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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Using Carl Rogers's Approach to Improve the Teaching of Psychology

APA

James Korn reviewed the book On Becoming an Effective Teacher:  Person-Centered Teaching, Psychology, Philosophy, and Dialogues With Carl R. Rogers and Harold Lyon by Carl R. Rogers, Harold C. Lyon Jr., and Reinhard Tausch.  In his review Korn states:

Nowhere in this book is there recognition or discussion of the need for variations in using person-centered teaching related to students’ educational level. The implication is that it can be used at any level and "in any field of knowledge" (p. 92). 

Korn further states that the authors offer no research support for their approach. 

Would it be beneficial for teaching-of-psychology mentors and programs to use some of what we know about Rogers's approach?  For example, Korn mentions that the book includes ideas such as  being genuine, having empathy for students, and being more student centered, but it also mentions more controversial ideas such as no grading and self-chosen assignments.

Are there some things that we as psychology faculty and graduate students can take from Rogers's approach to improve our classroom instruction of undergraduates and/or graduate students?  Should this approach be tested empirically by our colleagues interested in the scholarship of the teaching of psychology?

Read the Review
ReviewFreedom to Learn Redux
By James Korn
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(6)

Comments

Harold C. Lyon Jr

In his review of our book, On Becoming an Effective Teacher, I appreciate that James Korn sums up his review somewhat positively by saying, "The central message from Rogers is critically important for teachers: You must care about our students and learn to express that caring. And I thank Lyon for including the value of 'grit' for the hard work and dedication needed to be an effective teacher." Dr. Korn is certainly right about how Rogers valued these person-centered traits.

He also correctly states that, "The teacher as person was even more important to Rogers than ...structural elements. These teachers value 'genuineness, empathy, spontaneity, caring about others and being more process than content oriented. They also have 'grit,' defined as 'perservance and passion for long-term goals'."

Back twenty-five years ago when Rogers and I began this book, one of our main objectives was to give more visibility to the largest empirical field-study ever done (in 42 states and 7 countries) by David Aspy and Flora Roebuck which corroborated Rogers earlier work with therapists that empathy, prizing (caring), and genuineness -- at all grade levels from pre-school to medical school -- are the traits found most often in effective teachers. Also students with teachers with these traits have significant positive outcomes including achievement, less violence, more creativity, and less absenteeism. This mammoth NIMH-funded empirical study, unfortunately never mentioned in Korn's review, is presented in a full chapter in our book. And, yes, Aspy and Roebuck found that they could train teachers to be more genuine and empathic.

I also take issue with Korn's stipulation that Rogers important person-centered contributions should be limited to therapists. Rogers was an eclectic thinker, researcher, and philosopher whose published contributions to education are many and profound. Suggestions that his philosophy is often radical and out of the traditional box are correct as Rogers fought to change a system stymied by rigid curriculum and the opposite of person-centered values.

But to suggest that this book was "patched together from old files and favors to friends" is not only incorrect, but disingenuous. From the beginning of our work the research of Reinhard Tausch, known in Germany as Father of person-centered teaching and psychology, was an important contribution to this book and not a "favor" or "old files" added on. Tausch, who died in late 2013 had replicated with what Rogers called "teutonic thoroughness" the research of Aspy, Roebuck and Rogers on the person-centered traits of the successful teacher. Hattie's and Cornelius-White's recent meta-analyses, which we present in the book, corroborate the importance of person-centered teaching at all grade-levels.

To suggest that the empirical findings presented in this book can not be applicable to all levels of education or that it is not useful to new and experienced teachers, or that "Lyon says teaching is overrated," is pure rubbish. Rogers did not admire students "dropping out" of school, though he understood why they did. Those who knew him know he did not "mistrust marriage," nor feel that religious institutions were irrelevant. He spent many years working with church people. Nor was he the irresponsible hippy-type Korn suggests. He was like you and I, Dr. Korn, imperfect, often humble, and sometimes just wrong, as you are, unfortunately, in your assessment of him.

Harold C. Lyon, Jr.

Jim Korn

Eddie Clark’s stimulus post was incorrect in saying “Korn further states that the authors offer no research support for their approach.” I said there is no support for radical ideas such as no grading.

Lyon’s comment on my review recognizes our agreement on the value of student-centered education. A large body of research over the past 50 years supports this as one dimension of effective teaching. Teacher knowledge and enthusiasm are other important dimensions, at least at the college level. Here I refer to research other than described by Lyon that I did comment on in my review.

My statements about Rogers’s mistrust of religion and marriage are from his 1978 speech “a man of tomorrow” (Chapt. 3): “Religious institutions are perceived as definitely irrelevant and frequently damaging to human progress (p. 17). “He [the man of tomorrow] has a distrust of marriage as an institution (p. 18). I realize that mistrust of an institution can go along with respect for individuals.

In the same speech Rogers said “teaching is a vastly overrated function” (p. 17). I misattributed that statement to Lyon. Rogers continues that statement by saying “only the facilitation of learning is important.” Of course it is the teacher who does that facilitating. Lyon thinks I suggested that Rogers’s message “is not useful to new and experienced teachers.” But in my next to last paragraph I said his message is “critically important for teachers.” I can humbly admit imperfection in my review, but not “rubbish.”

Danny Wedding

The PsycCRITIQUES blog was developed by APA precisely so we could have this type of exchange between book authors and book reviewers.

Thanks to you both!

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Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Associate Dean for Management
and International Programs,
California School of Professional Psychology,
Alliant International University

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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