Friday, April 11, 2014

The Important Connection Between Cognition and Emotion

One of the things that I love most about research in the trans-disciplinary field of mind, brain, and education is how it is constantly evolving. Popular theories may be challenged, revised, and sometimes totally debunked as we discover new information.

Take, for instance, the theory that learning and emotion are two separate, diametrically opposed concepts. As it turns out, this is not the case. We now know that cognition and emotion cannot and should not be separated.

While it is true that learning involves the cognitive processes of thinking, reasoning and intellect, you as a teacher and/or parent should not overlook the role of emotion. Otherwise, you might limit the child’s ability to use his or her feelings as a motivator for higher achievement.

Research shows that students learn best when the feel safe, secure, accepted and encouraged to take intellectual risks. That is the optimal state of learning, both in the classroom and at home.

The environment you create should be one that is high on challenge and low on stress, one in which positive engagement and motivation will spur the child’s ability to learn. Teachers should focus on strategies that build the connection between cognition and positive emotion, which will help students feel more engaged and excited about the learning process. Parents can use these same concepts at home.

We concur with the body of research that supports the theory of emotional intelligence. If you are unsure of its power, just think of the story of The Little Engine That Could. It was the train’s emotional drive and stamina—as characterized by the mantra “I think I can! I think I can!”—that keep it going when the going got tough. The same can-do attitude also keeps children learning.

With positive feedback from teachers as well as parents, children will feel good about their academic achievements and continue to strive for further achievement in the future.

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