One of our 7Ps is Positivity, and like all of the 7Ps, it is a multi-faceted creature with applications in a broad range of tutoring. In the last few cohorts of the four-part course, the phrase ‘Positive Regard’ has made an appearance and I thought it would be fun to try and draw a line using the concept from our Safeguarding unit all the way through to Unit 4, Barriers for Learning. 

Firstly, what do we mean by Positive Regard? 

The idea of Positive Regard was developed by Carl R. Rogers, an American psychologist who was one of the founders of the humanistic approach. The idea allows the client to be at the centre of the process, without judgement.

This is such an interesting way of approaching a tutoring session, particularly with those more challenging students.

Unit 1: Safeguarding

How does Positive Regard help keep me safe at work?

Well, Carl R. Rogers suggested that this approach was the most likely approach to lead to a trusting relationship between the client and therapist.

Now, I am not suggesting that we throw everything out the window and retrain as therapists, but being a trusted adult is something we speak about frequently on our training, and it all starts in Unit 1. A trusted relationship implies that the learner feels a sense of security with you as their tutor. This is definitely instrumental in keeping us all safe: a student that trusts you is more likely to be able to let you know if they are struggling. This is going to allow you to intervene earlier with a change in strategy to minimise the risk of the student becoming agitated or engaging in risk behaviour.

An open dialogue also supports your students from a child protection perspective. When they know they can speak and be heard without judgement, they are more likely to let you know if something is up outside of your sessions too.

Unit 2: Relationship Matters

How does Positive Regard help me build a relationship?

Whoops, I have already given the game away. A trusting relationship is the goal here.

It’s very difficult to build a relationship with somebody who you feel is judging you. Can you remember what the first step on our ladder model is? POSITIVITY! (… then respect and finally, trust).

You have to start somewhere and positivity is your foot in the door, a strategic move and the first step to building trust.

Unit 3: The Learning Loop

How on earth is Positive Regard going to feature as a teaching and learning strategy?

I am so glad you asked.

Firstly, our four-part course is structured in a very specific way. One of the reasons that our teaching and learning strategies module doesn’t arrive until Week 3 is because you can’t do much high-quality teaching or high-quality learning unless you are feeling safe, secure and comfortable with your learner or your tutor.

Secondly, part of the process of learning is making mistakes. To feel comfortable enough to make mistakes, recognise them and grow out of them, you have to know that, when you make a mistake, it isn’t going to count against you. Positive Regard, modelled as: “I can see how you got there, now let’s look at it in this way”, is fundamental in supporting our students’ academic growth too.

Unit 4: Barriers for Learning

How does Positive Regard help here?

You don’t need me to tell you that the barriers that prevent and/or inhibit learning from taking place are often mired in stigma and shame about difference for those who experience them. Holding your learners in Positive Regard, allowing them to feel valued and respected, might be a novel experience for them. It is so important to see the person beyond the label, difference or difficulty that the learner faces. I would argue here that Positive Regard helps remind us to set aside our preconceptions about ‘disorders’ and ‘deficits’, creating a space where we can let the learner show us who they really are and tell us what they need.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Carl R. Rogers himself, it’s his idea after all:

“To be with another in this [empathic] way means that for the time being, you lay aside your own views and values in order to enter another’s world without prejudice. In some sense it means that you lay aside your self; this can only be done by persons who are secure enough in themselves that they know they will not get lost in what may turn out to be the strange or bizarre world of the other, and that they can comfortably return to their own world when they wish. Perhaps this description makes clear that being empathic is a complex, demanding, and strong—yet subtle and gentle—way of being.” 

Carl R. Rogers