Visualize a classroom. Perhaps there’s a whiteboard in front with students seated. We tend not to think of the outdoors or students actively moving around or engaging all of their senses. In this episode, Susan Hrach joins us to explore embodied cognition and how we can leverage sensory input and physical space to support learning. Susan is the Director of the Faculty Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning and an English Professor at Columbus State University. Susan is the author of Minding Bodies: How Physical Space, Sensation, and Movement Affect Learning.
- Hrach, S. (2021). Minding Bodies: How Physical Space, Sensation, and Movement Affect Learning. West Virginia University Press.
- Verschelden, C. (2017). Bandwidth recovery: Helping students reclaim cognitive resources lost to poverty, racism, and social marginalization. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Rebecca: Visualize a classroom. Perhaps there’s a whiteboard in front with students seated. We tend not to think of the outdoors or students actively moving around or engaging all of their senses. In this episode, we explore embodied cognition and how we can leverage sensory input and physical space to support learning.
John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.
Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…
John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer.
Rebecca: Together, we run the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at the State University of New York at Oswego.
John: Our guest today is Susan Hrach. Susan is the Director of the Faculty Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning and an English professor at Columbus State University. Susan is the author of the recently released Minding Bodies: How Physical Space, Sensation, and Movement affect Learning. Welcome back, Susan.
Susan: Thank you. I’m happy to be back.
Rebecca: Today’s teas are… Susan, are you drinking tea?
Susan: I’m sorry to say that it’s already gotten hot here and I’m drinking a cold water straight from the fridge.
Rebecca: That sounds actually nice and refreshing.
Susan: It is. We keep cold, refillable glass bottles in the fridge to be able to grab.
Rebecca: Perfect. How about you, John?
John: Well, for the first time on this podcast, I believe, I’m drinking inced tea instead of regular tea. I’ve been in meetings since very early this morning and have not had a break to go down and heat up some water. [LAUGHTER]
Rebecca: I think you might have had iced tea one other time.
REBECC: I know we have a friend of the podcast who will let us know. Today I’m having English breakfast. So when we hear the word cognition, we tend to think of heads and brains and not necessarily the rest of our bodies. And in your book, Susan, Minding Bodies, you challenge the assumption by introducing us to the term embodied cognition. Can you define what you mean by embodied cognition for listeners and maybe introduce the six principles that your book is organized around?
Susan: Sure, yeah. So the way that I am defining embodied cognition is a recognition that your whole body and your immediate environment really play a role in your thinking process. So internally, your heart rate, your spikes of cortisol or endorphins, your digestive functioning, maybe externally, the position of your limbs and your posture, your prior experiences. And then most importantly, the level of bodily energy that you bring to any moment of perception is all simultaneously at work in cognition. So I read a lot of neuroscience, especially from the past couple of recent decades, is when the embodied cognition work has really taken off. And I came up with these six principles just to provide a framework for understanding it for me and for the book. So the first one is to recognize that our bodies are constantly moving, one scientist explains that we might more accurately think of ourselves like clouds or waves than objects. And because we’re constantly moving, our bodies try to conserve energy. And brains use a lot of energy. So that’s important for our efforts to conserve it. So the way that we partly conserve energy is by engaging affordances around us. So that’s tools, it can be other human beings. And then because we’re such social creatures, and we engage each other as affordances to our thinking, each of us affects each other’s ecosystems of thinking. We can directly affect the other person’s experience or perception of any given moment. The fifth one is that we construct knowledge through embodied experiences. And then last but not least, our bodies reward learning in a physiological way, we experience pleasure when we learn under the right condition.
John: Following up on that, you note that our brains have evolved to conserve energy by basing predictions on past observations, while ignoring most of the input being taken in by our senses. And how does that limit our ability to understand the world around us and to learn?
Susan: Yeah, that’s huge. So this whole default prediction mode was something that it took me a while to kind of revise my own prior understanding of how thinking operates. But basically, your brain is trying to conserve milliseconds of time predicting what it expects to happen next. And it will anticipate what it expects to happen in a way that is also able to override what does happen. So that explains why if you are at the scene of an accident, and different people have different accounts of what they saw, it’s because their brains are literally being shaped partly by what they expected to see. And that’s why some people can be so sure that they saw the witness holding a gun, but there was no gun. Those are all just reflections of the way that brains are not really reliable recorders of perceptions. So the way that you can override that default prediction network is basically to bring a huge amount of energy, bodily energy, to being present in the moment and being very open to your sensory perceptions and also just having enough energy to be really self aware about what you’re encountering. And so having the opportunity to explore something from a different perspective, to connect your prior knowledge to something new. Those are ways that you give yourself the best opportunity to be present in the moment and resist the pull of that default prediction network.
John: And that’s a useful skill, I think, for us all to acquire. And I think we’d have a much better political climate, if we could help everyone get free of those biases or help to escape some of those biases.
Susan: Yeah, you know, it’s really hard. I think it’s most important for us to just know about it and be aware of it. I don’t know that we can completely escape it. This is just how our brains are wired to work. But yeah, I mean, even this new development of like the deep fake news, it’s sort of based on our predictive brains, because we’re not paying close enough attention to the image to recognize the telltale signs of how it’s been faked. And so those attempts to persuade people are relying on the fact that our brains are willing to just jump over the step of being as observant as possible.
Rebecca: In the first chapter of your book, you focus a lot on physical space and how space impacts learning. And you open by noting that a student in a college class is expected to spend about 112.5 hours sitting down and you use the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” Can you explain to our listeners why we should reconsider this?
Susan: Yeah, sure. And I can’t recall exactly how I came up with the 112.5 hours, I suspect I might have gone to the accrediting body’s site in which, you know, they list seat time… isn’t that a terrible phrase?
Rebecca: A very terrible phrase. [LAUGHTER]
John: We should note that while we’re recording this, you are standing to get around this.
Susan: I am, and Rebecca…
Rebecca: Me too. Me too.
Susan: And Rebecca too. That’s right, Yeah, you can find articles about this pretty much every day in the popular press. I’ve stopped saving them, because there’s no point in having it in 500 different places. But the bottom line is, especially in the past 40 years, 50 years, we’ve engineered movement out of our lives in a way that’s been really detrimental to health, even if you get a really intense workout at the gym once during the day, that’s not enough to override the whole day of sitting. And so I don’t like the word exercise as much as movement, because exercise implies that like, “Okay, we’re going to set aside this special time to do this special activity.” And really, what would be better for our overall health is just to get a lot more movement worked into just our ordinary activities. So that’s because human beings evolved over all of these years up until the last 40 or 50, to spend a lot of time walking, moving, being outside, having the normal hours of daylight, kind of regulate our sleep patterns, eating a wide variety of foods that are natural. And so we’ve changed all of that in the not too distant past. And in order to recapture some of that conditions for human health, you have to be a little bit of a weirdo these days, you have to resist the car, you have to say “Actually, I’m going to purposely make myself take the stairs, or I’m going to use my body to transport myself from one place to another,” and it’s countercultural. But if we do work in more ways to move around as ordinary part of our day, our whole health, and therefore our brain health will be more resilient. And they’re just learning about the ways that that impacts our overall aging and resistance to disease, as well.
Rebecca: As a residential campus that’s got a lot of green space and walking space. I know one thing that both faculty and students really missed during the pandemic was walking from building to building, maybe not during snowstorms. But on a nice day, we had a lot of walking in our daily lives and had to find a way to do that when we were working remotely. But now I think a lot of us have been working remotely and found ways to do that, like maybe taking a break from the screen by taking a quick walk or folding some laundry or doing some other things that get your body moving as a part of the work day that I think we’ll all need to be thinking about as we head back in the fall. And just think about how to keep movement or reintroduce movement, [LAUGHTER]
Rebecca: …whatever the case may be, depending on the circumstances you were in when you were working more remotely.
Susan: That’s right, Rebecca, and I’m glad that you mentioned that just because the environment is not all about just your personal choices that we’ve also paved over the universe, and, [LAUGHTER] in the case of campuses that are not residential, made it really difficult to get around using your own bodily effort. And maybe you’re living in a place where it’s not very conducive. There aren’t sidewalks or safe places to walk in. Those are the harder, longer term challenges that we face as sort of reversing the way that the past half century has engineered movement out of our lives.
John: Yeah, and I’ve been thinking myself that one of the reasons why so many of us have Zoom fatigue is we don’t have those little walking breaks. I know when I’m teaching in a large class, I often use a step counter. And I often would get in a mile, or a mile and a half of walking during an hour and 20 minute class period. But then I was thinking, I was doing that, but those students were stuck in those seats. What can we do to give our students more opportunities to benefit from more motion, rather than just asking him to sit in place constantly.
Susan: Um hmm. That’s right. And I’m so glad that you raised that point, too, because we are the lucky ones, we’ve got freedom of movement in the classroom. And you’re right, your experience of getting all of those steps in during class, I think, is the experience of lots of faculty, and that blinds us to the fact that nobody else in the room has had the opportunity to get those steps. So really, if we can use any opportunities to get students moving around, that’s the ideal use of the space. If we can change up the arrangement of the furniture and get them to help, that’s giving them a chance to be up and about. If we can change their whole experience of the space by leaving the classroom on occasion that will help them to be more alert and give them a little bit of bandwidth recovery. So you’re probably familiar with this bandwidth concept that Cia Verschelden has used in her book: Bandwidth Recovery. It has to do with basically giving students the opportunity to be mindful of how much energy it takes to be a learner and give them opportunities to recover bandwidth that’s getting sucked up by other things, whenever we have the opportunity. Another thing I would suggest is open the blinds in your room. So how many times do we go into a classroom and someone has turned it into a cave, because they needed it to be very dark for the PowerPoint? And so be a stealth natural light provider by resisting the shut blinds, and, if your windows open, open your windows. Fresh air is a wonderful thing to have in a classroom.
Rebecca: So Susan, what about some of the spaces I teach in that have no windows? [LAUGHTER]
Susan: Right, exactly…
Rebecca: That’s where they put all those computer people… in the basement of buildings. [LAUGHTER]
Susan: Yes. Well, I started sending to our print shop pictures that I’ve taken with my phone camera that are of trees and sky and outdoor scenes. And I just get them to blow them up and put them on foam board and hang them as sort of pretend windows, and people comment on it all the time. “Ooh, that’s so beautiful.” When I say “Right, yep, not expensive, not hard.” But it really changes the feel of a room to at least have an image, a beautiful natural landscape, on the walls.
Rebecca: I’ve had the opportunity to teach quite a few classes where we’ve had travel abroad components where we are doing place-based learning and really being able to be outside and walking around and really using our full set of senses. In fact, one of the classes I co-taught with a colleague of mine, Chris McEvoy, the whole framework of the class was around the five senses in India.
Rebecca: …which was amazing.
Rebecca: But then I think about classes like my web design class and think “Hmm, I would really love to get around.” So as I’ve read your book, I’ve been brainstorming ways to break down those ideas. But one of the things that we do when we have these travel classes is often alert students to things that they don’t expect, because we’re so used to sitting in a classroom and not moving. So we say things like “there’s a lot of walking, there’s stairs, there’s heights,” all these things that we have to alert students to because they’re not expecting it in a learning situation. So when we start thinking about these embodied experiences, what are some things that we need to do to prepare students and to make sure that students who may have mobility limitations that might not be visible, for example, or maybe someone who’s really sensitive to the sun, there could be all kinds of things that we’re not thinking about, how do we make sure that everyone’s going to be able to participate or be included in these embodied experiences?
Susan: So this is a really important question. And I’ve thought a lot about it too, because inclusivity is so important. And I would say, as a blanket statement, no activity is so valuable that it would override the need for inclusivity. So, that’s first priority, but my approach to movement in the classroom is more in line with UDL, universal design for learning, principles than trying to create extra work for the accessibility office by providing three more things that students need to ask for accommodations for. I really would not want to do that. So every activity that you plan really should have options. You should think it through really carefully, walk it through if you can, be able to describe really transparently and well in advance what to expect. And then think about options. And I needed to do this even for new faculty orientation, because you never know when somebody has twisted their ankle the day before, and they show up with crutches, or somebody who is in their last trimester of pregnancy. There’s just all sorts of things that affect our mobility, that we need to be able to plan for people to participate in whatever way that will be manageable for them. So options, I think, are the key thing. As you get to know your students in your class, you will find out whether there’s somebody who has a really significant reason to not be able to go outside, for example, or that we need to really give plenty of time for this person to be able to move outside of the classroom or even inside of the classroom, I think an atmosphere of respect and encouragement and the way that you build community with your students. Those are all things that should be the bigger context of any activity that you plan, so that it doesn’t become a source of exclusivity in any way, but just something to negotiate, and something to discuss together to figure out what will work. And the other aspect, I would say that’s important here, and I get this from the Faculty Development Center at the University of Pacific where Leslie Bayers and Lott Hill have been doing really great work for years in embodied kinds of faculty development, is to be really clear about the difference between things that are uncomfortable, and things that are unsafe. So they say sitting on a blanket in the grass may, for you, think about this… is it uncomfortable in a way that you could stretch a little bit to try to imagine how this might be an experience that will be okay for you? Or is it actually unsafe, for whatever reason? And that distinction might be important for students, because you’re right, a lot of them as you said, this is not what they expect from a college class. So they need some time to absorb it and to know what to expect.
Rebecca: Susan, do you introduce any of these ideas in your syllabus, for example, or introduce how you might use movement in the class on the first day.
Susan: I do I do. So I started including under the material list, an old towel or blanket, and I tell them why I prefer days where we might be going outside. I haven’t had anybody say that that was objectionable, or that that was going to be a problem. In fact, a lot of them said, “Oh, I don’t need to sit on anything, I’m fine on the grass.” So that gives them just the opportunity to know that if you feel like you’re not gonna want to sit directly on the grass and you bring something you don’t care about getting dirty to sit on. The other thing that I’ve done just this past semester with my class that was mostly online, is that I spent the first night.. we actually did a guided meditation the first night. And so I spent a while telling them that we were going to begin each class with contemplative practices and why, and that I wanted them to feel like they had the opportunity to transition from whatever crazy things were going on in their lives outside of this class to being fully in the moment and present. And that I was very aware of the way that the pandemic has been stressful for all of us, and that I wanted to give them a chance and some space and time to regain some serenity, some quiet, some ability to reflect and that I had done this research to show that their learning would be enhanced. It would be more smoothly facilitated if they were given the opportunity to quiet their busy brains and prepare for the rest of the class just by taking five or 10 minutes at the beginning to do something a little unorthodox. And they were totally receptive. Nobody said, “This is weird. I’m not doing it.” I mean, they immediately were game to kind of close their eyes and listen to the recording of the guided meditation. And there was one student [LAUGHTER] who came in a little bit late that night and we’re all sitting there with our eyes closed in complete silence. And I thought, well, this has got to be an interesting moment, you know… [LAUGHTER] …walking into a class on the first night and the professor and everyone else are just sitting there quietly with their eyes closed, but I was able to explain to him what we were doing afterwards, and they were cool with it.
Rebecca: On the same idea, Susan, I was doing a lot of warm up drawing activities and things in my design classes at the start of class during the pandemic and students really noted how helpful that was for the same reason, to refocus or get into the space of the class and allow them to stop thinking about all the things going around them. So I got a lot of feedback at the end of the semester. about that.
Susan: Oh, that’s great. I think a lot of us have recognized in the virtual environment that you just really have to find a way to begin that is the icebreaker activity almost every time. Like you’ve got to make that transition somehow,
John: As we move into the fall, we’re moving into a situation that’s very different, where many students have not been in the classroom, and people who are going to be sophomores may not even have been on the campus that they were enrolled in. What can we do in our classes in the fall to take advantage of some of the notions of embodied cognition to help our students be successful as they transition into a new environment?
Susan: Well, I would say if you have the opportunity, as you’re planning your fall syllabi, to plan a couple of experiences that would be connected to your content, and perhaps involve taking your students somewhere else on campus than your classroom. That would be one really interesting thing to experiment with. If you have the opportunity to take them to somewhere on campus, that’s even more exciting. But of course, the logistics and the resources might be more time intensive. The other thing people might consider for this fall is having… and again, the natural sciences and the arts are so lucky in that all of their disciplinary work is lab or studio enhanced as well. But for those who don’t have a normal lab or studio as part of their disciplinary context, can you create that inside of your own classroom? Can you bring some objects to explore and have students touch and move around with or draw, for example, smell maybe, in a way that you haven’t tried before. That would give them a really hands-on sensory experience with an object that your discipline values, or here’s another inside of the classroom idea. If you haven’t used those giant sticky pads that you can just stick on the wall, the sheet-size paper with markers, or if you have access, maybe through your Center for Teaching and Learning, to portable whiteboards that you can pass out to each student or just a couple of students per whiteboard, can you think of just one new activity you might try in your classroom that would have them using those tools. So those are affordances for learning, and they give students some sort of more tactile experience that will help the learning to be experienced in an embodied way. I do believe that students are more willing to jot down tentative ideas or be more just free with their initial ideas with whiteboards because they’re just so easily erased, that it feels a little bit safer to go ahead and just jot some things down.
John: We’ve been through this experience where most classes were taught virtually, but it’s likely some of that’s going to be continuing as we move into what we hope to be a post-pandemic future. How can you take advantage of some of these concepts of embodied cognition when you’re teaching students virtually say with either asynchronous courses or synchronous remote classes?
Susan: Right? So I imagine that others have read these pieces about Zoom fatigue. And this is great because the people who work in cognitive psychology have been trying to figure out why is it so tiring for us to be on Zoom all the time, recognize that human beings are not really accustomed to staring straight into each other’s eyeballs, uninterruptedly. This is exhausting for us. And then they also recognize that we are not used to staring at our own faces for hours and hours, and that’s super distracting, and also exhausting. And so I think we’re adopting some new practices that recognize what was a little unnatural about the virtual meeting, the fact that we need a break from looking at ourselves that maybe, I think, some of the platforms now have even adjusted so that the default setting is for you and your little square to be minimized, which is helpful. But just to recognize that it’s important for us to have a break from staring into each other’s eyeballs and planning moments to say, “Please turn your cameras off, because we’re now going to have a little stretch break. And I’ll guide you through twisting in your chair, touching your toes, doing a little bit of chair yoga so that we can bring our attention back to the conversation here.” Those are things that we might now recognize as important to do in synchronous meetings. I think there’s also some attention we could pay in the online universe to space. So students should know that their space matters, the place where they’re learning remotely is worth paying attention to. I think it would be great at the opening of an online asynchronous class, there could be like a special assignment to prepare the space where you’re going to be primarily engaging with the course. Can you think about what will make it a more productive happy space for you? What are you staring at? Where’s the desk facing? Can you change up the arrangement of the room in a way that will make it feel more pleasant for you? Or is there somewhere else you might go outside of your house? And how can you make it into the most pleasant kind of learning space for you? And that has to do with relatively superficial things? Can you think about the fresh air in the room? Do you need to make your bed? Are there ways that you can have that space, give your brain the best opportunity to function. And then also, I think the opportunity to get your students away from the screen through activities and assignments that you design to be done elsewhere is just a really worthwhile thing to try. If you can assign podcasts and tell them, specifically, “I want you to not sit and stare at the computer while you’re listening to this, I want you to do some chores, or take a walk or do something else that requires movement so that you can be absorbing this audio experience while you’re moving your body, and tell them why. Because this is often an opportunity for your brain to be more alert and awake and absorb the material in a different way than it would if you were just sitting and vulnerable to opening three more tabs and doing other things.”
Rebecca: There’s one thing that was sprinkled throughout your book that I was really happy to see but also a really important thing to pay attention to. And that was you open today talking about how all of our systems are kind of connected to cognition and the digestive system and all of these things. So students who might be going hungry are not having nourishment or not having warm clothes to go outside and these other things. So I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit about some of these other barriers that students might be facing that are impacting their sensory experience and their embodied experience while they’re learning?
Susan: Yes, absolutely. And I think the number one problem there is sleep deprivation. And so a couple of years ago, we had Roxanne Prichard, from the Center for College Sleep come and give a talk to faculty and staff and also students and coaches at the beginning of the year. And people have told me,I’m not exaggerating, that that changed their lives, because it was so shocking to learn how much we really disadvantage ourselves and our own ability to function best by getting too little sleep. If we prioritize the need for sleep in order for our whole bodies and our brains to function at our best, it really matters. It makes a difference. It improves your performance so that you are able to do things more quickly and more accurately, and you save time that you maybe thought you were needing by getting less sleep. So setting your assignment deadlines at like 5 pm instead of midnight, sends a signal to students that you value, their ability to wind down and sleep in the evening and telling them there’s some great infographics and things availabl… I have a reference to this in my book as well… that will share with them exactly how sleep impacts their cognitive functioning and can impact their grades. I think there’s even been some SOTL work that shows how students GPAs were affected when they change their sleep habits. So that’s one thing. And then of course, their nutrition is another thing. And this is again, you got to be really kind of countercultural, like it’s so easy to just feed them pizza all the time and donuts and soda and what’s in the vending machine on your campus. And you really have to be assertive and challenging to get the whole campus to recognize this is really working against our main mission, which is to help support brain growth. And so we could have trail mix in the vending machines instead of just potato chips and doughnuts. That would be a step.
Rebecca: What’s easy for me as an art and design faculty member to think about how to have [LAUGHTER] embodied experiences in class and how to use our senses. But I don’t think that’s so obvious to faculty and some other disciplines. Can you talk about some ways to use the senses or to have more movement in maybe spaces that aren’t so obvious?
Susan: Yeah, well, I think one of the things that we need to do is just be willing to absorb the notion of flexibility. So even just on the recent past years, I remember looking at some of these designs for active learning spaces where they had a bunch of not uniform furniture. It was like “oh, here’s a grouping of stools and high top tables and here’s some sofas.” And I use a lot of group work, and I kept thinking like, how could I do that unless there’s round tables that each have four or five chairs around them. That’s messing with my sense of what my primary mode of delivery is. And then I had to sort of gradually come around to recognizing that people really like choice and options, and they like to be able to choose where they are in a space and how their perspective is. And there’s really no reason that groups need to be sitting in uniform spaces with exactly the same tables and chairs. You can still have groups and let them choose whether they want to sit on the floor, or perch on sofa arms, or be in some space that doesn’t have uniform furniture, and it will be okay. In fact, they might like it more, because they’ve got this choice and variety in their learning experience. There’s just these tiny things about the space that we inhabit that can help to make the experience feel a little bit different in any discipline. But there’s also practices that might be familiar to people like the concept of the gallery walk or stations where you’ve got them moving around the room to contribute to different pieces of the content on different walls of the space. And those have been recommended as active learning practices for a while now, because they’re opportunities for students to be interacting, but embodied cognition explains in a new way, why they work, it’s because you’re getting people up and moving around. And so I think any faculty member in a discipline, even that has not traditionally been as focused on sensory experiences or movement or objects, it just needs to reflect on what made you fall in love with that discipline yourself. Was it the smell of the books? Was it the handling of the special objects that might seem sort of mundane, like some sort of a measuring tool or something that we wouldn’t necessarily think of as being especially exciting, but offers a more tactile kind of way into understanding the concepts. I think individual faculty members are going to come up with their own really creative ways of figuring out how to bring students into a more direct experience with the thing itself that gets them so excited.
Rebecca: That sounds like a key piece is moving away from just always being so conceptual in our heads and just into some sort of physical realm or space.
Susan: It’s true. And I think part of what we excel at in higher ed is conceptual and abstract thinking and this is why we have achieved advanced degrees and become disciplinary experts, because we’ve moved into this conceptual and abstract realm with our disciplines that we’re now prepared for, because we have also moved through other encounters with our discipline that might have been more embodied. But we didn’t necessarily acknowledge or recognize them in that way. And I think of one of my early experiences in graduate school. And this is going to date me for the technology, but was working with the microfiche or the microfilm. Do you remember those? And it was like this big giant… [LAUGHTER] it was like an X-ray machine or something, you put your head in there. And you have to get the reel from the special library container and put it in and figure out the movement controls to be able to see the thing magnified. And I remember telling my professor, it was a little bit like time travel because you could kind of get lost in these really old documents that were suddenly blown up in front of your face. And she said to me, “Ah, you’re in the right place. You belong here.” I mean, that was a fantastic response for her because I was just thinking, “well, I guess I’m some kind of weirdo. [LAUGHTER] I liked the microfiche.” But that was a very embodied experience of the text for me. And as I got to be more credentialed, I was able to go to archives and actually handle these rare objects myself. And that was like sensory explosion because it was just so exciting to be able to touch these old, old things and see the handwriting and it was transforming.
John: Well, I guess the challenge for us is how we can create experiences like that for our students who may not have those microfilm readers or access some of those objects.
Susan: Yeah, and I think the library, the museum, the archives, the places on your campus, where we don’t normally think of them as classroom spaces. These are the places we need to be taking our students.
Rebecca: So we always end by asking: “What’s next?
Susan: So I should say, I’m really enjoying just having readers at this point and being able to have conversations like this one, because you spend a long time thinking about all of these things in writing and trying to carefully craft the whole message so that somebody will be listening to it. I’m not really looking ahead to a new book or anything, because I’m just enjoying the conversations that are arising from this one at the moment. But I am, and we’ve talked about this briefly the last time I was on the podcast, continuing to pursue a certification in coaching. And so I’ve got a course I’m taking this weekend in somatic coaching, or using embodied principles to help people be able to have a felt sense of the change that they might want to make in their lives, or how they’re in touch with what they know and what they’re figuring out about, where where they are and where they want to go. I’m really excited about that.
Rebecca: It’ll be interesting to see how that work ties with your embodied cognition work, moving forward.
Susan: Yeah. And I feel like I have such a good grounding now in the science of it, that I’m just really excited to hear from other people who have been practicing what that looks like in a one-on-one conversation. What do they actually ask the person who’s being coached to do with their body or to tune into, so I feel like my brain is rushing ahead and predicting, but I’m going to be open.
John: Excellent. Well, thank you. It’s been great talking to you again, and I’ve really enjoyed reading your book.
Susan: Well, thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to reach a broader audience and just to talk through some of these ideas, because they are, in some ways, really common sense and in other ways, sort of a radical new way of looking at them.
Rebecca: Yeah, I’m looking forward to processing your book as I’m thinking about my fall classes.
Susan: That’s great.
John: If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. To continue the conversation, join us on our Tea for Teaching Facebook page.
Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.