Learning with Emotions: Laughing with others

This post was inspired by some of my twitter buddies…

EdintheClouds RT @gippopippo: Mini-lecture: The#neuroscience of laughter (that creates empathy & communication before language). http://is.gd/efQqS>> :-)”

To mark my 50th post, I thought I’d post about the importance of accommodating human emotions in our thinking about learning. I find that when I hear people talk about ’emotional literacy’ in the classroom, they are often referring to developing an awareness of ‘negative’ emotions in the classroom and a need to avoid those emotional outbursts that lead to conflict, discomfort or barriers to learning. Whilst I acknowledge the importance of recognising this particular aspect of emotional awareness in the learning environment, I like to think about emotional literacy in a holisitic way. In doing so, I seek to actively encourage positive emotional ‘outbursts’ or expressions as an integral part of learning.

I know that I still have my own barriers to certain subjects or activities that hang over me like a spectre from my own school experiences becasue I am yet to shake off the negative emotional ‘tags’ that I still associate with them. Many of my friends and colleagues share similar reactions when asked to do some maths, draw a picture, write at length or get involved in the most-dreaded of all adult learning activities: role play. 

Through my research exploring creativity over the years, one fundamental message keeps shouting its way through to me and that is the importance of FEELING safe and brave enough to try express our positive emotions and have constructive emotional ‘outbursts’ when we experience something new, unfamiliar or simply something that we haven’t done for a while.

Being the ideas magpie that I am, one idea always sparks a new quest and curiosity so after I’d seen the first film, I researched ‘the science of laughter’ and I came across this short film. This suggests that COLLABORATIVE laughter is the most powerful, requiring groups to be formed to share the joke publicly and together in order to illicit laughter from a united community of laughing.

So yet again, collaboration and community contexts appear to me the most likely settings for us to share, interact and experience positive powerful emotions. It looks good for all those collaborative learning experiences I’ve got planned for the new academic year!

I hope you enjoy them both and that they pose some questions about how we might go about deliberately incorporating positive emotional reactions and ‘tags’ to learning experiences. Perhaps it requires us to ask our students what makes them laugh and why, as part of students’ feedback on how they learn and how we teach? More for me to do on this, as ever, but this is a start, and that, after all, where all our learning begins.


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