One of the biggest concerns of every parent is their child’s academic performance. Most of their daily efforts and engagement with their young ones is in some way or other related to the child’s study regime and results.
Parents, especially mothers can be all the time seen either telling or yelling at the children to study, read their books, finish the homework or projects and prepare for the tests.
For everyone from parents at home to teachers at school, a child’s academic results are so important that his awards, rewards, appreciation, even the parental affection and love that he receives has become conditional to the marks scored in exams.
If a child fares well in school or higher studies, he becomes worthy of all praises and perks and if he doesn’t perform as per expectations he loses all credit and credibility.
Is the immense importance that is given to the numerics or alphanumerics on the scoresheets really right and rational or not is not the topic of discussion here. It’s an important one so will discuss that in another write up.
Rational or not, there are reasons why so much stigma is attached to the child’s good academic evaluations and why everyone goes bonkers pushing their progeny to prepare, perform and excel in their academic assessments.
Let’s assume for some time that it is imperative for children to learn and do well in their educational pursuits and hence the parents and academicians who provide them the resources, instruct them and then remind them regularly to do well are doing a great job in doing so.
But is all that is being done sufficient for the child? Is a child’s academic performance really just a function of learning the languages, texts and arithmetic and then recalling what is learned and producing it on a sheet of paper? Is the cognitive learning provided in school system enough to educate a child?
Cognitive learning entails studying from books, comprehending the meaning, memorizing the texts or formulae, applying logic to the problems, reasoning, analyzing the problem, recalling the information and then producing it during the assessment which is conducted again to check the performance of the cognitive skills used to learn the inputs and provide the output.
Cognitive skills are skills of perception, memory, attention, logical reasoning, comprehension and all other skills required to learn and acquire knowledge and cognitive learning involves using cognitive skills.
Undoubtedly, cognitive abilities are important to learn, reason, use and apply learned information and hence are crucial for academic performance. And that’s the reason a child is taught to use these capabilities and is constantly subjected to a curriculum that requires the application of these skills.
The school curriculum is designed to enable, employ and evaluate the cognitive learning domain, hence, it may imply that students with good cognitive learning ought to perform well in academics and vice versa.
But that may not necessarily be the case. It was earlier believed by psychology scholars and academicians that cognitive learning is the sole key to educational excellence and its effective application.
But not anymore.
It is now a well known fact to the academic researchers that cognitive learning alone may not necessarily make someone proficient in gaining knowledge.
Rather it is quite possible that someone who is absolutely capable of perceiving and applying the information given to him may fail to learn and apply it effectively.
I, as a parent-child counselor meet youngsters everyday who have excellent cognitive abilities, who are proficient at learning languages and applying logic to mathematical problems, but are not at all performing well in their academics. The parent accompanying the child would say that she knows that the child is very intelligent but for reasons unknown do not yield desired results.
The reason is not unknown anymore. The fact is that there is another domain of learning that supplements the mental abilities to learn and acquire knowledge.
It is called affective learning.
Affective means related to moods, emotions and attitude and hence affective learning deals with the learner’s moods, emotions, interests, attitude and motivation to learn.
A child, irrespective of his capabilities, learns when he is willing and motivated to learn. If cognitive learning is the how to learn then affective learning is the why to learn.
Affective learning is a much ignored domain of learning and is not given much space and importance in the annual school curriculum.
The school system works primarily to provide the inputs to a child’s cognitive learning but ignores the fact that it is the child’s affective learning or affects (emotions and moods) that have to be willing to receive and respond to the inputs being given.
Similar mistake is made by parents at home who again emphasize on reading, writing, memorizing functions but miss out building up the right emotional environment for the effective affective and cognitive learning.
Affective learning entails the willingness and motivation to learn and use the cognitive abilities. It precedes the cognitive learning.
In simple words, it means being in the right mood to study, being emotionally charged to pay attention and learn, to value the learning process, to be motivated to spend attentive hours to gain knowledge and feel happy and accomplished with the knowledge gained.
Affective learning is the precursor of all learning. If you have a child who is not doing very well in his/her academics ask yourself a few questions.
“Does she seem interested in her daily study program?”
“Does she look forward to her classes where she will acquire knowledge about the various subjects?”
“What is her attitude about studying and all that it involves?”
“Is she really motivated to learn and to apply all that she learns?”
You may think that every child feels unhappy and uninterested when asked to sit and study but that is not always the case. There are children who read and learn with joy and enthusiasm. They enjoy using their cognitive abilities and their results always show that.
Even they occasionally lose their enthusiasm or may find one or two subjects less interesting but fall back in line with time or little intervention. You definitely know someone like this.
And it is okay and normal to be uninterested and unhappy sometimes but the real concern is mostly or permanently having a negative feeling and attitude towards the learning activities.
In your case, your answers to the above questions have told you what your real concerns are if you have any and if you belong to the category of parents who wish to see good academic results of their young ones, now you know what requires your attention.
If you have understood by now that your child does not have the right emotion, attitude towards learning and is not too willing to receive, respond and value the process of acquiring knowledge, then know your real and immediate job is to work on improving his/her affective learning.
Affective learning is all about providing an affective environment where a child is happy, not criticized or judged, neither too anxious nor too carefree, is not over indulged, has right role models and is motivated to learn and apply knowledge.
In today’s time, the affective learning is mostly inadequate and ineffective because of the following reasons.
- The young generation of today is over provided and over indulged. They already have everything and that does not provide them enough motivation to strive and work hard to perform and excel.
- They have too many distractions in their lives. There is so much that attracts their attention and thus does not leave much willingness to divert that attention to the tedious task of studying.
- They are either too pampered and protected or are too much judged and criticized. This results in either making them too carefree or too anxious and both conditions are negative affects for learning.
- In some home environments, especially where parents are engaged in running traditional business, there is sometimes less importance given to their academic activities or that is what the children perceive. They are unable to relate knowledge and success and thus may not realize the value of learning and seeking knowledge.
- Another major reason is less engaging ways of imparting education in schools. An effective and engaging teaching system can make the process of learning interesting and stimulating and once a child starts to enjoy the process and its outcome and the appreciation that follows, it becomes a continuous cycle of enjoying learning, performing, enjoying getting appreciated and repeat.
- A child is less interested in learning when cognitive abilities are poor and despite efforts the results are not good. If affective learning precedes cognitive learning, the later also effects the former. If a child finds it easy to comprehend and learn, he will enjoy learning but if despite putting in hours he is not able to solve the problems he will lose all enthusiasm. Both the domains are interrelated.
Considering the reasons for poor affective learning of the students, what are the ways to improve the ignored but essential domain of learning.
First of all, out of the reasons mentioned find out the reasons responsible for your child’s indifference, lack of interest and motivation. Acknowledge all the things missing in his/her emotional environment. Is he over indulged or over criticized, lacks some cognitive skills, is not aware of the advantages of being well educated or is the way of teaching less engaging and encouraging?
Whatever is lacking find ways to improve it. If the lack of good feelings and motivation is in initial stages you can talk it out yourself but if it has become a deep rooted belief then you may seek professional help from a good counselor.
Change the environment at home and in school. Make sure your child is happy, not bullied, is less anxious, not judged and is constantly encouraged and appreciated. Give him/her realistic goals and support him/her to achieve them.
Tell your child to enjoy the process of learning new information and knowledge and not to chase the high scores. If he/she will do his/her best to just learn, excellence will automatically follow.
Ask the school and teachers to follow a more engaging teaching program and to include affective learning in the school curriculum. it is a prevalent practice in most of the developed countries where a lot of emphasis is given to the emotional and psychological well-being of the students.
Affective learning is all about a happy, confident, alert, aware, empathetic, keen to learn child who knows how to enjoy studying as much as she enjoys playing.
Affective learning does not just apply to academics but to every sphere of learning and life. If your child enjoys playing a game he will put in the efforts required to learn it, the same will be the case for learning arts, music, dance and every other skill. In case of academics it is more important as the academic curriculum is lengthy, needs long hours and more attention and efforts. The key to gain knowledge is to feel happy while doing it.
Affective learning is not about results but the feelings and the efforts and parents, you too learn to appreciate their feelings and efforts.