Since the 1990’s education has focused almost exclusively on cognitive learning as high stakes tests became a nationwide obsession.  Along the way, we forgot that emotions are at the root of everything we do, and that means it affects learning.  It is time to review what we once knew and see how it can be implemented today. (EDITOR’S NOTE – Our images are larger than normal so you can see the details in each)

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – In 1943, Abraham Maslow proposed his “Hierarchy of Needs” in an article entitled “A Theory of Human Motivation.”  All of us learned his pyramid during our educational studies, and if you were like me, you wondered whether you had achieved “self-actualization” which is at the pinnacle of the pyramid and if you are truly all you can be.  It’s what we want for ourselves and for our students.

To reach the top, Maslow said you needed to fulfill all the other lower levels of the hierarchy in your life.  Educators have long recognized that if the Physiological Needs of students such as shelter and food aren’t met students’ ability to learn will suffer.  And the efforts to eliminate bullying speak to the Safety Needs required for learning. There has been less appreciation for the importance of Love and Belonging.

As a librarian, you can’t provide family or intimacy, which are components of Love and Belonging, but you can focus on friendship, in this case meaning you show you care about the student. The safe, welcoming environment you create in your library addresses the Safety Needs along with the Love and Belonging Needs.  Once students find the library is a safe place, they are open to your interest in them as a unique person. Some of the students you reach out to feel alienated in the general school population for many reasons and so are prone to loneliness which can lead to depression.

Most important, in my opinion, is the need to build students’ Esteem. The overtures you make help them realize their self-worth.  This gives them the impetus to believe in their ability to tackle a task and succeed.  When you can do this, you have given that student a gift of inestimable value.

Bloom’s Taxonomy – In 1956, Harold Bloom published his Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain and followed it in 1964 with the Taxonomy of the Affective Domain. The Psychomotor Domain was released in the 1970s.  We are all familiar with the Cognitive Domain which has been used in developing higher order thinking skills, but since the 1990s we have ignored the Affective Domain as too “touchy/feely” and besides it can’t be reflected in high stakes test. This has been a serious error.

What we ignore is that the Affective Domain is emotions-based and therefore affects how students approach learning.  Big Dog & Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition provides a list of the categories of the hierarchy with examples and verbs associated with each level. In many ways, the Dispositions in Action and the Responsibility strands in the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner reflect this domain, but there are librarians still focusing almost exclusively on the Skills strand.

What I hope you see is that the Affective Domain puts emphasis on students’ response to the material.  It gives you ways to guide them into making a connection with it. And the strongest connections are those that tie to emotions.  We all have seen how students’ beliefs about a task or subject affect their success.  “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right.”

Harold Gardner – In 1983, Harold Gardner developed his theory of Multiple Intelligences Originally there were six intelligences which have subsequently been expanded to nine and there may still be more.  It was a revelation at the time to discover there was more to intelligence than Verbal/Linguistic and Logical-Mathematical.  He observed that excelling in either or both of those intelligences were not a good predictor of success in life.  Yet those two are still the prime focus of our testing.

Indeed, having high Interpersonal Intelligence was a far better indicator of success. Those who had high Interpersonal Intelligence have the “capacity to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations, and desires of others.” Does that sound at all familiar?

Those skills are aligned with Emotional Intelligence which I have discussed in the past.  It’s imperative for leaders to have a high EI and continue to work on improving it.  Success in life is strongly rooted in understanding and managing emotions.

Most of our decisions are based on emotions (studies put it as high as 80%). If you can identify a student’s or adult’s emotions about a given topic, you can determine the best way to reach them.

The works of Maslow, Bloom, and Gardner were all published in the last century and, sadly, we seem to have forgotten their universal relevance. When business discovered Emotional Intelligence a decade or so, a shift back began to occur. It’s taking longer to fully reach education but some schools are beginning to see value in integrating emotions into teaching.

Education Week had an article on “How Students Emotions Affect their Schooling.” There are many more articles on the topic.  Emotions are more than just a series of faces we add to texts and posts. Isn’t it time you began incorporating it into how you work with students?  Are you already doing so?  What successes have you seen?




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