Finding #4: Interest and emotion increase retention and skill development.
Attention and emotion are huge for learning. We've all seen it in our classroom.
Those magical lessons that hook learners are the ones that stick with them for years to come, but what does the research say?
The science behind emotion & learning
Neuroscientists have shown that emotions create connections among different sections of the brain (Immordino-Yang, 2016) . This supports long-term retrieval of the skills taught and a deeper connection to the learning.
This means if you can connect problem solving with a scenario or a feeling your students will be more likely to internalize the skills being practiced. Whether this is by “wowing” them with a little known fact or solving real-world problems, the emotional trigger can be huge for learning.
What about incorporating student interests?
As for student interests, there is a long line of research supporting the benefits of using these to increase educational outcomes and student motivation (Chen, 2001; Chen & Ennis, 2004; Solomon, 1996).
Connecting classwork with student interests has been shown to increase students' intentions to participate in future learning endeavors (Chen, 2001).
And interests don't just mean that love of Pokemon!
It means giving social butterflies the opportunity to work collaboratively.
Providing students with opportunities to manipulate real objects or create models.
Allowing kids to be their authentic selves while digging in and developing the skills they need to master their learning objectives.
What this looks like in a math class
Whenever possible, evoke emotion and use student interests to engage the brain in deep, long-lasting learning.
This will not only help with today's learning but will also promote long-term engagement, even when later practice might not be as interesting.
Here's how to start applying this research today:
- Find word problems that match student interests.
- Connect real-life situations and emotions to story problem practice.
- Consider a weekly theme to connect practice throughout the week.