Conversional Obsession or Conversional Fear - Considerations for Teaching and Learning Centre Staff

As Brookfield (2015) points out, everyone has the right to resist learning something that we another is urging on them (p. 238).  Teaching and learning centre staff can profit from Brookfield's concept of conversional obsession, whereby we become so attached to the knowledge and skills we want share that we forget the educators we serve have their own knowledge, skills, and values.  We can discuss this resistance openly with instructors and perhaps learn much ourselves in the process about why they are resisting.

My own experience with raising difficult topics with instructors, whether it be in regards to racism, gender orientation or inclusion, for examples, is that the space, be it the lunch or meeting room, begins to feel charged, the territory uncharted and dangerous. However I agree with Barnett (2010), if the dialogue is executed with humility and kindness, it need not be negative.  Brookfield himself argues against places of learning always being safe and takes his place with Barnett saying places of learning should always be places of civility "ensuring no one is abused, intimidated, or humiliated” (cited in Brookfield, 2015, p. 251).

This image was retrieved July 20, 2017 from

This image was retrieved July 20, 2017 from

Its ironical that in my role as Coordinator of a Teaching and Learning centre I feel fearful about challenging the values, beliefs and attitudes of my peers but less afraid of supporting them to challenge students' perspectives. Does my conversional obsession with students turn into conversional fear with my peers?

William James, a 19th century philosopher and psychologist from the United States, said in an address to his nation's teachers that educators should always focus on the love of your participants and acknowledging their good intentions (Pajares and Schunk, 2002, p. 27). These are wise considerations for teaching and learning centre staff to remember.

Barnett, B. J. “Is ‘Safety’ Dangerous? A Critical Examination of the Classroom as Safe Space.” Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2010, 1 (1), 14-20.

Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. John Wiley & Sons.

Humphries, J. Ricketts, P. (February 3, 2015). Taking an international approach to education. University Affairs. Retrieved July 20, 2017 from

Jakubowski, L.M. (January, 2001). Teaching uncomfortable topics: An action-oriented strategy for addressing racism and related forms of difference. Teaching Sociology, 29 (1), pp 62-79.

Pajares, F. & Schunk, D.H. “Self and self-belief in psychology and education: an historical perspective”. In J. Aronson (Ed.) (2002), Improving Academic Achievement: New York: Academic Press.