The impact of a course related Holocaust visit on University students’ social relational skills

Dr Anna Bussu, Dr Peter Leadbetter and Dr Michael Richards

The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) was introduced by Mayer and Salovoy (1993) in the early 1990’s who define it as a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions. With this in mind, the primary aim of this research was to evaluate the impact of a visit to Holocaust-related sites on students from the BSc (Hons) Psychosocial Analysis of Offending Behaviour programme relating to their emotional and social relational life skills. In addition, we were also interested in exploring how the educational experience could be further enhanced for future cohorts of students and how this research is a good opportunity to improve curricular strategies to support students on this pedagogical experience but at the same to implement new best practices for Holocaust education. In particular to explore the impact of outdoor experiences on student’ active learning and students satisfaction (Ben-Peretz, 2015; Gallant & Hartman, 2001).

Working with 20 third year students, who visited Auschwitz, Poland earlier in 2017, a mixed method action research approach was adopted comprising:

  • “Quick emotional intelligence self-assessment” questionnaire to student participants (quantitative pre & post visit). The questionnaire comprised of scores for 4 subscales (emotional awareness, emotional management, social-emotional awareness, relationship management).
  • A student focus group to explore the emotional and social impact of the visit.
  • Questionnaires to lecturers involved in the visit to explore their personal views, and reflections on strategies to improve the educational experience for future cohorts of students.

 

Below are some of the views from students:

‘I just think it makes you look at today’s world, and it makes you think that we need to put more things in place to stop it ever happening again. It makes you take a step back and appreciate what you’ve got and realise you actually need to take a step in doing something to counteract it, even something as simple as voting in the referendum. It just makes you think that every little voice does matter’

‘I still can’t look back at the pictures that I’ve taken. It’s to traumatizing in a way, I don’t want to look back at the pictures and force myself to think about it. I’ve just been sort of trying to forget about it because I don’t want to force myself to actually consider it all again’

‘While I was there it felt like it was surreal, like it didn’t happen, but then it was after when I got back to the hotel that it hit me and I just felt depressed – everything we heard was going through my head. How did people live like that? When we were walking through it was freezing, and we had coats and scarves on, and then to think people were just in their pyjamas and how do you survive?’

‘When you’re actually there in your coat in the middle of it, and you’re just in this room that smells, and there’s this mud on the ground, and you think some people were even sleeping in the mud, you just don’t get that from reading that – you have to be there to see it, to properly empathise with it’.

‘I think it was important for the interpersonal skills because I feel like the historical part, you could just read about. You have to go and experience it, and that’s the part that’s going to help you develop the skills, so I think that’s more important than just learning about the historical facts’.

‘I think until you go there and experience it, you don’t realise how much of an impact it will have had on society today.’

‘I think definitely the listening and definitely the empathy because I feel when we were all walking round no one was talking, everyone was just so focused, just listening. It forced everyone to just stand and think about what it was like.’

 

Implication and conclusions to this research.

– A “springboard” for further research and internal funding (as this was a pilot study).

– In the future we aim to extend the Auschwitz experience to new cohorts.

– Given the positive outcomes to the experience, the aim is to incorporate some of this into the curriculum in other courses in Applied Health and Social Care.

– Staff and students clearly valued the experience as a mechanism to enhance individual emotional experiences and learning; and to create a ‘group identity’.

 

If you would like to learn more about this research, you can contact one of us via email below:

Dr. Anna Bussu – anna.bussu@edgehill.ac.uk

Dr. Peter Leadbetter – Leadbetp@edgehill.ac.uk

Dr. Michael Richards – Richarmi@edgehill.ac.uk