Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

'When There's Love Inside There's a Reason Why': Emotion as the Core of Authentic Learning in One Middle School Classroom

Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

'When There's Love Inside There's a Reason Why': Emotion as the Core of Authentic Learning in One Middle School Classroom

Article excerpt

What Do We Remember About School?--And the neglected component of learning

This paper arose from a challenge directed to educators in the keynote address at the international conference on Authentic Learning, in Santa Barbara, California in August 2010. At this gathering of international researchers, parents and teachers, Alfie Kohn told the audience that a key question teachers should ask themselves is, 'what will my students remember in ten years time?'

As we drove home that night, we began to debate, discuss and reflect deeply on this issue. In the first instance we reflected on our own schooling, now admittedly way past the ten year mark, and we came to the conclusion that we remember very little of that time. While we know that what we learnt gave us an opportunity to make our way in the world, we also realised that the strongest memories were almost entirely affective and were related to special friendships, difficult times and a favourite teacher. From a tacit knowledge viewpoint, we came to realise that these fragments of memory and perhaps the overall impression of our school life are deeply rooted in either the memory of emotional attachment or emotional disengagement. Beyond these elements very little remained. In the background a Bryan Adams CD was playing the song, 'When There's Love Inside There's a Reason Why' and this became the focus and title of this paper in what Samaras, Hicks and Berger (2007, p. 926) would term a 'place experience and place memory'.

As we continued the discussion of affective learning through a more focussed lens of 'self-study research' and the 'active stages of self-questioning, thinking critically and deliberating critically' (Austin and Senese, 2007, p. 1233), and then a review of the literature related to learning in general and the notion of emotion in the classroom, several key issues arose. While emotional attachments would appear to be the most enduring of our school experiences, when it comes to the classroom itself, the role of emotion in learning and in the classroom setting appears to be in a state of flux. On one hand researchers have recognised that 'clearly emotions matter' (Bondi and Smith, 2005, p. 1). However, when it comes to the notion of optimal learning, the classroom and teachers in particular, the role of emotion remains largely unexamined, suppressed and downplayed (Smith, Davidson, Cameron and Bondi, 2009; Fitzsimmons and Lanphar, 2010).

It is at this point the educational waters become even more muddied, as the concept of what constitutes 'authentic learning' has arguably been an ongoing 'bone of contention' since schools were first formed. Certainly, as Guruz (2007, p. 5) suggests that debates over this question formed the first separation from the traditional modes of 'transmission learning' in higher education into more interrogative modes. As we see it, this dichotomy stills underpins many of the current debates in education.

According to Murphy (2009, p. 6) this concept again became the 'buzz word' in education in the last decade of the 20th century, with the implication educators had now moved on to a new area of consideration. In his view this teaching approach 'often included role-playing, real-world experiences, exploration, experimentation, simulations, discovery, and service learning'. However, even the most cursory review of the literature related to education in general, and learning in particular, reveals that rather than fading into the apparent re-visioning cycles of academic 'education speak', the notion of what constitutes 'authentic learning' is still a 'hot topic' at the end of the first decade of the new millennia.

Indeed, Saubern (2010) believes that 'the idea of 'authentic learning' has become central to our current ideas about educating young people ... where the real-life meaning and context of knowledge is embedded in educational tasks ... real learning in the real world.'(p. …

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