Rudi Lewis, COO, Silverback Learning Solutions

 New study gives insights to help foster students’ love of learning

Editor’s Note: Here on Silverback Central, we enjoy posting what we feel are compelling issues facing educators today and as they prepare to educate in the future (with our two cents thrown in, of course.)  As always, we appreciate your discussion and comments, so please feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section below.

Our focus today is on teaching students to love the opportunity to learn, not only in school, but in all aspects throughout their lifetime.   Some students don’t natively understand how to discover their passions, so creating curriculums that get students excited about learning can be as foundational as teaching them to read and write.  Children need to discover and develop a passion for learning as early as possible, so that the “yearning for learning” carries on throughout the paths they create over a lifetime, whether it’s a course of study, a new job, a new hobby, or even a new relationship that sparks their interest and requires their focused attention.  Learning is continuous, and loving to learn can become a child’s special strength or “super power” when positively linked to motivation and emotion.

Katrina Schwartz wrote an excellent article, “7 Essential Principles of Innovative Learning”, on KQED’s brilliant Mind/Shift site earlier this month.  In the article, Katrina and her contributor Jennifer Groff of the Center for Curriculum Redesign turned us on to an interesting book, The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, by researchers at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD.)  The book outlines seven important principles for innovative learning that we believe are spot on, so if you get the chance, please check out the article and the book.  We really liked OECD’s inclusion of “Principle #3: Emotions are an integral part of learning.”  Often when creating learning plans for students, emotion gets overlooked, but many successful teachers are finding keys to motivating students by learning more about the emotions that make each student “tick.”   A team sponsored by Stanford School of Education built a professional development session called “Feelings Count: Emotions and Learning”, in which they teach: “Emotions are important in the classroom in two major ways.  First, emotions have an impact on learning. They influence our ability to process information and to accurately understand what we encounter. For these reasons, it is important for teachers to create a positive, emotionally safe classroom environment to provide for the optimal learning of students. Second, learning how to manage feelings and relationships constitutes a kind of ‘emotional intelligence’ that enables people to be successful.”  (The full PD session is available as part of The Learning Classroom: Theory Into Practice course on Learner.org.)  Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence, echoes those sentiments, as quoted in the Stanford session:  “The elements of emotional intelligence—being aware of our feelings and handling disruptive emotions well, empathizing with how others feel, and being skillful in handling our relationships—are crucial abilities for effective living. We should be teaching the basics of emotional intelligence in schools.”  Where and how have you found ways to successfully work emotional intelligence into your practice?

We also liked what the OECD book had to say about “Principle #6: Assessment should be for learning, not of learning.”  As Silverback CEO Dr. Jim Lewis is oft to say, “Too often we get caught up in autopsies of student data instead of wellness exams that can help students gain confidence and encouragement in their learning process.”  Silverback’s entire focus is on educational technology that helps teachers quickly and easily grasp relevant student data from the massive piles of data that exist in schools today, and then use that data to influence instruction for that child at that moment.  This helps teachers massively personalize the learning process, and improves student engagement because learning becomes more personal and more relatable to the student, which in turn makes the student more emotionally invested in the outcome, bringing us full circle to Principle #3 above.  As the Schwartz article echoes from the OECD book: “Assessment should be for learning, not of learning. Assessments are important, but only to gauge how to structure the next lesson for maximum effectiveness. It should be meaningful, substantial, and shape the learning environment itself.”  Groff sums it up nicely in the Schwartz article:  “Good teachers do this informally most of the time, but when it’s done well and more formally it’s a whole structure and methodology where you collect feedback on the learning pathway and it drives the next step that you take.”

Take a moment to think of how you gain feedback and course-correction on each student’s learning pathway, and how that has added to the emotional engagement of your students.  We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Posted: February 26th, 2013