Emory Report
October 18, 2004
Volume 57, Number 8


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October 18 , 2004
Oxford journal to examine cognitive-affective learning

BY Eric Rangus

A quarterly online journal based at Oxford College devoted to the connections between emotion and understanding in the classroom will debut later this month. The Journal of Cognitive Affective Learning (JCAL) will be a peer-reviewed, open-access journal designed to promote research, education and community building in areas related to the scholarship of teaching.

“When many professors teach, they think they are teaching to students’ brains only,” said JCAL Editor-in-Chief Ken Carter, associate professor of psychology at Oxford. Each of the six members of JCAL’s editorial team works at Oxford or Emory, and all have taken on JCAL responsibilities in addition to their regular workloads.

“But psychologists, and even some K–12 teachers, have known for a while that your emotions either impede or aid in processing information in the long term,” Carter continued. “Think back to the most meaningful education experience you’ve had. There’s usually an emotion that’s tied to it: Your professor helped you to feel a certain way, or you learned something and were really excited about it. We’ve usually ignored that emotional component.”

Teaching the mind to feel and the heart to think is an easy-to-digest definition of cognitive-affective learning, but, according to Carter, it’s also limiting. Emotions, when it comes to learning, are not always positive. “In some classes, professors can come on too strong emotionally, and students will shut down and not pay attention,” he said.

A definition of cognitive-affective learning is posted on JCAL’s still-developing website (www.jcal.emory.edu) that notes an “intimate connection between the emotional and cognitive” that “institutions of higher education have [historically] treated as separate spheres.”

The journal’s creation is partially a result of Oxford being named in 2003 as one of 12 national cluster leaders for the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) Campus Program. With the mission of discovering new ways of recognizing excellent teaching and improving the quality of teaching in colleges and universities, the Oxford cluster—which includes Agnes Scott College, Kennesaw State University, the Community College of Philadelphia and Wright State University (Ohio) School of Medicine—focused on cognitive-affective connections in learning.

The first issue of JCAL will contain five articles. One is by Oxford psychology Professor Patti Owen-Smith, who also directs Oxford’s Center for Cognitive-Affective Learning; the authors of three other pieces hail from Oxford’s cluster partners. Just one author comes from outside the cluster, although Carter said he hopes that as the journal becomes better known, those types of submissions will increase.

Once articles are submitted for publication, they go through a blind review process with two peer reviewers. The changes are then sent back to the author, who then has the option to accept or reject. If accepted, the piece goes back through the system for upload to the site.

Once the JCAL website becomes fully operational later this month, it will contain each article in the debut issue. As new issues are released every quarter, the old ones will be archived. Subscription to the journal is free, and while there isn’t a lot of online content yet—although the mission and background behind the journal’s creation is well documented—interested users can sign up to be added to the distribution list. Subscribers will receive e-mail announcements when new content has been uploaded.

All of this is being accomplished at a cost of nothing more than time. With most fledgling print journals, the printing costs can be overwhelming, and the lag time between article submission and actual publication can drag, as well. However, one perceived problem is that online journals have not always been afforded the same respect in the academic community as their hardcopy cousins.

“A lot of scholars are suspicious of things that aren’t printed,” Carter said. “They think it’s not high quality, so fighting that perception has been important. I don’t like calling it an ‘e-journal,’ because that seems to suggest it’s not the same caliber as a printed journal. I think of it as an academic journal that happens to be online. We have the same standards any other journal would have.”

That atmosphere appears to be changing, though, as the costs associated with journal publication have in some cases been passed on to the academics themselves. Since faculty all over the country depend on publishing for their livelihood, many are looking for other avenues, and online, open access journals are beginning to reap the benefits.

“Researchers have been advocating for open-access publishing because a lot of the big science journals require pay for publishing,” said Beth Haines, special projects librarian at Oxford and JCAL’s managing editor. “Open access puts the power back in the researchers’ hands.”

JCAL will be the third open-access journal based at the University. The others are Southern Spaces (www. southernspaces.org), a Southern studies journal, and Molecular Vision (www. molvis.org), devoted to molecular and cell biology and the genetics of the visual system.

After JCAL’s launch, Carter will contact scores of teaching centers around the world and send them packets of information about JCAL. He will take out some advertising space and also post on several listservs. The call for papers for JCAL’s January 2005 issue has already gone out, so there will be very little rest in between issues.

“A lot of people think we just teach at Oxford and we’re not involved in scholarly work,” he said. “We may define ourselves as a teaching institution, but we have a scholarly mission as well. One of the things we call ourselves is a ‘laboratory of teaching.’ We try new ideas and techniques—we’re on the cutting edge of teaching. This journal is another way we can highlight the things we’re doing.”