chapter  12
Emotional communication and learning in university classrooms
ByDanielle Egan
Pages 13

My work as a university professor started long before my training as a psychoanalyst. Although the goals of clinical work clearly differ from those of the project of pedagogy (the working through of painful and/or traumatic life experiences versus the creation of various tools to engender better understanding of a particular academic subject), it is my belief that a psychoanalytically informed pedagogical approach helps cultivate a more conducive learning environment. However, it is important to note that this approach may be more appropriate in some educational settings than others. I am a professor at a small liberal arts college in upstate New York. Unlike other large state universities, liberal arts teaching revolves around small classes, close connections, and strong mentoring, as well as small seminar type classrooms. For example, I have had many students to my home for dinner and I often teach a seminar at my house; in other words, there is a depth of interaction that is far less common in large universities. For better and for worse, I am witness to dynamics, defenses, transference, and character structure in my classroom as well as to the ways in which these weave together to form group dynamics. I believe that this is punctuated all the more by the fact that I teach about gender, sexuality, race, class, and culture—topics that often hit close to the bone.