The Affective Domain

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Background statement

Research on the brain over the past twenty years suggests that the emotions play a crucial role in determining learning. It has long been acknowledged that positive self-esteem and a good self-image are foundations without which effective learning cannot take place [Maslow 1943]. The mid-brain, which regulates the emotions, is often referred to as the 'sentinel at the gate of learning' in recognition of the important function it plays in deciding what passes in to long-term memory, a necessary feature of effective learning [Shaw and Hawes 1998]. Under stress the brain prioritises survival functions, and the hormones released inhibit cognitive processes, such as the ability to comprehend, reason, differentiate, analyse, synthesise and evaluate [Smith 2001].

Children with dyslexia are often under stress in schools, thus inhibiting their capacity for learning [Gupta & Gupta 1992]. Repeated exposure to texts which they cannot read, lack of time to complete tasks, considerable emphasis on the written word in tests and examinations, all these contribute to damaging loss of self-esteem, perpetuate a low self-image, and can ultimately lead to disaffection and difficult behaviour.

However, the corollary is also true - that reducing stress on the child with dyslexia facilitates learning. Whilst actual strategies such as providing readers and scribes, extra time and reducing the emphasis on writing alleviate some of the problems, often more effective is an empathetic and understanding teacher who is prepared to be flexible in his/her pedagogy.

This i-Paper explores some of the issues of the affective domain and the importance of the emotions and their role in effective learning. It highlights aspects of dyslexia which require understanding on the part of the teacher and the possible need for pastoral support.

Policy Document quote

To improve pastoral support for pupils there is a need to:

  • ensure that all teachers, particularly at the secondary stage, fulfil their roles as the first point of contact for providing pastoral support to pupils.

Personal Support for Pupils in Scottish Schools (2004) HMIE p8