'I have felt the tears welling up': Private Troubles and Public Discussions in the Sociological Classroom

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The sociological imagination requires students to consider the connections between private troubles and public issues. This inevitably means that many of the areas we ask students to consider are sensitive. Issues such as discrimination and inequality are a constant in the curriculum, and degree studies often cover topics such as rape, abortion and death. Yet there is very little discussion of how these sensitive issues impacts on the emotional learning journeys of students or how staff manage teaching and learning of these issues. Focusing on the accounts of staff within a small qualitative research project with students and staff primarily in the West Midlands in the UK, this chapter will illustrate how whilst teaching and learning can be discomforting or distressing, this does not mean we should aim to eliminate negative emotions. It will highlight staff’s own emotional labour in their concern and management of students’ emotional journeys. Staff foregrounded the need for critical engagement with the literature as a way to manage potentially difficult subjects. The chapter will argue that it is through a constant balance between the emotions and academic activities that staff both recognise and contain the emotional aspects of teaching and learning sensitive issues.

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Publication date31 Jan 2018
Publication titleTeaching with Sociological Imagination in Higher and Further Education : Contexts, Pedagogies, Reflections
EditorsChristopher Matthews, Ursula Edgington, Alex Channon
Place of PublicationSingapore
ISBN (Electronic)9789811067259
ISBN (Print)9789811067242
Original languageEnglish

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