Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Teaching, Learning, and Connections

Welcome back to Lincoln Avenue. We’re just beginning “spring” semester here at YSU, and so it seems fitting that the first interview of the year focuses on teaching and learning. Chris Bache, a professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, has a new book out, The Living Classroom, which explores the connections between teachers and students.

Chris comes to this work from three decades of research on transpersonal studies and many years in classrooms here at YSU, teaching courses on eastern religion, the psychology of religion, and comparative spirituality. While some of what he discusses might sound strange to listeners who aren’t familiar with scholarly and philosophical ideas about collective consciousness, reincarnation, and spirituality, as Chris explains in the book and in our conversation, these ideas have a strong basis in scientific as well as humanistic research.

But part of what I find inspiring about Chris’s work is that he so clearly brings not only scholarly expertise but personal presence – his own spirituality but also his complete self – to this work. He attributes the intuitive and powerful connections he makes with students in part to his own spiritual practice. The combination of a worldview that embraces the idea that everything is connected and the practice of meditation creates a frame of mind that facilitates what Chris refers to as the “learning field” – the collective consciousness that develops around a particular course. As Parker Palmer, one of my favorite educational philosophers, suggests, we teach from our complete selves, and good teaching draws not only our knowledge of our discipline but also on self-awareness. Chris Bache’s work illustrates this idea.

The other powerful aspect of Chris’s work, and this book, is that it so clearly honors students. While the first half of the book describes Chris’s experiences and positions his analysis and strategies in the context of research in transpersonal studies, the second half consists almost entirely of stories told by YSU students. Some of these stories document the influence of learning new ways of seeing the world, while others show students bringing their own experiences into the classroom, making connections between their lives and the theories and concepts emerging in a course.

Chris provides a detailed and specific explanation for something many teachers have experienced: the sense that when a course is going well, there’s something more happening than just good communication or effective pedagogy. In the best moments of teaching and learning, teachers and students alike are present and connected. When this happens, learning becomes deeply personal, even spiritual, as well as intellectual.

1 comment:

Debra Weaver said...

Of all the professors I know who is qualified to speak to the connections between teacher and students it is Chris Bache. He was one of my all time favorites!