2. How can one invoke in a class the emotional state most productive for: (a) prosocial behaviour, (b) evaluative thinking, (c) memorization, (d) creation?
One of the things we do as teachers is plan activities. We figure out what students should be know or do (or we’re told what they must know and do) and we then plan a variety of tasks that, if undertaken carefully, should mean the student ends up with whatever it was we were attempting to transfer to them.
Too often, when planning, teachers worry about the way students will feel during the tasks and less about whether or not the students will gain the required knowledge or skills. (Someone saying “I have planned a really fun lesson” is the usual giveaway for this one). On the other hand, teachers sometimes worry about what students will be thinking about and neglect to ponder whether students will be motivated, interested, delighted, disgusted.
Some people may scoff at this latter part, but learning involves both things: emotions and cognition. Our emotions are related to motivation and interest, and those things affect the way we think. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we must be happy to learn. In fact, there is fairly good evidence that a mildly negative mood is actually more productive when we are doing detailed work requiring highly accurate step-following – for example, solving a complicated mathematical equation.
This got me thinking. Are there rules of thumb that teachers could use to consider the mood of their classroom and then align it most productively? If the aim in a session is to have students working well together (perhaps this is a drama exercise) is there a conducive mood for this? At the cognitive end of things, if I want students to memorise a list of French verbs and their agreements – what should the atmosphere of my classroom now be?
But just answering the question of “what mood is productive?” is not really a problem. So I pushed a bit further. Even if I was certain that a mildly negative mood is best for maths – so what? How do I safely and humanely induce it?
Now, I say safe and humane, but I’m also willing to accept the idea that non-humane ways might work too and in the spirit of not wanting to rule things out I’d be willing to let these into a solution (presuming they could, somehow, be ethically proven) because then at least we’d know. Of course, knowing something will work is not the same as needing to do it (and obviously, I would advocate against it).
Nevertheless, in my head this problem would be solved if someone could show what is the most effective mood for each of these outcomes, and at least one way to induce that mood among a majority of students in a classroom environment.
Categories: #TouchPaper Problems