I recently have had the opportunity to revisit my reading of Sarah Rose Cavanagh’s The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion.
The book is part of a series of books:
West Virginia University Press has sponsored the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast transcripts project. As a result, I get the honor of interviewing the series’ authors and the chance to read their books.
Sarah’s book is the first in the series and has much to say about how we can better facilitate learning for our students by considering the element of emotions. In this post, I share some of the ways that her book has stayed with me since reading it more than a year ago. Here are just a couple of practices that are still with me after my first read of The Spark of Learning.
“When you burn to know what comes next, you are feeling curious” (Cavanagh, 2016, p. 121).
Dave (my husband) shared on a prior episode about his chemistry teacher who ended class on the first day by taking the lit candle that had been sitting on his desk, putting it in his mouth, and proceeding to swallow it.
You can bet that the class was wondering what was going to happen next for the rest of the semester. No, we don’t have to put our lives at stake by attempting the eating of a candle in our particular discipline. But, we can work to find ways to create a healthy tension between students’ current knowledge and what might be possible with further learning.
This might be something as simple as a puzzle, an activity more resembling a mystery, or even introducing a debate that explores two different viewpoints or options.
We got to hear about some of Sarah’s and her colleagues’ forthcoming research on the effects of teaching students about mindfulness on episode #204. In The Spark of Learning, she reminds us of the detrimental impact of test anxiety and how the practice of transparency can assist our students in reducing stress and enhancing learning.
Sarah describes Brunye’s research on how learners with math anxiety experienced more of a sense of calm and better results on a math exam when engaging in breathing exercises as compared to other variables.
I’ve been finding big benefits when following a simple mindfulness practice introduced by Asao B. Inoue on episode #209 (airs 6/14/18). I’ll let you hear about it straight from him, but I hope this mention of it causes you to listen extra careful to episode 209’s recommendations segment.
What ways are you discovering to leverage The Spark of Learning in your pedagogy?