06 Jul How Human Behaviour Influences Learning in the Classroom.

The affective domain is the emotional side of human behaviour; in simple English, how we feel! Three things can affect our learners in the classroom: what they know, how they feel and what they can do.

As we’ve talked about before, placement tests are very useful as they give us an indication of what the learner already knows (e.g. already familiar with the present simple) and what they can do (e.g. knows how to read and write in English). It doesn’t give us an insight into the affective domain of the student/s and this can only be done face to face.

Those of you who have attended the TESOL course at Eton Institute will have heard about the learning domains by Benjamin Bloom (Krathwohl, Bloom & Masia 1964) i.e. factors that affect learning.

So if the affective domain is to do with our emotions and feelings, how does that relate to emotional process that learners bring to the classroom?

1. Receiving i.e. aware of people, objects and situations and open to stimuli
2. Responding i.e. willingness to respond to the stimulus
3. Valuing i.e. beliefs, attitudes
4. Acting and applying  i.e. within this value system

So it’s not just what or how we have learned before that can affect how receptive we are to learning, but it’s also our opinions, feelings and values.  A student can sometimes request a change of class, not because they don’t think we are a good teacher, but because they don’t relate to us on an emotional level or have already bonded with someone else.  Other personality types need stability and don’t like to change teachers, even though a range of accents and teaching styles is good for their overall language development.  That’s life and the trick is not to take it personally; try and encourage them to stay open to different ways of learning and different approaches at the same time as learning to slightly modify your own behaviour to take into account their emotional needs.

Part of being a good teacher is finding the balance between maintaining our own belief system and values regarding a good lesson and being able to adjust our approach to different learners.

The human factor has an enormous impact on learning, which is why it is important to get to know our students a little.   Welcoming and chatting at the beginning of the lesson as everyone arrives, discreetly monitoring students’ conversation with each other, personalising tasks so they have the chance to apply the learning to their own lives, can all help to build up a picture of values, opinions and character.  In turn, this can help to understand behaviour e.g. why students are late or why they haven’t done their homework (visitors, children, preparing for special event….)

At the same time, remember to keep your professional distance i.e. don’t give personal advice or become involved in their personal life.  Be aware of it without affecting it!

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