Calming, Laughing, and Liking: The Amygdala and Learning « Teaching/Management

While reading through my email today, I came across this education blog titled “Calming, Laughing, and Liking: The Amygdala and Learning.” With a neuroscientist husband, my own graduate studies led me to study the relationship between the brain and learning. Sure, we all know that the brain is responsible for helping us make sense of the world, but do we really know how and why? And can parts of the brain actually prevent us from or hinder learning? This author partly addressed this question, as well as the relationship between academic and professional reading and writing. Perhaps one of the more important questions for educators, however, is

Does the teacher really do what she tells us to do?

It made me wonder if I ask my doctoral students to do something I don’t do myself–carefully read the literature in one’s field of study on a regular basis, think about what that literature means to my specific interests as well as how it adds to my knowledge, and how the article or post helps me with my own academic writing. My response was “yes” to all the questions. However, that response does not answer the question about why I, too, find it difficult to write academic or academically oriented items.

This blogger also discusses the area of the brain that might actually mediate our learning and sharing, and it is a small part of the brain called the amygdala. On learning and the amygdala, the blogger states:

we literally can’t learn when our fear centers are lit up.

and it is this little area that can prevent learning in general, and learning to write for publication (thoughtfully sharing learned information in work written in an acceptable manner), especially for academic and professional purposes.

Do I do what I tell my students to do? I definitely try, but I, too, have a fear of professionally sharing in academic environments.

Incidentally, at the end of this blog is a link to a list of readings related to the amygdala and learning.

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2 thoughts on “Calming, Laughing, and Liking: The Amygdala and Learning « Teaching/Management

  1. Wow–thanks for responding. I do think that “do I do what I tell my students to do” is a really important question. I learned that the hard way as a young instructor; I was telling my students to keep up a self-motivated learning practice that I think I felt (with my big bad Master’s degree!) I didn’t need. They caught me out on it, and that first semester became a trial by fire. Since then, I force myself to share one of my own ongoing projects with my students so they can see me “in process.” It’s humbling but has turned out to be valuable for me as well as for them.
    By the way, I love your stuff on adult learning. It’s an area we don’t think about enough; elementary and high school teaching and learning gets a lot of funding and attention (although of course that hasn’t fixed it!) but adult learning gets much less. Thanks for the insights!

    • Your blog is one that I enjoy following, and I find I share your blog on several sites, including a university-specific site. You offer unique views on teaching in the post-secondary institutions which, as you pointed out, is an undersubscribed area. You have found a unique niche with thoughtful commentary, with perspectives that are important for instructors of adults. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Keep them coming!