(Session) Using emotive materials in education: the theory and practice

Marjorie Keys and Lindsey Robb (School of Nursing, Midwifery & Social Care)

Over a number of years we have devised a range of methods for enabling students to learn through the use of materials that might seem emotive, but that can further knowledge, understanding, insight, and the development of relevant skills for practice. Some of the learning activities are based on real situations where a child has died or experienced significant injury in abusive or neglectful circumstances. As a teaching team we have been very aware of the potential implications of using such material, and this prompted a literature review exploring the use of child abuse inquiries in Education. This session will highlight some of the key findings of that literature review, and will provide some examples of the use of such emotive materials in practice.

The literature review had an initial focus on the use of child abuse inquiries but drew on evidence from a wide range of literature reflecting a range of disciplines and subject areas. It was identified that using these emotive materials in a sensitive and interactive way which encourages reflective critical thinking can enable learners to develop skills and self-awareness which practitioners can use to protect children in the future. One aspect that will be discussed further in this paper and that has potential applicability to a range of subject areas is the relevance of literature that identified a model of teaching based on Emotional Intelligence, and the proposal that such a model be a means of preparing Educators to undertake work in emotionally demanding areas (Mortiboys, 2013).

There has always been a sound rationale for using child abuse inquiries as a basis for teaching. Each year, between 80 and 100 children die in the UK as a result of child abuse and neglect (NSPCC, 2013), and the numerous inquiries and reports (for example, Laming, 2003, 2009 and Munro, 2011) highlight the need for practitioners to be competent, confident, able to challenge others and to put the child at the centre. There is however evidence in the literature that many professionals in the wider context of health and social care do not feel prepared for the realities of practice (Coleman et al, 2007) so it is imperative that our educational provision should address this. At the same time, we have a responsibility to ensure that students are not adversely affected by the learning experience. While we have always used strategies such as ground rules to facilitate safe and effective learning (considered essential by Moore & Deshaises, 2012), it was important that we as educators look to the literature to ensure that our own teaching practice in this area was, as far as possible, evidence based. The opportunity for one of the team to undertake this review was therefore very timely.

The literature review has provided the team with a greater understanding of some of the evidence and the theoretical concepts that will now influence our use of emotive materials in Education. Student feedback meanwhile has encouraged us to continue with the use of emotive material, despite the challenges for staff in managing sessions where the outcome cannot always be anticipated. One example that will be shared in the session is a jigsaw activity, as the insight demonstrated by students who have gone through this activity in the classroom and the richness of the subsequent discussion give a clear indication not only of the emotional impact at the time but of what is at times a real shift in perceptions. Many students attribute improved knowledge and understanding to this and to a range of other “emotive” activities which, if time permits, will be explained further during the session. Whilst the session explores issues form a child protection context it has relevance for the teaching and learning of potentially difficult subjects in general.

Theoretical underpinning
Coleman, K., Copp, G., Bell, L., Ghazi, F., Caldwell, K. 2007. ‘Preparing for professional practice: How well does professional training equip health and social care practitioners to engage in evidence-based practice?’ Nurse Education Today. 27:6. 518-528

Laming, Lord. 2003. The Victoria. Climbing Inquiry Report. London. HMSO

Laming, Lord. 2009. The protection of children in England: a progress report. London. The Stationery Office.

Moore, A.L., Deshaises, M. 2012. Ten Tips for Facilitating Classroom Discussions on Sensitive Topics. Southwestern University. Twin Cities Public Television.

Mortiboys, A. 2005. Teaching with Emotional Intelligence. A step-by-step guide for higher and further education professionals. Routledge. London

Munro, E. 2011. The Munro Review of Child Protection. London. The Stationery Office.

NSPCC. 2014

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