Thursday, May 26, 2011

Creating the Optimistic Classroom

“Always look on the brighter side of  life” goes the ironic Monty Python song. Maybe we want to temper that view with a little realism. Nonetheless, taking a positive approach with students in the classroom and in private discussions can result  in a better learning  environment. In her article, “Creating the Optimistic Classroom: What Law Schools Can Learn from Attribution Style  Effects,” 42 McGeorge L. Rev. 319 (2011), Professor Corie  Rosen shows that a pessimistic style contributes to depression among law students and impedes their learning. In contrast, a positive teaching style contributes  to a successful learning experience:

This Article will address the linked problems of declining subjective well-being and increasing depression among law students, and will explore the way that depression in law students is produced and reinforced by pessimistic attribution style. Next, this Article will address the potential effects of using the language of optimistic attribution in law school classroom feedback, and methods professors might use to access and build that language into their feedback methodology. Finally, this Article will examine the possible effects of an optimistically-oriented learning environment. Perhaps, instead of giving up [FN6] or falling prey to depression, [FN7] students exposed to the language of optimism in their *321 classrooms may develop healthier psychological defenses to a difficult environment. In the face of both perceived and actual failure, [FN8] students who have learned optimism [FN9] may remain more motivated and, therefore, prove more successful than students who have not been so exposed. [FN10]


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