Emotions - Help or hinderance when it comes to learning?

It wasn’t that long ago that learning was thought to be a strictly rational process and that emotions didn’t play a big part. However opinions are changing…

Feeling emotional? Research shows that your feelings affect how you learn. This includes how you process new information, how you solve problems, remember information and even how much attention you have.

Employers and employees need to recognise the fundamental role that emotions have on learning. Whether it be in a classroom or online, emotions can have a huge impact, either helping or hindering the learner.

If you are learning something new you are opening yourself up to new possibilities. If it is something you are choosing then great, but if you’ve been put on a course you don’t want to do, or feel unsure about, emotions can play a big part on the outcome.

Positive and negative emotions

Negative emotions: Stress, anxiety, sadness, disinterest, fear, anger, indifference and boredom.

All of these can hinder the learning process and affect the ability to learn. In a learning setting fear of not achieving, being unprepared or being disconnected from other learners will end in a negative learning experience. Low motivation to learn or disengagement with the process can be a result of negative emotions which are unproductive.

Positive emotions; Pride, hope, happiness, joy, interest, engagement, passion and creativity.

Positive emotions reward the brain, this feeling makes learning desirable and fulfilling. It helps focus and the learners attention span lasts longer. Learners with a positive frame of mind can respond well to constructive criticism, feedback and push through challenges.

Emotions are important to consider when learning because they significantly influence our cognitive processes, motivation, and overall learning experience. We now know that emotions influence learning. Below are some areas to consider:

There are 4 emotions of learning

The four emotions of learning are interest, surprise, confusion, and satisfaction. Interest drives the desire to explore and discover new information. Surprise arises when learning is engaging and enjoyable. Confusion can occur when facing challenges or difficulties in the learning process. Finally, satisfaction is experienced when understanding is achieved or goals are met. These emotions play a crucial role in the learning experience and can impact motivation and engagement.

How emotions impact learning

1. Memory and retention: Emotions can enhance memory and retention of information. When we have positive emotions like curiosity or excitement, our brain releases neurotransmitters that facilitate the encoding and storage of new information.

2. Motivation and engagement: Emotions play a vital role in motivating and engaging learners. Positive emotions can increase motivation, curiosity, and the willingness to explore and learn. On the other hand, negative emotions like frustration can hinder motivation and engagement.

3. Attention and focus: Emotions can impact our attention and focus. When we are emotionally invested in a topic or task, we are more likely to pay attention and concentrate on the learning material.

4. Decision-making and problem-solving: Positive emotions can enhance creative thinking and problem-solving skills, while negative emotions may impair decision-making processes.

5. Overall well-being: Emotions are closely tied to our well-being and mental state. Creating a positive emotional environment in the learning process can contribute to a more enjoyable and effective learning experience.

About the author

Our lives run at such a fast pace these days and everything is mobile – banking, bookings, our social lives! What about learning? Learning takes place in so many ways, every day of your life you learn new things. That's why I love working at The National Training Academy, we can make a real difference.

A bit about me...

A couple of years ago I took the plunge and moved to the coast in North Wales, not knowing anyone, not knowing the area it was a real leap of faith, but it was the best move ever! Through lockdown it has been great, having beaches and mountains on my doorstep I'm truly blessed.  The great outdoors is one of lives simple pleasures.

In my spare time I love riding my Triumph Tiger (there's a growing number of female motorcyclists out there!). I love cooking, lockdown has given me the opportunity and time to try many new recipes, curries seem to have become a special favourite. 

Author: Claire Arthur

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