Nicole Martin, PhD
Mastering Stress with the Biofeedback Tool emWave
Nicole Martin, Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology, believes that at it’s core, kinesiology is person-centered discipline. As students prepare for a variety of occupations in the field, it is critical to master public speaking, group facilitation and performing in front of others. However, many of her students struggle with public speaking and performance anxiety. She believes that learning to utilize stress symptoms as facilitative rather than inhibitory is essential, especially within a discipline where working with and leading others is paramount. That’s where technology can step in and give students instant access to information they can use to become more self-aware and ultimately relaxed in stressful situations.
What is one instructional technique or project that is particularly effective, innovative, or engaging?
“I teach a unit on stress and health in Health Psychology in which students complete a series of self-report stress assessments, then develop a plan to incorporate one technique into their daily schedule. I now also provide students with unlimited use of an emWave device which measures somatic change and provides real-time feedback. This type of biofeedback increases self-awareness of stress symptoms by measuring the synchronization between our heart, brain and autonomic nervous system. While students practice with the emWave and track data over time, they achieve greater clarity as to how their bodies react under varying conditions. When I teach students to use the emWave, the goal is not to rid stress completely, but to increase awareness of how maladaptive thoughts and emotions trigger detrimental physiological symptoms and then incorporate appropriate relaxation techniques.”
What related tool or strategy do you use that other PLU faculty might like to try in their courses?
“I try to incorporate the use of technology whenever possible –to help students see the connection between theory and personal application of course content. The students we have now have grown up with technology; they not only understand, but live through technology and expect instant access to information; which makes connecting theory to real life application and integration even more imperative.”
What are the benefits, for you and your students, of utilizing this tool or strategy?
“The benefit of incorporating the emWave into coursework is that active student engagement has significantly increased. The emWave provides real time measurement of physiological change, and students receive both verbal and auditory performance cues as immediate feedback sources. The learning experience becomes less abstract and more applicable because students are able to see what is happening in real time, ask questions as they emerge, problem solve in the moment, and develop immediate, direct connections of course content to real world scenarios.”
What advice would you have for someone interested in trying this tool or strategy?
“Using technology in the classroom can be immensely helpful to student learning, but at times, requires an element of spontaneity in pedagogical planning. Teaching and learning with technology often contains a significant ‘learn as you go element’ that can lead to unplanned questioning, and my advice is to travel into the unknown with our students and embrace this aspect of teaching and learning.”