Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Fear and Anxiety Effectively Shut Down Higher Order Thinking" from MindUP

As educators we are in the communication business--whether it's with students, parents, administrators, colleagues it doesn't matter. In order to communicate well, we need to have the language to help others understand. To that end I'm always on the lookout for cogent, succinct language that will make any point I'm attempting to make accessible to the given audience. Lately I've been on a search for such language to explain how stress, anxiety and fear will shut down learning. Mindfulness Educator Lori Corry gave me an insightful lesson and introduced me to the MindUP curriculum from the Hawn Foundation. Here's the language that I understood and think others may as well.

When we are calm and peaceful the filter [amygdala: an information filter regulated by our emotional state] is wide open and information flows to the prefrontal cortex, where the brain's so-called executive functions take place. On the other hand when we are feeling negative and stressed out, these executive functions, which provide cognitive control, are inhibited. Indeed information stays in the amygdala; it doesn't flow into the prefrontal cortex for executive processing. Instead it's processed right on the spot as fight, flight or freeze. In this way, fear and anxiety effectively shut down higher-order thinking (Scholastic 9).

So there it is: simply put and easily accessible. An important piece in getting ourselves and others to understand the importance of teaching mindfulness in our schools and having the research to back up what we are doing. If we can get policy makers to understand that social and emotional learning is just as important as core subjects, because they open up the learning pathways, then we'll be well on our way to improving learning and the well-being of our students.

The MindUp Curriculum. [brain-focused Strategies for Learning-and Living]. New York, NY: Scholastic, 2011. Print.

1 comment:

albina N muro said...

To that end I'm always on the lookout for cogent, succinct language that will make any point I'm attempting to make accessible to the given audience. Get Some Dosh