by Erin Donohue“I believe learning should be anxiety-free.”—Michael O’Loughlin, Ph.D.
“Students should own the knowledge, not just regurgitate it,” Michael O’Loughlin, Ph.D., said in a fine Irish brogue. Blessed with the “gift of gab,” it comes as no surprise that the Adelphi University professor, a native of County Clare, Ireland, describes his teaching style as interactive and built around conversation.
“I haven’t given a lecture since 1986,” he said. “I also don’t give tests, but that doesn’t mean my classes are easy.”
Easy? No. Engaging? Yes.
Dr. O’Loughlin holds a unique position at Adelphi because he teaches in two separate programs. In the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education, he teaches classes such as Childhood Development, Classroom Management Strategies and Emotional Lives of Students: Classroom as a Community. As a professor in the Gordon F. Derner Institute for Advanced Psychological Studies, he leads courses on multicultural issues in school psychology, trauma and psychosis, and guides students in their psychological research toward a doctorate degree.
Because of his interdisciplinary courses, his published works and the affection that students have for him, Dr. O’Loughlin has been honored with the 2013 University Award for Excellence in Faculty Scholarship and Creative Work. The recognition means more to him than simply using it as a highlight on his resume—the award comes from a committee of his peers.
But if Dr. O’Loughlin doesn’t lecture or give tests, how does he conduct his classes?
Dr. O’Loughlin describes his seminar-like classes as being built around discussions that connect to both the shy student and the extrovert. Using movies and other media, he encourages students to reflect on their own emotional well-being and that of those around them. Students are given weekly academic and personal writing assignments and also complete field projects.
“I believe learning should be anxiety-free,” said Dr. O’Loughlin, who tells his students to keep a journal with reflections on their emotional experiences as part of the curriculum.
“You couldn’t do what I do in a big class,” he said, noting the intimate nature of Adelphi’s classes, which generally have a 10:1 student-to-teacher ratio.
The 2013-2014 academic year marks Dr. O’Loughlin’s 13th at Adelphi, but he has previously taught at Hofstra University and Bowling Green State University. He received his undergraduate degree from University College Dublin and, after having taught elementary school and special education in Ireland, he came to the U.S. in 1979 to earn his graduate degrees at Columbia University.
Married and the father of two adult children, Dr. O’Loughlin has devoted the majority of his professional life to children—from his years teaching in Ireland to being a consultant in the New York City public school system. He also has a private practice as a child and adult therapist in New Hyde Park, New York.
For several years, Dr. O’Loughlin has volunteered with the Human Rights Clinic of HealthRight International, helping people who have been persecuted in their native countries to apply for asylum in the U.S.
When Dr. O’Loughlin finds the time, he enjoys photography and working in his garden. But clearly, the bulk of his time is devoted to being a working scholar—collaborating with others in his field, filling leadership roles in professional associations, conducting research, and writing and consulting all over the world.
Dr. O’Loughlin has also authored and edited several books in the field of psychology, including The Subject of Childhood and Imagining Children Otherwise: Theoretical and Critical Perspectives on Childhood Subjectivity, with two more books scheduled for release in 2014.