Teaching Pastoral Care Affectively

I was at a seminar earlier today that spoke of creative teaching methds, and it was brought up the importance of teaching not just cognitively, but affectively (emotionally), and behaviorally. At that seminar the question was brought up


“How do you teach Pastoral Care Affectively.”

The answer given by the group facilitator was that since that is a specific sub-topic question it would be best to ask the expert personally— and the facilitator pointed at me. I am not sure that I am an expert, but during break I did give my thoughts on this. However, I thought I might give a fuller answer here.

When I think of Affective learning, I am of course referring to “affective” as in relating to the emotion, values, and motivation, not “effective” learning. I am thinking of two things— two interrelated things.

The first is Personalization. Personalization means that the learning has moved from “head knowledge” of abstract concepts to learning that connects to the person’s work or self.

The second is the Affective Learning Domain. The affective learning domain (from Bloom, Dave, and others) involves a taxonomy of steps of learning growth. One way of describing steps (from lowest to highest) are:

Receiving—Responding—Valuing—Organizing—Internalizing

So, for me again, to teach affectively involves using methods that help to make the learning personal, to make the learning seen as valuable, to integrate it with other learning, and to move toward internalizing the learning.

The best I know of to do this is to bring the learning into the person’s activity, personal life, and social discussions.

Consider the following example:

Suppose one is teaching a course on Family Systems. And suppose one seeks to teach the use of the Genogram. Let’s consider some steps of moving towards greater affective learning:

  1. Teach the principles of constructing a genogram. This is okay. It is a good to know facts.
  2. Facilitate trainees in the group to create a genogram. This is great because it involves application of cognitive learning. But let’s move toward more affective learning with #3.
  1. Facilitate the trainees to create a genogram of their own family. This not only makes it more personal, but the relationships that are being put on paper already have emotional connections— this helps make the learning more emotionally engaging.
  2. Have each trainee share his or her genogram with others in the group. This forces the trainee to not only utilize the genogram, but to actively reflect on it.
  3. Each trainee will open himself or herself up to questions, clarifications, and insights from the others in the group. This helps minimize blindspots, and again promotes more self-reflection.
  4. Integrate related topics into the genogram. Have the trainees add lines that indicate types of relationships (fused, hostile, close, distant, etc.) and perhaps identify triadic relationships. This then can reinforce attachment theory. One can use the genogram to inspire the trainees to reflect on related family and pastoral counseling issues like death, separation, divorce, mental illness, and more.

You may feel that this is not addressing emotions… but it really is. The affective component of learning is the most integrated aspect. It involves moving from knowing to doing to being— as learning is tied to practice, reflection, applying to personal situations, and brought into social discourse, the affective learning grows.

One additional thing, a genogram, like a story, or a piece of artwork, is a creative activity. As such, it draws on the creative, personal, and emotional parts of our being. I would argue that any activity that pushes the trainee towards creativity, rather than more regurgitation of knowledge will move trainees towards affective learning.

I talk more about this in the Theological Reflection chapter of Dynamics in Pastoral Counseling and Training.

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