Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Emotions, Memory, and Learning

I was recently skimming a book on what teachers should know about how the brain works. (I need to find the title--I know I wrote it down somewhere.) The part that really stood out to me (even though it makes total sense) is that we are more likely to remember something/put it into our memory if there is emotion tied to it. We are likely to remember that with which we have an emotional connection. Duh.

Still, this makes me think about how the arts can be so crucial in learning. Experiencing a process drama about Ruby Bridges' and school integration vs. reading about it. Listening to or learning music from the Civil Rights area. Problem solving using Forum Theatre. All of these evoke emotions as a tool and a way of learning, and an avenue to remembering.

Here's a quick read on Educational Leadership: Brain-Friendly Learning for Teachers.

Our brain pays more attention to stimuli and events that are accompanied by emotions. We remember the best and worst things that happen to us while forgetting emotionally neutral events. Do you remember what you ate for lunch two weeks ago last Thursday? Probably not, unless it was a special occasion or the food made you sick. In either case, the accompanying emotions enabled you to remember it.

How we feel about a learning situation often affects attention and memory more quickly than what we think about it. In most adolescents, the brain region that processes emotions (the limbic area) is fully operational, whereas the regions responsible for thinking, reflecting, and controlling emotional reactions (located in the prefrontal cortex) are still developing. This is why middle school students overtly display emotions inappropriately in the classroom (through pained sighs, rolling eyes, and blank looks).

And another: The Role of Emotions in Learning. This one talks mainly about the way that fear/joy can affect our ability to learn and open up avenues to learning.

Here's an article on Memory, Music and Emotion in Learning.

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