The relatively new field of neuroeducation has made it clear that emotion plays a role in learning. Getting more specific, the field has shown that stress plays a role, a destructive role.
It turns out that stress prevents the human brain from developing optimally. It does this by preventing neurogenesis from taking place. Neurogenesis is our brain’s ability to create new neurons- brain cells. If you grow up in a healthy and stable environment your brain is able to generate new neurons, which help you to learn. Provide an enriched environment and you’re off to the races. Stress takes you in the opposite direction of an enriched environment.
How does this inform the education paradigm-shift position?
Conventional environments create stress in students. Whether it’s from the fear of failure and mistake making or the upcoming quiz, there are daily stressors for most students in a conventional environment.
The New Education Paradigm removes these stressors. By placing the learner in greater control of her activities, by encouraging mistakes (in the spirit of risk-taking that is necessary to look for new questions and answers), by shifting to alternate modes of assessment, amongst other things, the new paradigm creates a rich environment that minimizes stress in the student/learner. The result is a student who is not only motivated to participate and apply themselves fully, but a brain that is there to support them by creating the new neurons that they can then use to learn.
Now, if only we can get the prime movers in “industrial education” (new term) to catch up to the science of the day, maybe we can begin to help more students sooner. In the meantime, check out Montessori schools – they’ve understood this implicitly for decades.