Bringing Carl Rogers' Core Conditions into the Online Environment: Using Empathy, Genuineness and High Regard to Engage Students and Build Success
Concurrent Session 3
Occasionally one hears of a disconnection between instructors and students in online classes. If students feel disconnected, course effectiveness may be compromised. One method to bridge this gap is student-centered learning first developed by Carl Rogers who used empathy, genuineness, and positive regard to create a vibrant learning environment.
From those who critique online teaching and learning, one hears of a potential disconnection between the instructor and the students and among the students (Reese, 2015) because of the limited or non-existence of face-to-face contact. As a result, both online students and teachers may be left feeling a lack of engagement and interaction at times. To mitigate this potentiality, online teachers must use a variety of teaching and design methods that facilitate engagement and learning. One such design model, the Community of Inquiry (COI), was identified during the year 2000 by Garrison, Anderson and Archer and is perhaps the most widely known and studied model of online teaching and learning. Essentially, online teaching and learning environments are designed and built around three presences: teaching, cognitive and social.
The CoI continues to be studied and developed. To begin to address this issue, Garrison (2009) recommended further research and exploration geared toward enhancing social presence especially as it relates to students forming relationships and feeling connected. Critical to effective course design, teachers must enhance social presence so that relationships between the instructor and each student and among students are supported and students feel safe to interact thereby leading to more vibrant discourse. Consideration of how interpersonal relationships develop might be helpful to consider within the context of the CoI Model. Perhaps the most widely researched model describing the essential conditions for the formation of relationships is Person or Student-Centered teaching and learning developed by Carl Rogers. Initially, Rogers developed the theory to facilitate the relationship between the counselor and counselee. Rogers (1969) posited that in order for a safe relationship to develop between the counselor and counselee certain conditions by the counselor must be established. These conditions are empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard.
As the years progressed, Rogers applied his theory to the field of education. At a core level Rogers believed that all human beings deserved dignity and empowerment which came from offering each student empathy or understanding, congruence or genuineness and valuing or prizing (Aspy & Roebuck, 1988). Further, Rogers (1969) and Rogers, Lyon and Tausch (2014) maintained that learning is facilitated when the teacher uses empathy, genuineness and high regard to help the student(s) feel safe, trusted, creative and knowledgeable. Treating students with understanding, genuineness and high regard requires teachers to approach their students as co-learners and step away from teachers serving as the experts.
Empathy or caring helps students feel understood and supported. Yet, in the Tausch and Huls (2014) study some 60% of university-level students indicated they received no empathy from their professors. Similarly, Rogers, Lyons and Tausch (2014) found that student feelings or emotions are rarely addressed in the classroom. They also found that students tended to be distrustful of their teacher when sh/e was not aware of h/er internal feelings and reacted in a disingenuous manner toward them. If the teacher or facilitator was congruent or genuine when interacting with student(s), they were prone to trust the facilitator. The third condition needed to positively affect the relationship between the facilitator and the student(s) is to maintain high regard so that the student(s) feels valued and free to discuss course content. When the Student-Centered approach is integrated into the online learning environment and modeled for students, they are prone to feel more comfortable utilizing similar strategies as they interact with the facilitator and with other students. In addition, as the facilitator models and uses empathy, genuineness and high regard to interact, students feel emotional safety, freedom, engagement and curiosity which become the pillars of support needed to move to a deeper level of learning (Rogers, Lyon and Tausch, 2014).
GOALS AND METHODS
Explore the use of empathy, genuineness and high regard to engage online students
- Role play
- Case scenarios
Discuss the potential for adding or need to add an interpersonal dimension to the Community of Inquiry Model of online teaching and learning.
- Facilitated discussion
- Identification of themes
Take away: Consideration of enhancing online courses by adding empathy, genuineness and high regard with students