Teaching Descriptive Psychology During the Time of COVID: What Concepts Proved Serviceable?

Schwartz, W. / Published 2021 / Presentation

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Presenter Wynn Schwartz, Ph.D.
Date October 3, 2021
Abstract: Spring semester 2020 and 2021, I taught Case Studies in the Lives of Persons to a large group of international and multicultural undergraduate and graduate students at Harvard University. Employing Ossorio’s “Person Concept” and the concepts and methods from various descriptive psychologies, participants constructed a psychological autobiography informed by socially negotiated observer-critic feedback. When mid-semester 2020 the pandemic struck, our focus changed to an examination of how this global circumstance affected our lives. This pivot was especially relevant for students in a period of transition, with its normal uncertainties, suddenly intensified by fears of infection, the shutdowns, social distance, masking, Zoom, etc. In effect, the pandemic provided an opportunity to test what descriptive psychological tools are readily serviceable for understanding and navigating an unexpected time of uncertain duration. Agency culture, the social practices of degradation and accreditation, the through-line concept, Kubovian strands, and the nine foundational maxims proved particularly useful.
References Schwartz, W. Descriptive Psychology and the Person Concept: Essential Attributes of Persons and Behavior. Cambridge, MA and London UK: Academic Press-Elsevier, 2019.