I have been watching a lot of superhero movies. Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, even the Hulk provide me a lot of fuel for thought. The biographies of many of these fictional characters are replete with narratives of lessons learned and relearned often not through the use of their super powers or acumen, but most often because of their human frailties and feelings. It is the feelings that allow these superheroes to use their power for good and fight evil.
I often think that emotions play a large role in how we learn and what we learn. I see this often in one of the classes I teach. My students take a look at the subject matter and fear drives them to believe they cannot learn it and that they are incapable of being successful. A different side of the same coin, self-confidence in a subject matter will make anyone feel like a Sheldon Cooper to that content. (In case you don’t watch Big Bang Theory, that means uber smart.) Emotions are often overlooked component to learning and learning environments.
New research on emotion and learning can give us some of the biochemical reasons how emotion impacts reason. Research by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang from USC’d Rossier School of Education shows how emotion can be used by teachers to stimulate creativity. She has even created curriculum for teachers to access these findings (http://www.learner.org/courses/neuroscience/index.html). She explains that the “neuromechanisms responsible for feeling and managing the body’s physical survival and consciousness have been co-opted to also manage social survival” (mindshift blog, blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/03/how-emotional-connections-can-trigger-creativity-and-learning/). In other words, the very feelings that help us survive in the physical world also help us navigate social setting such as learning environments.
So this week, I would like to challenge you to consider your feelings as you are learning something. Do you experience excitement, concern, anxiety, or joy? How do these feelings impact how you learn? Can you interrupt your negative feelings, address them, and then move forward all at the same time? If not, then how would you recommend that we as practitioners can motivate our students when they encounter strange experiences or unknown content area? What personal experiences can you share about moving through feelings, whether positive or negative, to finally get at a learning experience? Let us discuss…