What’s Hot Now – Relationships boost learning
Education is not simply conveying information from one brain to another -- it is connecting two or more minds in the pursuit of knowledge. Conventional wisdom often pits emotions against learning, encouraging a dry interaction between pupil and instructor. In the past, teachers focused on imparting knowledge without editorializing since strong feelings were thought to cloud judgment and muddle the process. However, new advances in neurology unveil strong correlation between emotions and learning. Capitalizing on this correlation may be as simple as promoting healthier relationships in the classroom.
For parents, it probably comes as no surprise that students learn more from people whom they value and trust. A favorite teacher can inspire teenagers and toddlers alike to go to amazing lengths to learn. Now there is growing evidence that shows how this emotional connection - or lack thereof - drives academic results more than we ever believed. So, how do we harness this information to alter the scholastic results of our students in all classes and with all teachers? We begin with relationships.
Relationship building improves academic results, plain and simple. When students see teachers as people in addition to instructors, social-emotional bonds are formed that facilitate learning. Since our emotions affect every part of our lives, having a positive connection with a teacher enhances communication and understanding, creating a more effective dynamic in the classroom. The teacher can more easily convey their love for learning when students show interest in engaging with them in the classroom. Conversely, a poor connection with a teacher heightens tension and confusion which do not allow higher level thinking to occur. In fact, a fearful or stressed student is more likely to label situations and people as a threat since the brain is primed to see the negative when intense adverse emotions are holding the brain hostage. Therefore, it is important to be intentional with student-teacher relationships so bonds and respect can be established over time.
What can your student do now?
One of the biggest things we hear from our students is that they are nervous to approach their teachers. With midterms in the recent past, this is the ideal time to meet one-on-one to discuss exam results and how to recalibrate for the Spring semester. Using the Exam Evaluation form from Academic Independence (found here), students learn how to analyze errors and create a plan for final exams. Moreover, this can be an excellent opportunity for students to casually get to know their teachers by discussing what happened over the holiday break. The key is to arrive prepared with questions, doubts, and comments so students use the time wisely. Teachers are human, so they appreciate students who take school seriously. In addition, periodically attending tutorials over the Spring semester affords students the chance to discuss ask questions about the class or to simply brainstorm on an upcoming big project. Students can be intentional with questions that help students see teachers as people. Teachers want to see both academic and personal growth in their students, so face-to-face meetings can provide the perfect time to forge stronger ties.
All in all, positive relationship building leads to greater learning in the classroom. Students cannot choose their teachers, but they can learn how to see each teacher as a person with interests and something positive to offer. Promoting social-emotional engagement between students and teachers is one area in which we can all strive to improve in the new year.