Student Learning Linked To Emotions

May 22, 2016

As Anne Arundel Literacy Council tutors we seek to be a compassionate, positive influence in our student’s life, and we tailor lessons to address the student’s personal reading level, interests and goals. Following are excerpts from an article which affirms this approach for optimal student learning. CLICK HERE to read the article as it appeared on the New York Times website.

To Help Students Learn, Engage the Emotions

MAY 4, 2016

According to Neuroscientist, Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, students learn because they become emotionally engaged in material that has personal relevance to them. Emotion is where learning begins, or, as is often the case, where it ends. Put simply, “It is literally neurobiologically impossible to think deeply about things that you don’t care about,” she said.

This rule holds true even across subjects and disciplines, Dr. Immordino-Yang writes in her book, “Emotions, Learning, and the Brain.” “Even in academic subjects that are traditionally considered unemotional, such as physics, engineering or math, deep understanding depends on making emotional connections between concepts.”

As a teacher, I know what an emotionally engaged student looks like on the outside, but Dr. Immordino-Yang showed me what that student looks like on the inside using a functional M.R.I., a scanner that reveals brain function in real time. “When students are emotionally engaged,” she said, “we see activations all around the cortex, in regions involved in cognition, memory and meaning-making, and even all the way down into the brain stem.”

Great teachers understand that the best, most durable learning happens when content sparks interest, when it is relevant to a student’s life, and when the students form an emotional bond with either the subject at hand or the teacher in front of them.

Creating this emotional connection might sound like a daunting task, but research has shown that the investment reaps huge dividends in the form of increased learning and better grades. When teachers take the time to learn about their students’ likes and dislikes, personal interests, dreams and goals, learning improves.

The emotional connection that can result when teachers make learning personally relevant to students is what differentiates superficial, rote, topical assimilation of material from a superlative education marked by deep mastery and durable learning. While there are no silver bullets in education, emotional engagement and personal relevance is the tool that has the potential to improve the educational experience of every student, in every school in America.

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