informed mindfulness and proposes three steps for Building Authentic Relationships (BARs) for instructors : skillful self-disclosure, listening with full attention and establishing and maintaining clear boundaries.
Universities in Canada, now concentrate mostly on a teacher’s role in mental health, through compulsory training workshop for all Faculty members, namely around:
a) observing signs of distress, noticing situations requiring attention (disordered eating, changes in mood or behavior, learning and academic challenges, assault and harassment) plus other signs of distress,
b) what to do and say (approach, listen, to support and to refer),
c) to make a good referral and what to do if the student says no to a referral.
In addition, my institution is now in full support mode to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) to be included in all aspects of curriculum and teaching.
This is a longitudinal study of three cases conducted at an institution of higher education in Canada during the 2019-2020 academic year around counseling teaching, looking at the underlying theoretical frameworks cited above.
It involved one case of personal, emotional and cognitive issues, one case of cultural and linguistic issues and trauma, and one case of inadequate background preparation. Notes taken by the instructor during course developments were analyzed, and findings connected to the relevant underlying theoretical tenets taken into consideration in the follow-up discussion.
Overall findings show that such counseling approaches create extremely demanding teacher-student relations. This is in-line with other research findings (Georgiana, 2015; Kline & Silver, 2004).
The attempts at supporting the students contributed to the enhancement of their social and emotional well-being and their success in the courses. The fact that the counseling actions were not taught but applied in practice contributed to their success to a degree, and concurs with Bialystok’s findings that strategies cannot be taught but will be learned by application, if engaging in appropriate action. On the flipside, one student expressed frustration, because of the time involved with counseling the problem cases which she felt took instructor’s attention away from the others by favoring the specific cases. Of the three cases, two of the students continue to be in touch with the instructor, which in itself could be acknowledged as having a positive outcome.
Additional findings will also be discussed.