Emotions drive learning. That is one of the most exciting findings from Immordino-Yang’s years of work in affective neuroscience with great implications for teaching and learning. Emotions are an essential piece in the learning process, so how can we foster them in the classroom? What can we do, as educators, to engage students in meaningful ways? In my earlier posts How emotions affect learning part 1 and part 2, I discussed how the emotions students experience in the classroom can affect their disposition to learn. Read more
Posts tagged ‘Emotions’
“I’ll never be able to make these kids learn or behave appropriately. They just don’t listen! If I don’t get them to master the content, I am in trouble. Tests are around the corner… what If I loose my job? I’m not good at this… actually I am really bad at teaching. What if I just quit and forget about all of this? But then, I’ll never be able to find a job that I enjoy…”.
Empathy is the ability to be understanding of and sensitive to another person’s feelings and thoughts without having had the same experience. In an earlier post, Pelochino described empathy as the foundation of design thinking. Innovators and designers develop a deep emotional understanding of people’s needs, and they use this knowledge to address complex problems. How can empathy be developed in classrooms and schools? Read more
A few years back, my principal and I had an argument about some testing that needed to get done. From my classroom, a remodeled closet above the gym, I could hear her heels coming towards my class… I started sweating and my heart was pounding; she was not even there yet, and I was already getting angry again! My mind was quickly building a catalog of all the situations where there had been tension between us, which made me even angrier. The conversation did NOT start with “I hear what you are saying…” and there were some passive aggressive remarks made… by me. Fortunately, we were able to work through the issue and made a plan to solve the problem. When she left, I felt so relieved. Read more
In an earlier post, I discussed the concept of emotion and offered a few suggestions to build self-awareness and self-management in your students. After reading the blog, did you start identifying your different emotional responses during the day? Did you find yourself paying more attention to how your emotions predispose you to act? Understanding how emotions work is key to build our awareness! Today, we’ll explore how emotions affect learning.
Students bring to the classroom emotions from life outside of school; they might be dealing with an ongoing stressful situation at home, like a divorce or a parent losing their job, or maybe something more momentary, like an argument with a sibling. If students didn’t have a chance to manage their emotions before getting to school, they will need your support to cool off and re-focus before they can move on with their day.
In addition, students also experience emotions that originate in the classroom and that are especially relevant for students’ learning (Pekrun, 2014):
- Achievement emotions relate to success and failure resulting from classroom activities. Students might feel hope and pride can they have been successful, but they can also feel anxiety, shame or fear of failure. Taking tests, for example, is an achievement activity that tends to create high levels of anxiety and stress in our students. These emotions will influence how students approach the task and how well they perform. Remember our discussion on growth mindset?
- Topic emotions pertain to the topics/subjects presented in class. Students might feel excited about a new art class, disgusted with certain lab experiments or saddened by the fate of a character in a novel.
- Social emotions relate to teachers and classmates, as students (and teachers) work together and interact in the classroom. Compassion, envy, sympathy, anger or social anxiety can be present at different times during the day with any and all of our students.
As a teacher, it might be difficult to respond to your students’ emotions at all times, while you manage the classroom and attend to academic content. However, there are things you can do to incorporate students’ emotions when you are planning and also during class.
- Offer a variety of tasks and activities, so students can feel successful during your class/period, and combine both achievement and performance tasks. Building self-confidence in your students by providing opportunities for success and accomplishment is key to promote a joy for learning and to avoid achievement anxiety.
- Provide contents that are meaningful to students and, when possible, allow students to define their own learning. You can make tasks more meaningful by connecting content to students’ current interest or relating them to their career goals. When possible, give students autonomy to select tasks or topics for learning. Both of these strategies promote students’ engagement and offer opportunities to practice social and emotional competencies.
- Build regular check-ins with students (both at the beginning and during the day/class). This can take the form of a classroom meeting, but could also be a silent activity where students quickly show you how they are feeling. Check out this example. You can also use check-in time to ask for feedback about lessons, classroom routines or particular projects students are developing.
Students bring emotions from life outside of school that influence their disposition to learning. In the classroom, students experience emotions based on the activities, topics and social interactions that are presented to them. Offering a variety of tasks and activities for students to feel successful, providing engaging content and allowing for students’ autonomy in learning are a few examples of strategies teachers can use to incorporate students’ emotions in their planning. And don’t forget to have regular check-ins with your students to continue building awareness!
Emotions are an important part of human life. We experienced emotions all the time, but we rarely pause to reflect on what emotions are and how they affect learning. Emotions drive attention, they influence our ability to process information and to understand what we encounter. They can energize our thinking or distract us from our goals. Part 1 of this post is focused on the concept of emotion. In part 2, we’ll discuss how emotions affect learning.
Emotions are complex states of mind and body, generally activated by an event, which is known as stimulus. Events can be external (you received great news from a friend) or internal (you have a toothache); they can be real or also imagined (you get excited when thinking about an upcoming party).
Once a stimulus has been generated, there is a process to appraise (Lazarus, 1991) it. This process is automatic and determines if the event is perceived as positive or negative, which will produce an emotional response. For example, if I am riding my bike and a car gets too close, I appraise that I am in danger and this activates my emotional response.
We can identify 3 different emotional responses (Bisquerra, 2009):
- Physiological: involuntary responses such as sweat, dry mouth, heavy breathing or rapid heartbeat.
- Behavioral: facial expressions, body language or tone of voice.
- Cognitive: this is the subjective experience of the emotion. It allows us to become aware and name our emotions. Having the language to name and describe our emotions is key to identify “what’s happening”.
Emotions drive us to take action, either by facing the event or by moving away from the situation that produced them. This predisposition to action is also known as flight or fly response, which reflects the two basic behaviors that ensure survival. Although emotions drive us to take action, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the action needs to occur. For example, if we feel offended by someone’s comment, we might feel the urge to respond aggressively. This predisposition to action can be regulated with with some training; this is where teaching SEL comes into place.
Model of emotion (Bisquerra, 2009)
Developing students’ social and emotional competencies means helping students be aware of their emotions, so they can regulate them and avoid impulsive reactions. A few suggestions to develop your students’ self-awareness and self-management:
- Implement Quite Time in your classroom. Quite Time provides students with a regular quiet, peaceful, restful period to meditate, do sustained silent reading or free drawing. It helps students de-stress and re-focus for better learning.
- Develop students’ emotional literacy by discussing different emotions, building an emotion thermometer or identifying character emotions in the books you’re reading with students.
- Help students reframe the way they think about their emotions and themselves. This is a great example of reframing.
Today, we explored how emotions are activated by events that we appraise as positive or negative, generating a physiological, behavioral and cognitive response and preparing us to take action. Implementing quite time, discussing emotions in the classroom and helping students reframe the way they think about what they feel are some ways to develop students’ self-awareness, so they can better regulate their behaviors.