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Brain, Education, and Inquiry - Fall, 2010: Session 14E

Paul Grobstein's picture

Brain, Education, and Inquiry

Bryn Mawr College, Fall 2010

Session 14E

Facilitated by Amenah, skindeep

Emotions and Classroooms





Your continuing thoughts about this and its relation to the classroom in the forum below ....





Ameneh's picture

 I think one of the things we

 I think one of the things we wanted to think about the extent to which we want involve emotions in the classroom. Sure, a lot of people make connections on their own, but there are lots of people who don't. Maybe if it was required instead of just desired, it would make students in general more emotionally invested and interested in school.

As far as passion is concerned, though, I feel like all the students should be given the opportunity to be passionate about something. I'm sure we can recall enough times we didn't pursue a certain subject because of that one class that we just didn't like, because we just didn't care. If students can be shown that everything can be/is interesting, we could unlock a lot of doors to a lot of potential that might otherwise go unnoticed. 

I agree with FinnWing has said about this could potentially create a cycle that would make both teachers and the students bring emotions to school. I personally find that if I have an emotional connection with what I study, I definitely learn more. More than that, it makes me want to learn more. And there's a lot to be gained from students just liking school more.

skindeep's picture


the discussion in class was great, all the ideas, thoughts and input you'll had to share was stimulating and helped moved the conversation forward in a great way.

what we wanted to get across in the discussion was - what role does being passionate play in the classroom? is it possible to be passionate about everything you learn? do you need to be? does everything we learn have to connect to our lives outside the classroom and if so, do the connections have to be shared?

while we discussed both the positive and negative effects of the questions stated above, i think we (as a class) hit a point when we asked - not only do we need to be passionate about everything, but do we need to be knowledgable about everything? and if not, how do we structure our education system/society to incorporate base knowledge and skill and passion in a manner that is not only stimulating, but integrated and layed out.

Angela DiGioia's picture

Different Strokes for Different Folks

I was reading Jessica's post above thinking how often I am the opposite of her in that I make connections out loud and am that person who shares what I'm thinking at any given moment, even if it's not well formed.  In fact, I think that I've become self-conscious of this aspect of myself and have had to learn how to keep my mouth shut (which can be difficult for my extroverted self).  I think that this is one of the precise difficulties of being a teacher and figuring out how to make material applicable to real life things and also how to gauge if a child has made that connection if they are not extroverted.  There has to be a line somewhere between personal anecdotal information that is shared in the goal of making information more emotional and applicable and personal information that may get a bit too personal.  Children do not have this ability to delineate between appropriate and not, which is why young children will ask any strage/crazy question or make a comment without remorse.  So, the dilemma for teachers is how to cultivate the curiosity that young children have and come up with new ways for them to express themselves (if a student is not a verbal learner and would rather write, for example) that makes the information that's being taught personal in some way.  Maybe it's taking 5 minutes to draw a picture of what they think of when a new concept is introduced, even if it's multiplication, for example, because then the student has that personal image in their mind as the information is being taught to them and it becomes more memorable.  This way, even if a student isn't passionate about multiplication, they remember that they learned it and what image they had in their mind when it was introduced. Every child doesn't have to be passionate about everything but they are more knowledgeable about what they are not passionate about when they associate information with a personal story/memory/idea which they are able to call upon at a later point in time when the given topic comes up again.

FinnWing's picture

Learning to Feel; Using feeling to learn

The idea of bringing emotions into learning is an interesting one.  It seems quite natural that cultivating an emotional interest in material is helpful and learning about the cognitive unconscious' ability to retain information in conjunction with the neocortex affirms this view.  If someone is teaching a subject they are probably interested in it (especially at higher levels of education), and if you are very interested in something then presumably you have some emotional feeling towards the subject.  For this reason, it may be helpful to open the door to teachers bringing emotions into the classroom and see what comes of it; there would probably be a snowball effect that would culminate in the teachers progressively bringing more of their feeling for the subject into the classroom until equilibrium is found.  This would be a good step towards having students be more engaged (i.e. if teachers are more engaged students would probably be as well).  It is not an end in itself, but seems like a step in the right direction.  

LinKai_Jiang's picture

Pursue the question of passion

Let's propose the question: what role does passion play in students' learning and the classroom dynamic?

As Simone suggests, emotional and personal elements are always present in the classroom, be them students' or teachers'. The western tradition of thinking separates reason from passion. Their cooperation obviously promotes one's quality of learning. But their discordance hinders one's ability and motivation to learn. One proposal is to let the students learn what they are passionate about. This way they will not only learn better they will also enjoy the process better and feel better about themselves. Leaving the practical implementation aside for the moment, there's the concern of how one's passion develops. Is passion cultivated through a particular kind of learning or is passion more or less innate or is passion substantially the influence of one's environment? It seems to me we need to get a better idea of this concern before deciding on how to best incorporate it into our learning. I will try to get a preliminary idea by reflecting on how I came to be passionate about certain things in my life. At the very basis is the elementary curiosity we all possess. What I came to love and became constitutive of my personhood was subject to the available relevant sources and people to encourage and sustain the love. My love for learning (although not always in the classroom) went through a series of conditioning accompanied by self-reflection. How did I learn what things are worthy of pursuit? I did not, at least not on my own. I looked at the available fun things in my life; some entertain the body, some entertain the mind and some do a amazing job entertaining both. The fact that I came to value the cultivating of mind and character more than bodily pleasure is a product of the influence of a nexus of people and forces which I can not fully trace. During that process I also judged the value of each choice and reflected on who I want to be. If I were left alone to do whatever I wanted to do I would probably turn out very differently, could be for better or for worse. There were so many opportunities for me to go astray. I think allowing students to pursue their true passion is great but that  entails that students know what their true passions are. There is the further complication that not all passions are worthy of pursuit, some are even harmful.



















simonec's picture

 I found this to be a bit

 I found this to be a bit intuitive - I believe that most teachers incorporate aspects of the personal/ real word in their lessons, and that no matter the age students do this naturally. my question would be to what degree would pushing the personal be appropriate, and how could it be implemented? 

jessicarizzo's picture

Agreed.  I generally enjoy

Agreed.  I generally enjoy making those personal connections in the privacy of my own head thank you very much.  And we've probably all had literature courses where there's "that girl" or guy who feels compelled to to walk the class through the revelatory personal connections she's making to the material.  And it's not always terribly interesting to everyone else.  Mostly I think that this rigid distinction between school and "real life" is to blame.  Being a student, getting to devote 40, 60, 80 hours per week to working on yourself, your mind, fine-tuning, revising a worldview... it's the most self-indulgent thing in the world.  The only product you're really responsible for producing is yourself.  If a student can see it this way, if they feel like this whole thing is their project, that they're in charge of it, I can't imagine the separate "personal" sphere would seem as distinct or automatically more desirable. 

epeck's picture

I agree that learning

I agree that learning normally involves emotional connections - if we're able to connect material to something personal or at least something present in our day-to-day lives, the knowledge will be easier to remember and apply because the connections we've made with it will be strong.  I don't think anyone would argue for a dry/emotionless style of education.  I guess one of the questions to consider might be how to allow and encourage students to form emotional connections - this sort of seems like the same question as "what makes a good teacher?"  Are some people better at eliciting emotional responses in people, and would that quality make for a better teacher?

ellenv's picture

eliciting emotional response

 I do think that there are certainly some people who are better at eliciting an emotional response from their audience than others. I think these are the people who themselves have an emotional connection with what they are saying and teaching. I would hope that teachers would actually care about the subject that they are teaching, but I also think that there are varying degrees of emotional attachment to a subject. I also think that those who are better at eliciting emotional responses are those individuals who are good questioners. Questions are the beginning of understanding and so those teachers who are good at asking their students questions are going to be the ones that are going to get their students engaged in the process of understanding rather than the process of memorization and spitting back facts. 

bennett's picture

 I think that your question

 I think that your question brings out another, really important question that we've all been asking but maybe not explicitly: if there is an infinite body of knowledge that we must select from to educate, and certain students respond more affectively/"emotionally" to certain books/subjects than others, how do we justify teaching the relatively unified/limited curricula that we seem to teach? I mean in my experience you basically never got to choose what kinds of books or things you'd be reading, how you'd be reading and discussing them, etc. until college. Which isn't to say that every school should be a Waldorf school (which would be too expensive, etc.) but what about teaching school the way that Mark C. Taylor wants to organize universities: by subject (i.e., "water" would be a field of study that would bring together experts across the sciences and humanities to work on all things "water")...? 

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