All of us have memories—good and bad—of learning experiences. Ridicule or a rap on the knuckles produced fear and intimidation. A knowledgeable and enthusiastic teacher may have opened the door to a life's work or even to a never-ending love for learning. One can be sure that affectivity was one key element in such experiences.
When you think of the emotional, feeling aspects of learning experiences, what comes to mind? What is the setting? Who are the persons? What is the material? How would you describe the affective aspects of this experience? What elements were instrumental in eliciting strong feeling? What were the effects of this experience? Was it enjoyable? And finally, is this a common or rare type of experience in your life? With these questions in mind, let us reflect on several important aspects of the role of affectivity in the teaching/learning experience.
My interest in affectivity emerged when I was a campus minister at a large university. Years of conversations with faculty and students about their faith experience produced a persistent question. Why did the emotions seem so non-functional in this arena? I began to wonder how persons understood and talked about affectivity before the Western emphasis on reason and strict empiricism became so pronounced. I discovered that scholars had described the medieval period as a time of intense emotion and longing, fierce passion and ardent desire. The first phase of my search ended in the thirteenth century with an analysis of affective language in the spiritual writings of the Franciscan professor at the University of Paris, Bonaventure.