Public education exists, in part, to promote healthy human development. Therefore, our efforts to improve public education should be informed by the science of human behavior. Public education is most effective when its processes and systems are aligned with our best understandings of cognition, emotions, motivation, and learning.
Hence, my enthusiasm for Mary Helen Immordino-Yang’s 2016 book, Emotions, Learning, and the Brain: Exploring the Educational Implications of Affective Neuroscience.
Immordino-Yang is a neuroscientist and former public-school teacher who uses brain mapping technology to better understand how our brains work. Her focus in this book is the relationship between emotions, cognition, and learning. Her key finding is that emotions and cognition are inseparable and interdependent. They are two sides of the same coin. Emotions motivate cognition, cognition impacts emotions, and learning is controlled by this symbiosis.
Learning is hard work. It requires purposeful information processing, including attending to information, applying information, evaluating information, and filing information in memory. This level of cognitive effort requires motivation and motivation derives from emotion (and cognition).
As Immordino-Yang writes:
It is literally neurobiologically impossible to build memories, engage complex thoughts, or make meaningful decisions without emotion … we only think about things we care about … without emotion, all decisions and outcomes are equal—people can have no preferences, no interests, no motivation, no morality, and no sense of creativity, beauty, or purpose … emotions are, in essence, the rudder that steers thinking. Continue Reading →