The Critical Nature of “Closing”

Guest post by Genevieve Chandler,RN, PhD, Associate Professor, UMass Amherst

“I learned how quick I go into ‘catastrophizing’ mode in my thinking. I do that all the time. But now I can change, stop, take a breath and consider my options,” David, one of our athletes’, commented in the closing of our class. This is an example of an Affirmation, one of the choices of the 3 A’s, as we affectionately refer to our course closing practice.

This one credit course on building psychological resilience is a freshman seminar that is offered through the College of Nursing to all freshman and specifically required for entering athletes, football players, men’s and women’s basketball. In the ritual closing of our class each individual is invited to offer either an Affirmation of what they learned or an Appreciation of what a peer or faculty contributed or an Appraisal of what they wished happened in class but we did not get to. I invite students, staff or patients to participate in this dynamic closing practice that is derived from the Peace & Power process (Chinn, 2001).

Whether leading a class, a clinical meeting or a patient group, the last 5-10 minutes of the meeting are facilitated by each member of the group responding to the 3As. Hearing what other group members affirm, appreciate or appraise is rewarding for everyone present. The resulting individual recognition and productive feedback builds group cohesion. In David’s comment he described learning about catastrophizing from the brief lecture I gave on cognitive awareness, a component of the Changing Minds, Changing Lives (CMCL) resilience intervention. As an educator, it is always helpful to learn what stays with students!

The framework for the Changing Minds, Changing Lives (CMCL) resilience intervention is based on ABCS model for building resilience. Active coping, Building strength, Cognitive awareness and Social support are the four constructs that serve as a framework for the Changing Minds, Changing Lives (CMCL) intervention. The CMCL consists of an academic course and mentoring opportunities. The strength-based intervention is designed to bring mental health and well-being from the auspices of the clinic to the learning environment of the classroom. Each class consists of a mindfulness/yoga training, an educational presentation on a topic related to resilience such as the neurobiology of stress or leadership, followed by an expressive writing exercise and closing with an Affirmation, and Appreciation or an Appraisal. “I appreciate hearing Carl’s story of his first day on campus, it helps to understand where people are coming from.”

Comparison of the CMCL intervention pre and post data indicate an increase in emotional awareness, belonging and resilience during the transition to college, all essential attributes to college success (Chandler, Roberts & Chiodo, 2015). Recently funded by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, sophomores now mentor freshman and freshman mentor high school students within the CMCL course. In a course where students learn their individual strengths and hear stories of their teammates experiences, our participants thrive, resulting in an increase in self efficacy and team bonding.

I highly recommend reserving the last 10 minutes of every group for the 3As where each component of the closing, an Affirmation of learning, an Appreciation of another group member’s contribution or an Appraisal of what was needed, is so helpful to the participants and the facilitator. The 3As practice offers everyone the opportunity to speak their voice, whether a class of 80, where you can pop around the room, or a seminar of 12, where each individual can share their perspective. “I have an appraisal,” Michael began, “I wish we could have heard everyone’s strengths and not just those in our small group,” Good to know. Next time I’ll make time for each small group to report out. I can’t leave a meeting without a closing. Invite your group members to have the last word, their voices are so inspiring and everyone feels included.

Chandler, G., Robert, S., & Chiodo, L. (2015). Resilience intervention for young adults with adverse childhood experiences. Journal of American Psychiatric Nursing Association, 21(6), 406-416.

Author: Peggy L Chinn

feminist, nurse activist, writer, founding editor of ANS Advances in Nursing Science, quilter, grandmother nurturing the future of the amazing children in my life.

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