Inquiry Learning

Response to a question

The question:

In what way do our emotions either support or hinder student learning experiences, and how can we harness them during inquiry learning?

The rationale behind this question stems from my desire to know more about whether emotions have a negative or positive effect upon student learning. During my time as a teacher, I have witnessed students under significant amounts of pressure in their learning and it got me thinking about how much of a negative impact emotions, such as stress and anxiety, can have upon student learning. I also wanted to investigate whether creating positive emotional experiences, such as accomplishment, creates or adds to positive learning experiences.

To answer the above question, I shall be discussing the role of emotions in terms of supporting students, and how emotions can have positive or negative effects on learning and whether they are particularly pertinent within inquiry learning environments.

My response:
Pekrun et al have recently conducted qualitative and quantitative research into the effect of positive and negative emotions on student learning experiences. Their findings suggest that negative and positive emotions are experienced during learning in equal proportions (2002, p.1). Therefore, it is essential to understand the positive and negative effects of emotions on learning.

It is suggested that in order for emotions to play a positive role in learning, students need to feel supported in their learning. They must be provided with a stable emotional climate (Van Duer, 2010, p.164) and should feel able to express their emotions, particularly when referring to their learning experiences (Van Duer, 2010, p.17). This ability to express emotions is significant as there is a strong correlation between cognitive and emotional experiences (Arends and Kilcher, 2010, p.36). Thus proving that a supportive learning environment that acknowledges the influence of emotions is paramount (Parrett and Budge, 2012, p.110) to experiencing positive, meaningful, and authentic learning.

Kuhlthau et al state that “recent brain research in neuroscience further supports [the] view of learning that the brain runs on emotions that drive thoughts and actions to seek meaning through patterns and connections” (2007, p.16). Furthermore, emotions are particularly pertinent in conjunction with inquiry learning, due to the nature of information exploration and engagement.

A large part of inquiry learning that I have experienced has involved the use of collaborative learning. Jarvela (2011, p.264) states that the potential for collaboration to create learning environments that promote motivation is significantly dependent upon manufacturing positive learning experiences through careful monitoring of emotions. This potential has been significantly underutilized within my teaching context, and is something that I shall

An example of the negative effects of emotions on learning is presented by Ardens and Kilcher, and uses the fight or flight syndrome as way of an explanation (2010, p.36). It is stated that the effects of stress can have a negative impact upon cognitive learning and understanding, thus suggesting that the emotions experienced during stressful situations are, in fact, a hindrance to learning.

It is therefore, quite clear that both positive and negative emotions can have significant impact upon student learning experiences (Skinner and Belmont, 1993, p.1). The impact that emotions has on inquiry learning is also clear, the more motivated a student is about their learning, and the less anxious, the more likely the student is to engage fully in the learning experience (Kuhlthau et al, 2007, p. 16).

Arends, D., Kilcher, A. (2010). Teaching for student learning. London, UK: Routledge.

Fried, L. (2011). Teaching Teachers about Emotion Regulation in the Classroom. Australian Journal of Teacher Education. Volume 36, Issue 3, Article 7.

Jarvela, S. (2011). Social and emotional aspects of learning. Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L., Caspari, A. (2007). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Parrett, W., Budge, K. (2012). Turning high-poverty schools into high-performing schools. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Pekrun, R., Goetz, T., Titz, W., Perry, R. (2002). Academic Emotions in Students’ Self-Regulated Learning and Achievement: A Program of Qualitative and Quantitative Research, Educational Psychologist, 37:2, 91-105, DOI: 10.1207/S15326985EP3702_4

Van Duer, P. (2010). Assessing elementary school support for inquiry. Learning environments research. Volume 13, Issue 2, p. 159-172.

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