Fear and Trembling


  • John Crutchfield




As teachers, we have every reason to take seriously the findings of neuroscience. Learning is after all a brain activity, and those who teach would do well to consider how the brain actually learns. “Neuroscientific research,” writes Michaela Sambanis, “offers powerful insights into the brain mechanisms that underly learning processes. These findings can give a better understanding of how learning happens, how the brain as organ of learning copes with stimuli, how it stores information, how it forms networks, and how competences are developed. In a nutshell, neuroscience can make substantial contributions when it comes to answering the multifaceted question of what helps and what hinders learning” (Sambanis 2016). One of the more powerful neuroscientific findings, though at the same time perhaps one of the least surprising, has to do with the role of emotions in learning: the brain learns more efficiently when cognitive activity is accompanied by “positive” or pleasant emotions (Spitzer 2003). In fact, there is reason to suppose that this is the natural state of affairs, i.e. that learning is in itself pleasurable, and that Nature arranged things for us this way because, with neither sharp teeth and claws nor very much in the way of fur, ...


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