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The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion (Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Book 1)

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Historically we have constructed our classrooms with the assumption that learning is a dry, staid affair best conducted in quiet tones and ruled by an unemotional consideration of the facts. The field of education, however, is beginning to awaken to the potential power of emotions to fuel learning, informed by contributions from psychology and neuroscience. In friendly, re Historically we have constructed our classrooms with the assumption that learning is a dry, staid affair best conducted in quiet tones and ruled by an unemotional consideration of the facts. The field of education, however, is beginning to awaken to the potential power of emotions to fuel learning, informed by contributions from psychology and neuroscience. In friendly, readable prose, Sarah Rose Cavanagh argues that if you as an educator want to capture your students' attention, harness their working memory, bolster their long-term retention, and enhance their motivation, you should consider the emotional impact of your teaching style and course design. To make this argument, she brings to bear a wide range of evidence from the study of education, psychology, and neuroscience, and she provides practical examples of successful classroom activities from a variety of disciplines in secondary and higher education.  


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Historically we have constructed our classrooms with the assumption that learning is a dry, staid affair best conducted in quiet tones and ruled by an unemotional consideration of the facts. The field of education, however, is beginning to awaken to the potential power of emotions to fuel learning, informed by contributions from psychology and neuroscience. In friendly, re Historically we have constructed our classrooms with the assumption that learning is a dry, staid affair best conducted in quiet tones and ruled by an unemotional consideration of the facts. The field of education, however, is beginning to awaken to the potential power of emotions to fuel learning, informed by contributions from psychology and neuroscience. In friendly, readable prose, Sarah Rose Cavanagh argues that if you as an educator want to capture your students' attention, harness their working memory, bolster their long-term retention, and enhance their motivation, you should consider the emotional impact of your teaching style and course design. To make this argument, she brings to bear a wide range of evidence from the study of education, psychology, and neuroscience, and she provides practical examples of successful classroom activities from a variety of disciplines in secondary and higher education.  

30 review for The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion (Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Book 1)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Sarah Cavanagh ends The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion ends her book with a colleague's plaintive confession: "Sometimes it seems to me that all that matters is how much they like you. If they like you, they'll work hard and forgive you anything. If they don't like you, you can't do anything right" (p. 214). Cavanagh agrees that likeability isn't sufficient, but turns this statement on its head, If how much they like us determines how much they le Sarah Cavanagh ends The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion ends her book with a colleague's plaintive confession: "Sometimes it seems to me that all that matters is how much they like you. If they like you, they'll work hard and forgive you anything. If they don't like you, you can't do anything right" (p. 214). Cavanagh agrees that likeability isn't sufficient, but turns this statement on its head, If how much they like us determines how much they learn, likeability suddenly seems a whole lot more important (p. 215). Did you ever give up when you didn't think the task mattered? When you thought the person asking you to work hard was a jerk? When you didn't think your teacher believed you could complete the task well? Mostly I worked hard in my classes – a lot of intrinsic interest on my part – but I did spend one semester openly making paper dolls in a Developmental Psychology class. I didn't bother learning much (other than paper-tearing techniques) in that class. He was bored, I was bored. Cavavagh describes a variety of ways that emotion can make important contributions in the classroom. Faculty: * Are genuinely engaged in the material and share their excitement; * Use examples, stories, and assignments that are intrinsically interesting to students * Are transparent in class, assignments, and the syllabus as to why this is an important goal for students; * Speak using growth mindset language; * Are warm, communicate their supportiveness of students, and do things to decrease student anxiety (without decreasing it too much); * Use curiosity and confusion to engage students, build flow, and encourage students to persist at a task; * Mentor students and encourage them to develop relationships with each other * Give students control and choices in assignments * Ask "stretch questions" as follow-ups to other questions: (e.g., "Ah! How did you think of that?""Why do you think that?")These aren't novel ideas, but they are useful ones, ones that most people don't put in the same place. And, Cavanagh is an engaging writer and uses good stories that makes her ideas come alive. Even if you've read these ideas elsewhere before – and they are throughout the teaching literature – this is a good place to come to be reinvigorated.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    This is exactly the kind of book about teaching I enjoy—equal parts explaining an aspect of how learning works and then practical ideas about how to apply this in the classroom. I’ve already started implementing some small suggestions into my teaching, such as starting a class period with something intended to pique curiosity. Even if it’s unrelated, turning on curiosity will help with subsequent learning and engagement.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Laurel

    Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The conversational tone indicated that Cavanagh practices what she preaches. There wasn't anything particularly surprising or earth-shattering here for self-aware instructors, but it nicely brought together research and best practices from several areas of educational research. My one (minor) gripe was with the end of the book. Cavanagh essentially makes the claim that it really is important for students to like their instructors. While some of the research s Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The conversational tone indicated that Cavanagh practices what she preaches. There wasn't anything particularly surprising or earth-shattering here for self-aware instructors, but it nicely brought together research and best practices from several areas of educational research. My one (minor) gripe was with the end of the book. Cavanagh essentially makes the claim that it really is important for students to like their instructors. While some of the research she discusses in the book supports this claim, I think this conclusion downplays some of the other research she discusses, which emphasizes the importance of challenging our students as well. I've known a lot of instructors whose students love them because they're easy. That's not at all what Cavanagh is advocating for, but the conclusion perhaps puts a bit too much emphasis on likability, and not enough on finding the (difficult) balance between care and challenge. With that said, this is a highly approachable and quick read for anyone interested in better motivating and engaging their students.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I was so excited for this book, but it was a little disappointing. I went in hoping for really concrete advice on teaching activities and practices, but most of it wound up being both obvious and vague, like “project more confidence when you teach” (uh, sure, but how??). And i thought it oversimplified things in some places, like positive emotions being associated with better learning outcomes seems to contradict the findings from “Make it Stick” that when learning *feels easy*, it’s often not a I was so excited for this book, but it was a little disappointing. I went in hoping for really concrete advice on teaching activities and practices, but most of it wound up being both obvious and vague, like “project more confidence when you teach” (uh, sure, but how??). And i thought it oversimplified things in some places, like positive emotions being associated with better learning outcomes seems to contradict the findings from “Make it Stick” that when learning *feels easy*, it’s often not as effective. Still, a compelling thesis with a lot of cited and well-explained studies to back it up. It changes my attitude towards my role in the classroom for sure.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lorette

    For this novice higher ed instructor, and psychologist, this is worth the read. You don't have to convince me that emotions are vital to learning, though Cavanagh includes that resereach. Cavanagh offers some solid suggestions on how to engage learners by leveraging emotional arousal and response, which I certainly can use. She also points out some of the developmental realities - that is, learners in their 20's often have a lot more going on in their private lives that can be emotionally driven For this novice higher ed instructor, and psychologist, this is worth the read. You don't have to convince me that emotions are vital to learning, though Cavanagh includes that resereach. Cavanagh offers some solid suggestions on how to engage learners by leveraging emotional arousal and response, which I certainly can use. She also points out some of the developmental realities - that is, learners in their 20's often have a lot more going on in their private lives that can be emotionally driven compared to those in their, say, 40's.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Coy

    Grad school doesn't teach us a thing about how to teach. Although I have a few secondary education classes under my belt from 20 years ago, I have had to teach myself how to teach effectively - and there have been so many embarrassing stumbles along the way. This should be the grad student's/new faculty member's go-to text for how to teach. It's short, it's accessible, and it's packed with common sense.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Wiebke Kuhn

    Some concrete ideas on how to create positive emotions for students so that they are more engaged in learning. While those sections were very useful, I found the very end of the book the most important where she discusses dealing with negative emotions, like anxiety, social loafing, and the imbalance of power and the emotions created through that. For more details, go to my blog Some concrete ideas on how to create positive emotions for students so that they are more engaged in learning. While those sections were very useful, I found the very end of the book the most important where she discusses dealing with negative emotions, like anxiety, social loafing, and the imbalance of power and the emotions created through that. For more details, go to my blog

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    I really enjoyed this book and we had some great discussions about it and about the role of emotion in the classroom. I'm going to write a longer review on my teaching portfolio, but I highly recommend this book for teachers, especially those looking for ways to connect with and energize their students.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    A wonderful and heartfelt book into the different and important ways that professors and infuse their teaching with emotion. I loved her descriptions of the "science" behind her methods but, even more, found the techniques, examples, and tactics offered to be clear and actionable.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brooks

    It was OK. More of a reference to have on my shelf to help me find relevant research than something to read through and implement strategies immediately.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Diana H

    Lots of tips and tricks —backed my research —for creating a positive social-emotional learning environment. I could see myself coming back to this frequently for inspiration and ideas.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kate Klein

    super useful book for me, both as a college mental health promoter and as a learning skills professor

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kelli Boling

    Full disclosure - I had to read this book as a class assignment so it was somewhat forced upon me. I think Cavanagh makes some good points and has some great, practical take-aways for the college classroom but this book just wasn't for me. The first two chapters go into agonizing detail regarding the parts of the brain and how they work together and I saw zero relevance in this material. Cavanagh does try to discuss the brain functions in detail in each chapter and how they relate to the emotion Full disclosure - I had to read this book as a class assignment so it was somewhat forced upon me. I think Cavanagh makes some good points and has some great, practical take-aways for the college classroom but this book just wasn't for me. The first two chapters go into agonizing detail regarding the parts of the brain and how they work together and I saw zero relevance in this material. Cavanagh does try to discuss the brain functions in detail in each chapter and how they relate to the emotions she's describing, but again, I just didn't see the point in knowing this information. Practical take-aways are great, case studies and examples are great, knowing how the brains of my students are constructed is just TMI.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Niki

  15. 5 out of 5

    Molly

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laurence

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karen

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  19. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kristie deRuiter

  22. 4 out of 5

    Valerie Kolbinger

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tara Elizabeth

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Evaristo Doria

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Fox

  27. 5 out of 5

    Aja

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eric Hall

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  30. 5 out of 5

    Meg Gregory

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