Tag Archives: students

Learning is Social and Emotional (Especially in a Pandemic)

It could have been said that the more articles or studies written these days about surviving the Pandemic have also been tied to surviving the emotional thresholds in whatever types of living situations people have been suspended in time with. Separate from the natural response to the Covid-19 viral infection and symptomatology, there is the socio-emotional toll that trickles down from early days of science catching up to the vulnerabilities of the mRNA deterioration, the ones who were not lucky (and the ones who were) to survive and tell the tale, and to even the ones who have economically been wiped out. It is safe to say that the speed of energy and technological transfer between people is toe to toe with the infection’s travels. And the only initial clear state of progress toward increasing the chances of staying healthy was to STOP and be STILL.

In effect, the world of people became hermits while the rest of the natural world wandered where people used to. In the October 2020 issue of Frontiers in Psychology, Ana Luisa Pedrosa et al. studied the Emotional, Behavioral, and Psychological Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic Measures to contain disease transmission, including quarantine, social isolation and social distancing may affect the population’s behavior and may lead to psychological disorders. Several emotional and psychological conditions including fear, anxiety, depression, and suicide ideation are triggered by the pandemic itself as well as by the adopted preventive measures. As essential workers carried on a semblance of the social structure of necessities and medical staff continued to fight for the lives of those who had the infection, a majority of the population turned inwards to their houses with relatives, roommates, pets, significant others and, well, yes, children.

The business of rearing children under normal circumstances is layered and complex. In a pandemic, it is more urgent and mind bending: children initially completing school work from any available space in the home as parents struggled to do the same as they work from home as well. Now that of course is the median, as the living situations were random and could range from either parents who could not be around their children if they were essential or medical frontline personnel to the opposite end where the parents were always home with their children that the school-work lines blurred and relationships became testy. In a paper by Priscilla de Medeiros et al, in PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, AND SOCIAL PAIN DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC-RELATED SOCIAL ISOLATION say that the social isolation caused by COVID-19 pandemic threatening also caused a forced poor affective behaviour during absences in traditional social events, such as funeral, weddings, and anniversaries, in addition to isolation from parents infected by COVID-19 pathogen (Danzmann et al. 2020).

Similar to many school situations across the globe, online instructional delivery was the only option for educating children in the United States. During traumatic circumstances, such as a pandemic, the need to make online educational opportunities easy to access takes on new importance because many learners might not be in an emotional state to focus on learning. (Carter Jr., Rice et al. 2020) To offset the emotional shock that came with the changes in learning, there was a push to focus on specific Goal Orientations, that are a collective of how, why and under what environmental conditions people learn (Anderman and Maehr, 1994; Pintrich and Schunk, 2002). Learning environments that consider affective aspects of learning such as learner motivation must be developed and supported (Ryan and Deci, 2000).

Goal Orientations however under the current circumstances are artificial and in a vacuum. For those learners who already had challenges pre-pandemic have not remained at the marker of where they were. The marginalization of options shrank even further for them with options that were determined by the availability of tech and Wi-Fi, the frequency of teacher follow up, and the ever increasing reliance on platforms of assignments that didn’t always meet the learners where they were at foundationally. However, the one underlying factor that Goal Orientations tested or made available is on of Self-Determination Theory by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, who first introduced their ideas in their 1985 book Self-Determination and Intrinsic Motivation in Human Behavior. In their book, they regard choice as a major factor to learner success, placing equitable responsibility on both the environment AND the Learner.

To support the learner, parents and teachers alike needed to catch up technologically to where their children were at if they were past the 3rd grade for software integration, while for those younger than 3rd grade, parents and teachers had to push limits of creativity to balance between the need for work to be shown and the online digital presence requirement. Simply being present behind the screen via a virtual environment or learning platform of choice did not necessarily mean that there was the connection between schoolmates, teachers, and caregivers. The socio-emotional condition, especially at the time of outbreak subsidizes the (re)modulation of interactive neural circuits underlying the risk assessment behavior at physical, emotional, and social levels. Experiences of social isolation, exclusion or affective loss are generally considered to be some of the most painful things that people face. In spite of the artificial components that are meant to connect the school experience, the threats of social disconnection are processed by some of the same neural structures that process basic threats to survival. (de Medeiros et al., 2020 plaudit.) The lack of social connection mimics the pain due to an overlap in the neural circuitry responsible for both physical and emotional pain related to feelings of social rejection.

So do we then say that the LEARNER, the student, is mainly the source of their own center, calm and achievement in the face of unprecedented times in tech-school enclosures?

Possibly so if paired with Positive Neuroplasticity and a Positive Emotional State. To continue with the promotion of determining one’s internal motivation, Self-regulated learning (SRL) is at the forefront for home-school relationships. It refers to how students become masters of their own learning processes, wherein self-regulation is the self-directive process through which learners transform their mental abilities into task-related skills in diverse areas of functioning, such as academia, sports, music, and health. (Zimmerman, 2015.)

Self-regulated learning (SRL) is a self-determined learner effort towards academic performance (Boekaerts, 1995; Winne and Hadwin, 2010; Zimmerman and Moylan, 2009). Within the SRL framework, learners use metacognitive skills in learning to proactively think, perform and self-reflect (Dignath and Büttner, 2008; Ergen and Kanadli, 2017). Most models of SRL have major components: forethought; performance; and self-reflection. Typically, learning must not only focus on cognitive aspects but also other aspects, such as attitudes and feelings. Emotional, intellectual, and spiritual intelligence must be balanced in the learning process so that students have qualified self-qualities useful in the future. The success of students in the learning process is not only determined by intellectual intelligence but also the existence of motivation, work ethic, commitment, integrity, and communication. (Wijoyo et al., 2020) Addressing the complex relationship between the affective need for control and the cognitive need for structure seems vital to strong course design that leads to learner success in fully online learning under typical circumstances, but especially during the trauma of a global pandemic. (Carter Jr. et al, 2020.)

A prime example of how learners utilized principles of self-regulated learning however have not explicitly named it as such was highlighted in the results from a 2020 study by R. Radha et.al in the International Journal of Control and Automation, wherein they sought to find out the student’s attitude towards e-learning, via stratified sampling method. They had a total 175 samples from across the world from national and international wise through Google forms which include the student community from various schools, colleges, and universities.

Among 175 respondents, around 82.86 percent of students have reported their self-study skills to improve because of e-learning, while 12.57 percent of them were opined in somewhat they are learning from e-sources because there are no other alternatives. Since the classes and education institutions where physically unavailable due to the pandemic, the students only depended on e-learning, and the majority of the institutions where the students participated from in this survey were mostly encouraged to learn through e-sources. Only 4.57 percent of them were not supposed that the e-source alone can improve their self-study skills.

What is striking however is in the same study, 80 percent of students are supportive of conventional teaching for learning practical, hands on knowledge as opposed to if they were simply learning basic pedagogical concepts. Around 12.57 percent of them said conventional teaching is important for the practical, hands on learning, and only 7.43 percent felt that e-learning for the practical, hands on skills were not effective.

Conventional teaching, for all its imperfections, allow affect to take effect. Body language, eye contact, even the energy transfer of the student-teacher call and responses are vital to certain emotional needs that make learning stick. The bridge that teachers (and yes parents too) have created from behind the online platforms to alleviate isolation involves having a cheerful disposition when on class camera. Students tend to prefer lessons and demonstrations through videos, which can be created using mobile phone cameras or screen capturing software. Although videos by others may be beneficial, students enjoy those made by their teachers (Anderson 2020). When teachers create their own videos, they can also customize the content to ensure the appropriate rigor (Morgan 2014).

As a matter of fact, the organization International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) offers standards for educators and identifies 14 critical elements for using technology for learning. In The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, Hani Morgan wrote that the ISTE also created seven standards for students and for teachers respectively using technology for learning and teaching. See the standards below as they appear from the article Best Practices for Implementing Remote Learning during a Pandemic:

The ISTE Standards for Students

The ISTE Standards for Students (2016) were developed to help students succeed in today’s high-tech society. ISTE created seven standards for students:

 Empowered Learner – This standard is beneficial because it was designed to encourage students to take an active role and to demonstrate their competency to use and choose technologies to achieve their learning goals. Students acquire feedback to enhance their skills, customize their learning environments, and build networks.

• Digital Citizen – The second standard focuses on increasing student awareness of the responsibilities and rights of participating in a digital world. Students use technology in safe and legal ways. They also demonstrate a respect for the rights of sharing intellectual property.

• Knowledge Constructor – The standards for students are also designed to build knowledge. Students enhance their understanding of the world by applying effective research methods to find information for their creative and intellectual pursuits. This process encourages the development of theories and ideas.

 Innovative Designer – The fourth standard promotes creativity. Students design new solutions for real-world problems using different types of technologies. They use their critical thinking skills as they work on open-ended problems. Students also engage in activities that deal with design constraints and calculated risks.

 Computational ThinkerThis standard emphasizes exploring and finding solutions to problems by using a variety of technologies. Students collect data and analyze them to make decisions and problem solve. They enhance their understanding of complex systems and automation. Automated solutions are created and tested through a series of steps.

• Creative Communicator -The sixth standard allows students to create original works. One of the ways they can achieve this goal is by remixing digital resources into new ones. Students produce new content by customizing it for their intended audiences.

 Global Collaborator -This standard focuses on broadening students’ perspectives. Learners use digital tools to connect with students from different cultures and backgrounds. They use collaborative technologies to explore global and local issues and think about possible solutions from multiple viewpoints.

The ISTE Standards for Educators

The ISTE Standards for Educators (2017) were designed to help in transforming pupils into empowered learners. Like the standards for students, ISTE created seven standards for teachers:

• Learner -This standard emphasizes the continued growth in technology skills educators need to make. They achieve this goal by working with other professionals and exploring promising practices that enhance student learning. They participate in professional networks and stay updated on research that improves student learning.

 Leader -Educators look for leadership opportunities that shape and advance teaching and learning. They urge for equal access to technology to meet the needs of all students. They also serve as models for their colleagues, exploring and identifying new technological tools for learning.

 Citizen -This standard involves creating opportunities for learners that will lead them to make socially responsible contributions. Educators mentor students on using technology safely and ethically. They teach them the importance of protecting data privacy and managing personal data.

 Collaborator – Educators also need to spend time collaborating with students and colleagues. With colleagues, they work to create learning experiences using digital tools. And with students, they use new digital tools to diagnose and troubleshoot technology problems.

 Designer – This standard encourages educators to design activities that are learner driven and that reflect learner variability. Educators use technology to personalize learning experiences that promote independent learning and accommodate students’ needs.

 Facilitator -Educators create an environment in which students take ownership of their learning. They establish learning opportunities encouraging students to problem solve and innovate. They model creative expression and manage learning strategies in digital platforms and virtual environments.

 Analyst -This standard focuses on using data to support learners. Educators use technology by designing formative and summative assessments to provide feedback for pupils. This process guides progress as educators communicate assessment data with students and parents to promote student self-direction.

As the global community will emerge slowly into a post-pandemic recovery, there will be significant changes up ahead in planning and delivering the learning experience. And based on the survey of studies that showcase how the educational and therapeutic communities have created the best of human nature in the face of devastation rivaling the period of the Spanish Flu, necessity and the human spirit continue to be the partners of all invention.

ESNP Podcast 14: Why Puzzles Need to Come Back to the Classroom

State Testing, Tuesday Morning

The small independent all-girls middle school in New York City bustles with activity at 8 am on a Tuesday morning in April. I am immediately greeted, “Good Morning…”Hi”…when I walk into the building.  It is the first day of the EnglELA_test_for_web_t670ish-Language Arts New York State Test–a day that has been kept in the back of students’ minds since September. The girls bustle about in their homerooms turning in homework, gathering books and pencils, highlighters and water bottles. Anything within reason that will help them sit anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours and 15 minutes answering questions about topics that bear very little relevance in their lives.

8:20: “I got chills, they’re multiplying, and I’m losing control, ‘Cause the power, you’re supplying, it’s electrifying! You better shape up, ’cause I need a man. And my heart is set on you. You better shape up; you better understand to my heart I must be true. Nothing left, nothing left for me to do. You’re the one that I want; you are the one I want, Oo, Oo, Oo honey! You’re the one that I want; you are the one I want Oo, Oo, Oo honey! You’re the one that I want; you are the one I want, Oo, Oo, Oo, the one that I need; oh yes indeed!” plays on speakers throughout the school signaling it is time for assembly–a 15 minute period that offers a chance for the entire school to come together as one, offering inspiring words, making announcements, taking attendance and closing with a prayer. The girls file out of their homerooms giggling, talking, sharing stories while streaming into the assembly room. Yellow walls, painted with inspirational quotes from the school’s namesake adorn two of the walls. The third wall houses statistics on dark blue plaques highlighting the success of the school’s girls.

as56318:23: The girls sit down in orderly fashion by grade level. The staff file in as well and sit on benches around the perimeter. Assembly begins. 4 girls get up in the front and begin to sing, “Let it Show, Let it Shooow, Let it Show!” followed by other witty lyrics referring to their ability

to succeed and do well on the upcoming tests. Overtime the chorus begins. Both staff and students start singing along and arch their right, then left arms in the air. After a giant applause, the girls return to their seats.

8:27 The principal says, Attendance.” Two sixth graders, begin “Good Morning to the staff and students. “Good Morning…and proceed to greet every staff–much to my surprise I am included, despite the fact that this is my first time in assembly in years. After staff, all 80 girls are greeted by name.  This is followed by announcements. Teachers raise their hand and are called on by the principal. They announce the beginning of track practice and the start of baseball season. They are reminded they need permission slips to start either. They are reminded there was no homework club. After announcements, the principal moves the assembly along to prayer, “It’s time for prayer,”

8:30: A teacher stands at the front of assembly room and says, “Congratulations!” She pauses briefly before continuing,  “you’re probably wondering, why I am telling you congratulations. Well, yesterday when I was thinking about prayer, I remembered when I was in the 7th grade, and my teacher came up to me before my tests and told me Congratulations. I looked at him confused; I hadn’t yet picked up a pencil to start and was actually worried I may have spelled my name wrong because I was so nervous about the test. What had I done to deserve a congratulations? He then tells me, you have done all the hard work. You were doing the hard work back in September, and on through November and into January. You continued the hard work through the early months of the new year and now here you are. Ready. You just need to show what you know. You’ve done all the hard work–Congratulations.” She paused again and finished her prayer, “Congratulations.”

8:32: The girls file out of the assembly room, giggling, talking, sharing stories while settling into lines by grade outside of their classrooms. Chatter continues, until a teacher stands in front of the two groups, “I know you all know how you need to be acting right now; you do this every morning. Once you are in line you need to be quiet so you can hear the directions.” The sixth graders quiet down and walk into their rooms to await the directions for test day one. Their teacher proceeds to read directions and in a semi-silly semi-serious voice lists all of the electronic and electronic related devices they are not allowed to have. This is followed by him passing out answer sheets, test booklets and reading more directions. I have been leaning against the doorframe observing this scene amused and impressed. It is a few minutes before a major test, and these girls are smiling and calm.

8:42: I step fully into the sixth grade classroom, before he reads the final set of directions, I interrupt, “Excuse me Mr. S, I need Julie, Maria, Ellie, Joy, and Catherine.”  The girls get out of their seats and line up armed with water bottles, sticks of gum and a granola

joybar–testing fuel. They are all entitled to take the test in a separate environment with limited students, distractions and receive extra time. Some of the girls who are staying give final “good lucks” as we walk out the door and down the stairs.

Two hours and 30 minutes later, I walk out feeling happy and light thinking about the woman who started it all over 20 years before; her spirit, her joy, her laughter live on. I turn right onto First Avenue and into the warm spring New York sunshine.

Metacognition is to Mindfulness (Not Everyone Can Always Teach…)

Big buzz words, both of them in the title of this article. One featuring a significant process of the Pre-Frontal Cortex, and the other, affectation of awareness from the entire brain, based upon the driving of the Pre-Frontal Cortex. However, let’s simplify the language of Metacognition and veer away from the “thinking about thinking” cliché (albeit that is what that is, the repetitive use of the definition is overused).

Meta (after, or beyond) cognition (conscious mental activities : the activities of thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering) is that ten second delay before the thinking is decided upon as the last answer or decision. It is the pulling yourself out of your own awareness to look at the process that is involved in your own thinking: from the first suggestion of an idea to the last decided action. Metacognition then is the conscious mental activity that is after or beyond the activities of thinking, understanding, learning and remembering.

The Metacognition Phase
The Metacognition Phase

It’s what we commonly refer to as THINKING ON YOUR FEET. When you rely on the automatic responses of behavior that you tuck in the memory bank for the ‘rainy days’ and successfully combine these responses without reference to a specific technique or to a pattern, you have successfully practiced the art of metacognition. Most of us use the metacognitive process in its basest sense that its application is usually muted.

Labels, both rigid and tailored to testing have been directing the voice of education. Plotting one’s education based on the ability to test versus improving the quality of the inquiring mind has recently been winning the battle of what standards should look like and what ‘schooling’ should seem to be in the eyes of a successful community, and in the grander picture, what the world expects of a citizen belonging to a particular first-world geographical location. Teaching to the BRAIN inside the human being has been scoffed in skepticism and propaganda by purists of testing protocol, and worse, by those who insist that the BRAIN is a static piece of software that can only evolve in, well, the dog-eat-dog thriving situations to effectively learn (forgetting that the BODY is attached to it, inconveniently).

And yet, there are those who do acknowledge that there is a BRAIN that echoes its decisions on the shadow called a MIND (which apparently is highly controversial for those who have either no imagination, philosophical inclinations, or even quantum physical understanding of cause and effect). The MIND is not simply an artistic, metaphorical description of romantics or serialists.

The In-Between Phase: Anticipation From Metacognition to Mindfulness
The In-Between Phase: Anticipation From Metacognition to Mindfulness

Mind (the part of a person that thinks, reasons, feels, and remembers) fulness (the eventual quality or state of being full). Mindfulness then is inherently a state of consciousness. Although awareness and attention to present events and experiences are given features of the human organism, these qualities can vary considerably, from heightened states of clarity and sensitivity to low levels, as in habitual, automatic, mindless, or blunted thought or action (Wallace, 1999).  Therefore, Mindfulness is the eventual quality, state or part of a person that thinks, reasons, feels and remembers that is full.

Conscious activities of thinking lead to filling up the state of a person that thinks, feels, reasons and remembers. Conscious and purposeful filling, which is aimed at harnessing powers of understanding from genetic, evolutionary biological cognitive methods, now contrast with teaching-to-test. Conscious and meaningful activities where learning is matched with the learner’s natural aptitude while harnessing multiple abilities of learning.

Teaching with the Meta-Mind process is the ideal, not necessarily realistic. The Teacher, broken as Teach (to cause or help a person to learn how to do something by giving lessons and showing how it is done) -er (person or thing belonging to or associated with something) fulfills this process with such subconsciousness if you ask him or her the process of the real teaching, they would have to pause and trace the Meta of how they begin. And when there are words to describe this magical process (taking away the paperwork load and the political requirements), the Teacher’s Metacognition  begins with an idea, a seed, a stage either theatrical, comical, empirical or thoughtful. The Teacher  is actively immersed in the conscious mental activity that is after or beyond the activities of thinking, understanding, learning and remembering.  The preparation for every scenario entails an almost see something-say something proactiveness; student temperament will never be the same in spite of the occurrence in the exact classroom, having the exact community of students, and/or support through the same rules and regulations. Only homeostasis remains similar as learning experiences are emotionally, memory-dependent.

The students come, the dance begins of giving and taking…sometimes with upstarts and hiccups; however, with the arsenal from the Teacher’s Meta phase, the learning is curved to where it momentarily docks. After the last word on the subject, the wards attach the knowledge to a memory base, perhaps a mnemonic one for future reference. And the Teacher? He or She goes into the Mind phase: Mindfulness of students sharing, discovering, uncovering and maybe not fully comprehending what just had happened in the minutes before with the topic at hand. The Teacher in this phase enters into that eventual quality, state or part of a person that thinks, reasons, feels and remembers that is full.

The Mindfulness Phase: Is  it the Silhouette or is it the Canvass?
The Mindfulness Phase: Is it the Silhouette or is it the Canvas?

How then can the teacher be unreasonably requested to match the learning of a subject that is not only too cognitively complex for the developing brain of the current roster he or she is given, but also when there is a predetermination of the worded script, the presentation of the activity or knowledge base, and/or finely trimmed boundaries they are unable to be flexible with? How is that called common core really a commonality? The Meta-Mind cycle is interrupted, the learning process is artificial, and citizens are not created, rather parrots with haphazard training preparation for the competitively overflowing sea of professional niches. The Teacher ceases to have a democratic role in the abilities and skills he or she thought was hired to use in the classroom; amazingly, all that’s needed to do this newly reinvented job are professionals with paper pedigree to continually beat down their passion or dedication…unless the latter is just a bad dream someone decided to share with us.

Please allow the teachers to teach again. Respect the Meta-Mind Process of Learning.

Learning to Test or Testing to Learn?

The focus on reforming education in the twenty-first century has lead to a near obsession with standardization. We have standardized  curriculums, tests, grading, participation, essentially the entire learning process. Yet with this  shift to standardization, we have failed to meet the basic standard of a school, which is a place children come to learn. Pacing calendars, pre-packaged curriculums with differentiated tracks, cookie cutter bubble tests are teaching our children to be ready for a test, one that will rank not only their individual performance against a national standard, but the school’s performance as well. However, this test ultimately seems to prove only one thing, how well a student can take a test.


Unfortunately the test heavy focus of education reformation has annihilated a tried and true strategy for learning: testing. Teachers give summative tests at the end of the unit; they provide a study guide a few days before the test, tell students to study and perhaps hold a study session in class. However, according to How We Learn by Benedict Carey, that is not how we learn best if the goal is for information to be retained. We best learn and retain information when we systematically review learned information based on time to test and when we study by testing our knowledge of the information.

Dr. Melody Wisheart and Dr. Harold Pashler found this study interval to be most optimal for retention:


Time to Test

This table provides guidelines for either students or teachers to review material in order to increase retention at time of test. Using this information, teachers and students can intentionally plan study sessions to increase student’s retention of the material. Teachers can  revisit material learned at the beginning of the unit at the first interval and continue to add new material to subsequent study sessions until time of the test. By building in time to review material, teachers are teaching students how to study and providing them opportunities to review material in an effective way. This method is to increase retention of information and works best for facts, definitions, dates,mathematical equations etc.

Testing not studying is the answer to learning. Teachers often design pre-tests to determine what students know and what upcoming lessons need to focus on. However, pre-tests serve an even greater objective: they start the learning process of the material being test, evenwilson-train-the-brain-istock if the student guesses on every single question.  Dr. Robert Bjork found that after a simple experiment with his introductory psychology class that students performed 10% better on questions related to pre-test questions when taking the final exam than on questions with no similar equivalent on the pre-test. Students have the possibility of improving test scores by an entire grade with the addition of a pre-test. Furthermore, testing as a study strategy decreases the illusion of fluency, which tends to occur when students read notes or the text book multiple times as a way to study. Dr. Henry Roediger  theorizes that it forces the brain to do something more challenging that visually or auditorally process information; this additional effort increases the strength at which it is stored and later the ability at which is can be retrieved. Essentially, testing acts as a novel opportunity to learn and store the information; therefore, it becomes stored in a new way in the brain, connecting to other related facts thus strengthen storage and recall.

Testing needs to be re-branded in our classrooms. It can occur through a variety of ways (i.e. conversations with peers, family, other teachers, games, projects, and traditional paper/pencil tests), but  the focus needs to be taken off the final score and placed on the value of knowledge gained, whether that reveals the student knows all of the information in the unit, or she needs to spend more time ‘testing’ her knowledge, to she recalled all of what she knew before and more.

If we start testing to learn, the learning to test will naturally follow.


Text Used in this post: How We Learn: the surprising truth about when, where and why it happens. Benedict Carey. Random House, 2014.