How to create and maintain a confident atmosphere
Pedagogy related to animal welfare engages emotions, judgments, conflicts. A learner may legitimately fear the reactions of his/her peers. As one learner said: “in groups, you don't know everybody. There are clans. It's all about expression, about being comfortable. Some people are from farming backgrounds and can't hear everything. Animal welfare is controversial.”
When a person commits to speaking, they affirm themselves, but also put themself in a vulnerable position. If the teacher is able to suggest operating rules, he or she will remember to solicit students who may have other individual needs.
The atmosphere has to encourage exchange within the group of participants. In order to prevent any tensions and to allow the freest and most authentic possible expression, it is necessary to define (or have defined with the participants) a framework in which the participant feels confident to express themself.
For the educator: create and maintain an atmosphere enabling learning and free expression.
For the learner: the possibility to express his/her own opinion, values, emotions without being judged.
At the beginning of the process, it is useful to propose and co-construct rules which will help free expression.
Three rules are proposed to the group: (1) confidentiality of comments made during the process. This only applies to comments that cannot be anonymized. Abstract reflections are not concerned, they can be freely spread. (2) benevolence that will result in active listening to try to understand others. Disinterest in others, in what they say, will necessarily harm the possibility of authentic expression. (3) non-value judgment of others’ expressions. It is of course possible to position oneself in relation to an expressed opinion, but it is important to avoid making judgments about the person. And of course, if there is no judgement, there are no marks.
The facilitator or teacher cannot guarantee the first and partly the second rule, each participant being committed to keeping them, but can supervise implementation of the third rule.
Remember that the group may add other rules, according to specific needs.
The teacher will always have the possibility to return to these rules when they are not respected. "Here there is no judgment, no marks".
During the discussion, a speaking stick, which can be a symbol of the values of the process can be used. “We are not going to play shamans but this stick will symbolize the values of our group. Whenever it seems to me that these values are not respected, I will invite you to look at this stick for a few moments to help you remember them”.
It is necessary to explain the main goals of the method before launching the process itself (improving critical thinking, self-evaluation, self-perception, self-reflection of one's behaviour during the process)
Pitfalls and recommendations
The principle of non-value judgment is not always well understood. Of course, the learner may judge a practice, but may not judge the practitioner. The learner can disagree with a colleague, but he must not insult the person, preferring arguing one’s own position.
Non-value judgment also means for the teacher, authentic respect of the point of view of each learner, even if they are personally against the learner’s position.
If the learners don't want to participate in these innovative methods, it is important to let them do nothing or express their point of view.
When an at-distance approach is be used such as Aniphi, the teacher should ensure the confidentiality of contributions and results
“Beyond all the rules we can set, what seems essential to me, to allow an atmosphere of trust to prevail, is our own posture. How do we come to class, in what posture? Are we clear with ourselves? Are we open to criticism, to conflict, to the expression of emotions, without fear? Rules explode when our posture is not consistent with them. For me it is a real preliminary work to find an inner calm before starting a pedagogy that favours critical thinking. I have to clarify everything with myself. And it is in fact very liberating. My main role is to keep the rules, to be firm if necessary, and to allow expression of any kind, as long as it is respectful of others. In the beginning, it was difficult for me to accept emotions, I was afraid of them. But in fact, it is above all a question of seeing them as part of the learning process.”