Alec Hamilton's Thesis Presentation

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Alec Hamilton's Thesis Presentation

We would like to invite you to attend the Thesis Presentation of Alec Hamilton, a Doctor of Philosophy candidate within the School of Social Sciences, in the Faculty of Arts, Business and Law.

Title: Australian Higher Education Counselling Educators' Conceptualisation of Presence within the Context of the Teacher-Student Relationship.

Presenter: Alec Hamilton

When: Thursday 20 December 10-11am.

Where: E1.04

Abstract: Presence is a term widely used within counselling and is viewed as a critical element in determining successful outcomes in therapy. Presence is also seen as an essential element in successful teaching. However, the models of presence offered in scholarly literature suggest that, while there are similarities, the concept of presence is viewed somewhat differently across professional groups. This thesis explores how 15 Australian Masters level counselling educators conceptualise presence in the context of their teaching practice.

A phenomenographic approach was used to detail the educator's conceptions of presence. Phenomenography is an approach designed to examine the various ways in which a group describe the same phenomenon. Through semi-structured conversations, the educators outlined their conceptions of presence and how they develop and maintain presence in their teaching practice.

The educators described presence as operating within a three-tiered hierarchy. The first tier represents the institutional, professional and personal systems that dictate the educators' environment. Held within the boundary of the system is the second tier representing those aspects of presence over which the educators have direct influence. When the educators were able to be themselves, were well prepared, able to practice their craft at a level commensurate with the students' abilities, they felt they were able to connect with the students. The third tier sits under the previous two requiring all the above aspects of presence to be in place. When this occurs, the educators and the students' have the potential to build together a mutually beneficial interpersonal relationship that has the potential for transformative presence to be realised.

As the educators articulated their conceptions of presence five fields of expanding awareness emerged, building from lesser to greater complexity of presence: The importance of recognising when one is absent; The importance of self-awareness; The need to consciously develop awareness of others (the students); That an awareness of others sets up an environment for interpersonal connection; That interpersonal connections have the potential to transform both the educator and the student.

 The thesis highlights the importance of presence for teaching practice and expands on the current models of presence that are discussed within the academic literature. Implications of the educators' conceptions of presence are discussed, and recommendations are provided for further consideration. Although this research focused on counselling educators, the findings will be of interest to other professional groups in higher education.

Bio: Alec is a PhD candidate and practising psychologist who has taught within counselling and education programs both here at USC and in Canada at the University of Alberta. As a teaching and counselling practitioner Alec has been strongly influenced by his understanding of the common factors model and the importance of the relationship the teacher or counsellor builds with their students and clients. Alec believes that being present in the interpersonal relationship is crucial in achieving both therapeutic and academic outcomes and that presence is a core common factor in successful and transformative learning. He is committed to further understanding his practice and improving how he can build therapeutically and educationally strong relationships with those he teaches and counsels. Alec's passion is in assisting young people to grow and develop. Young people, given opportunities, are powerful, competent individuals who can live positively. Sometimes they need help to do this and, he believes it is a privilege to be invited into their world, walking alongside them, and their families, for a short time.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Kind regards

The Research Enterprise Team
Faculty of Arts, Business and Law

Please contact FABLHDR@usc.edu.au if you have any questions.​

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