One of the sessions I attended recently at the CSLEE conference in Houston was on the role of emotions in moral decision making. It was a fascinating topic especially so close to my reading “Emotions, Learning and the Brain” by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang (2016). One speaker from Georgia State University, Dr. Yinying Wang, spoke about ‘moral emotions’ which can bind us to a group or may also blind us to outsiders who do not share our views. In so doing, our social identity is somewhat malleable as collective social identity can have sway over our decision making. We see the influence of group think in our students as well as in education generally. We are individuals but also very drawn to identifying with a group of like-minded others. We seek connection.
In Immordino-Yang’s brilliant book (2016), she shares in understandable terms, that the brain is a “dynamic, plastic, experience-dependent, social and affective organ” (p. 85). The long debate over nature versus nuture is unproductive for this author. Rather, “learning is social, emotional and shaped by culture! (p.85). The implications of this understanding are profound for our classrooms. In the book’s explanation of why emotions matter in learning, here are some key points that stand out:
The implications for our instruction are profound and the author offers three important strategies for us to keep in mind:
My area of sustained interest is understanding the complexities of collaboration and their impact on learning in the classroom and in the workplace. The growing interest in pedagogies which promote an inquiry stance or more constructivist engagement also really resonates for me.