Monday, February 25, 2013

Week Two: Emotion and Learning

Week two of our session, Neuroscience in Education: Braining up your English lessons, covered the topic of emotion and learning.

From James Zull book, The Art of Changing the Brain, page 58
Narrated by Mary Hillis
Images by Brazilian educator Cleide Fraz√£o

When recording the above video, My Student Tony and Me, before the session started, I started thinking more and more about the role of emotion and learning, so for the “expanding your learning” task, I chose to research this area.

After all, I’m not only a teacher, but also a learner. I’m always learning about something and recently I’ve been studying Japanese, neuroscience, literature, and writing pedagogy just to name a few. However, since I’m a language teacher, I’ll focus on my recent experiences as a learner of the Japanese language. Actually, this is why I chose the topic of emotion and learning because I have complex emotions about studying and using Japanese and these affect my motivation and performance.

Living in Japan, I have felt frustrated when I get a cafe mocha everytime I think I’ve ordered a cafe americano. I have felt left out when I’m talking with a group of Japanese mothers. This frustration has even led me to take breaks from studying. On the other hand, these examples cannot be classified purely as negative because they helped me to identify my weaknesses and reinforced the need to continue studying. As a result, these so-called negative experiences could lead me to be motivated. In contrast with the real world, during my private Japanese lesson, my teacher is extremely supportive and creates a positive learning environment. Nevertheless, my experiences and emotions come with me every time I attend Japanese lesson.

From the various readings I’ve done recently, I’ve learned that negative emotions are linked to the amygdala and the fight or flight response while positive emotions are linked to dopamine and the frontal cortex. As the previous example demonstrates, emotions are not always easy to classify as positive or negative and there may be some interplay between the two.

For practical tips on emotion and learning, this pdf file was useful. Because I teach a literature themed course, I was particularly drawn to the following tips from the list which inspired me to consider my current teaching practice from a new perspective: emotion.  

“Discuss people’s and literary characters’ motivations”

“Incorporate storytelling, myths, legends, parables, and metaphors”

“Try role-playing, skits, and debates”
“Incorporate suspense, cliffhangers, and things left open-ended and unresolved”

There are some other aspects of emotion and learning that I will leave for further research and many more useful resources and points to consider about emotion and learning. This is just the beginning!

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