When it comes to how children learn most easily, there are three principles that seem to repeatedly surface.
1. Children progress better in an active, play-based learning environment. This may seem too obvious to state, but it’s true. Boredom is the death of learning. When children are actively engaged in a task or activity, that bit of knowledge being learned – whether practical or theoretical – is more easily recalled in the brain. Numerous pedagogical studies have brought this to light; just Google it and you’ll find many pages of relevant results! Children that are primarily kinaesthetic learners especially thrive on this kind of learning environment, though all learning styles benefit from it.
2. If boredom is the death of learning, then stress is the enemy of education. Neurologically, stress elevates your levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which in turn reduces peripheral brain activity. You may have heard of this effect before: when the brain interprets there being a threat or risk of some kind, it shuts down all higher functioning and addresses the stressful situation at hand through the classic fight, flight or freeze response. All kinds of knowledge acquisition involve higher brain functioning, so any activities that create anxiety in the classroom environment will actually prevent learning. If a child is overly anxious, then it is important to focus on increasing his or her confidence through short learning exercises where failure is an unlikely outcome.
3. Emotions play a key role in memory creation. And without memory, none of us would be very good at learning anything! We’ve all had experiences where we, for example, forget the rules of linear algebra but can remember in detail every type of cloud formation. This is probably because we couldn’t care less about mathematics but fell in love with studying the water cycle in science class (it could happen!). When our emotions – excitement, fear, anger, happiness etc. – are involved in an event, we are much more likely to retain that in our long-term memory. So while we wouldn’t ever advocate a classroom environment of fear, the worst kind of learning environment is actually one of emotional ‘underload’, where we are disengaged from the learning process. Positive emotions promote good performance as they decrease stress and help stimulate strong memory retention.
Learn more about about dyslexia and the 8 main causes of reading difficulty on the Morgan Learning Solutions website.