Meaning and Emotion in Learning

Wolfe, P. (2006). The role of meaning and emotion in learning. In S. Johnson & K. Taylor (Eds.), The neuroscience of adult learning, pp. 35-42.

The Neural Basis of Learning

  • Memory and Retention
  • Attention

Meaning and the Brain

  • Learning requires a connection. The brain connects it to something that is familiar even if the something is a misconception. Hence the purpose of "hooks."
  • Creating Meaning Through Metaphor, Analogy, and Simile

    • Strategies for instruction: "Using analogies, metaphors, and similes, especially when associated with experiential learning, is a valuable approach for linking new learning to existing knowledge (p. 38)."
    • Creating Meaning Through Concrete Experience
    • Creating Meaning Through Projects and Problem Solving

      • "The brain does not take meaning; it must make meaning (p. 39)."
      • Adults must see the connection of the learning to the bigger picture. (Hence the need of adults for professional development to be relevant and applicable.)

Emotion and the Brain

·      " Therefore, classroom activities designed to engage students' emotional and motivational interest are also quite likely to lead to more vivid memories of whatever grabs their attention (p. 39)."

·      Adding an Emotional Hook to Learning

o   "Simulations, role plays, and other experiential activities can be highly engaging. By intensifying the student's emotional state, they may enhance both meaning and memory (p. 39)."

o   Information needs to be relevant and applicable: "Tackling real-life problems is another way to raise the emotional and motivational stakes (p. 39)."

·      The Flip Side of Emotion

o   Too much emotional stress hinders learning.

o   "Activities designed to encourage thinking through problems, perhaps in small groups, is one effective approach to making new connections (p. 40)."