The University Business Podcast: Why we must generate “good stress” in the classroom

"Learning happens under good stress ... and if we get rid of all stress from learning environments, then we do a real disservice to our students," says Theresa Hasseler, director of Bryant University's Center for Teaching Excellence.

Classroom engagement is still recalibrating since the pandemic, and it will take a group effort to regain a sense of community across campus, two leaders at Bryant University’s Center for Teaching Excellence propose.

In episode three of our podcast, we are joined by Theresa Hasseler, the center’s director and professor in Bryant’s humanities department, and Constanza Bartholomae, associate director of teaching support, to discuss how counseling, innovative technology and promoting each other to explore past our comfort zones can build us back together stronger.

“This is not a surprising offshoot of what we experienced from learning in a Zoom context,” Hasseler says. “We need to articulate why the classroom is important and how students can reculture themselves to learning.”

Faculty can improve classroom engagement by leading class discussions that generate “good stress,” which is the mild discomfort that arises when one’s belief systems are drawn to the forefront, Hasseler says.

“Learning happens under good stress, or arousal, and if we get rid of all stress from learning environments, then we do a real disservice to our students,” she says. “Parenting structures have moved towards removing obstacles from your students, and in the process, we’ve developed that same practice in education.”

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But faculty disengagement is as much of an obstacle, and it, too, requires a high level of intervention, Bartholomae adds.

“We are on the front lines with students, and there’s a lot of weight that comes with that,” she says. “When you’re in the middle of a semester and there’s high stress going on, you sometimes don’t remember that there are resources there for you.”

Bartholomae urged higher education leaders to remind faculty about employee assistance programs that can connect them with the help they often need. While AI can be a great tool to assist with faculty workload, well-being most likely depends on how institutions can curate spaces for interpersonal connection.

“We haven’t exactly readjusted,” Bartholomae says. “Some of our most successful events within the last two years have been those that have brought faculty back together to have a meal or share a cup of coffee.”

You can listen to this episode at any time on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Podbean or down below.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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