June 18th, 2024

Education researcher seeks resiliency in the classroom


By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 24, 2023.

Herald photo by Ry Clarke Robyne Hanley-Dafoe speaks about resiliency, and the skill-sets, traits, and behaviors we use to help us through challenging times, Wednesday at the Public Library Theatre.

The University of Lethbridge is off for Reading Week but its halls aren’t empty.

The South Western Alberta Teachers’ Convention Association started its convention Thursday with teachers meeting in person for two days of learning on how to expand their teaching prowess.

With 152 speakers, and over 100 workshops happening, teachers will come together to for a chance to learn new ideas, and improve their professional practice, all of which will benefit the students they teach.

Kicking the convention off, Robyne Hanley-Dafoe, scholar and keynote speaker, spoke at the Lethbridge Public Library Wednesday night, hosting a discussion on resiliency, the traits we have in common, and how we can build and strengthen these qualities in ourselves and others.

“We are talking about some of the research that my team and I have conducted on learning about human resiliency. Specifically, understanding how after prolonged seasons of stress and uncertainty, how do we start to feel better, and where do we go next?” said Hanley-Dafoe.

Affiliated with Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., Hanley-Dafoe has been teaching in the field of Education and Ed-Psych for more than 20 years, taking her research to groups all around the world to conduct her studies.

“One of the things we do is called Action Research, which is essentially like just-in-time learning. We are working with people, developing strategies and approaches to figure out how do we meet people where they are, and help them get to where they want to go,” said Hanley-Dafoe.

“The area we are concerned about right now is, for example, the burnout in our educators. We are trying to figure out what are the issues? When we start working with groups in different background and industries, we start to see the common themes.”

Hanley-Dafoe’s talk on resiliency will resonate with educators and parents who have seen the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth.

“One of the things we observed is the impact on different age groups in different ways. For example, young children don’t have anything to compare it to. So essentially, for some of the little wee ones, this has been the only exposure they have had to education,” said Hanley-Dafoe.

“However, the group we have noticed has been most deeply impacted, has been the adolescent group. They missed so many substantive milestones like graduations or transition to high school. It’s not that they aren’t resilient, they absolutely are, but I think it has impacted their emotional health and their mental health in a way that we would not have anticipated. Given that adolescence tends to be a season where children are out exploring, trying to figure out who they are and their interests, unfortunately, because of all the restrictions, they haven’t been able to have a full adolescent experience.”

Hanley-Dafoe hopes her message can be carried forward into classrooms.

“It’s really important for me to bring this conversation forward. We have been doing our best to figure out these trends, patterns, and behaviours, and then set out this intention of hope forward. . . Where do we get to go from here?” said Hanley-Dafoe.

“The big theme that I want to talk about with the community, the educators, over the next three days is this idea, but also how do we re-establish our stride so we can start to move forward into better days.”

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