In 2019, Professor Jeff Driskell of Salem State’s School of Social Work was invited to speak at the second iteration of TEDxSalemStateUniversity, the theme of which was Mindfulness and Transformation. In his talk, “Act One: My Unique Relationship with Gumby,” Driskell addresses his personal experiences with anxiety, which, as Driskell notes, is hallmarked by rumination and negative thought patterns. In his poignant and humorous story of his lifelong relationship with the cartoon character Gumby, Driskell uses Gumby’s characteristics in an extended metaphor for mindfulness and self-compassion, which Driskell recommends as wellness tools that can manage and diffuse anxiety.
Driskell’s TEDx talk, which has now been viewed more than 1500 times on YouTube, contributes to ongoing conversations in the School of Social Work, where Driskell has noticed throughout his fourteen years as a Salem State educator that students are particularly interested in learning about anxiety disorders. While participating in, listening to, and leading these ongoing discussions, Driskell recognized a need for resources for mental health professionals about understanding and managing anxiety.
In the spring of 2022, Driskell embarked on the second sabbatical of his tenure at Salem State to create one such resource, which resulted in the July 2022 publication of Driskell’s open educational resource (OER) about anxiety disorders, appropriately titled All About Anxiety: An Introductory Guide to Neuroscience, Assessment, and Intervention.
Before his sabbatical, Driskell planned to draft five modules of content addressing anxiety disorders, which he aimed to complete during his semester off from teaching. Anticipating the challenges that inevitably arise in the writing process, Driskell scheduled an eight-day retreat to Provincetown, where he hoped to minimize distractions and simply focus on writing. The retreat, Driskell says, was an important part of his writing journey; on the occasions that he approached a writing block, Driskell would employ his Gumby-inspired mindfulness techniques, firmly rooting himself in the present by taking walks on the beach that cleared his mental blockades.
As he worked on his draft of All About Anxiety, Driskell found himself writing more than he originally intended: instead of writing the five shorter modules he initially proposed, Driskell completed five robust chapters by early summer. With this wealth of writing, Driskell recognized that what he had written was indeed a textbook—one that, he realized, should be made openly available. Knowing that a traditionally printed textbook would be a financial burden on students, Driskell decided to turn his five-chapter manuscript into an OER that would be accessible to anyone, regardless of their ability to find and purchase a textbook.
While in development, the All About Anxiety OER went through the peer review process, where mental health providers provided their feedback, which allowed Driskell to revise accordingly. During this period, Driskell also spent time curating additional resources to include with the OER, like supplemental activities and exercises at the end of each chapter that provide opportunities for teaching beyond the digital page. In addition to teaching suggestions, the OER also contains links to outside resources and video demonstrations to help students understand concepts further. This use of multimedia, Driskell says, was an important factor in creating a truly accessible and interactive resource.
Following his sabbatical and the successful publication of All About Anxiety: An Introductory Guide to Neuroscience, Assessment, and Intervention, Driskell hopes to create an elective course at Salem State that uses his OER as the foundation of its content. According to Driskell, anxiety disorders can often be misunderstood; since the way each person experiences anxiety can vary, different people require different treatment. By taking a deeper dive into the neuroscience of anxiety disorders and looking at mental health assessment strategies for treating anxiety through a clinical perspective, Driskell hopes that his elective course will continue to expand upon the nuances of anxiety disorders, just as he has done in All About Anxiety and, of course, with his lifelong friend, Gumby.
Congratulations on publishing your first OER, Professor Driskell!
Center for Research and Creative Activities