After reminiscing about school, it occurred to me that some years were brighter than others. Looking at those years, I realized that how I felt changed how I was able to learn. This applies to positive emotions as well as negative emotions.
Fear/Anxiety: Severe fear or anxiety is not conducive to learning. In fact, it can damage a child’s brain if it is for a prolonged period of time. The cognitive difficulties can extend into adulthood. In addition, it leaves the child vulnerable to other problems such as depression.
It doesn’t help adults a great deal, either. This is something each of us will realize if we do stop and think about it. When we’re anxious or afraid, our concentration is focused on what is causing the problem and not on what we are doing…including trying to learn something.
Anger: We all get angry. We all know the sensations. Muscles tighten and our focus is on whatever is causing the anger. As children, most of us were taught coping skills so that anger didn’t affect our lives and relationships. When those coping skills haven’t been taught or a child hasn’t been able to learn them, the child can become aggressive.
Like fear, what angers us gets our undivided attention. On top of that, an angry, aggressive child will become the focus of attention, disrupting learning for everyone.
Boredom: A 2003 study of North American youth showed that a whopping 91% of those involved stated that the experience boredom. This problem happens all the way through our educational systems, including colleges and universities. Other studies point out that boredom affects attention span in classes or while studying.
Love: A nurturing parent or caregiver can have a direct impact on brain development. It has been tied to an increase in the hippocampus and of amygdala. The hippocampus is in charge of memory and the amygdala is responsible for regulating emotions.
Laughter: While this can be used the wrong way, introducing levity into a learning situation can be very beneficial. This is particularly true of a topic is very complicated and perceived as boring. The link here talks about a Statistics professor and how his teaching style affects his students.
Used properly, laughter can focus our attention on something important we need to learn. It also sticks in the mind forever. I’ve had teachers that could do that properly and I do remember more of those classes than I do of others.
Because emotions do play a role in learning throughout our lives, it’s a good idea to find a way through those that hinder learning…even if we’re no longer in a classroom setting. We learn all our lives, and we learn best with positive emotions.