Guest Post by Julie DeNeen Educators and policy makers are starting to realize that the current educational system doesn’t necessarily guarantee a well-balanced and healthy adult, even if grades show that a student has learned the concepts. Psychologists especially insist that education models take into account the whole person. Here are 20 reasons why.
1. Emotions impact learningThe brain is a complex organ that cannot be fractured into separate parts and pieces. A student who is feeling confident and healthy will be better able to “hear” a lecture or absorb new material if their emotional state is balanced.
2. Learning is not just about the acquisition of factsLearning doesn’t just mean that a person has memorized a concept. Knowledge must be applied to real world situations where there are other people to connect and converse with.
3. Emotional health is crucial for successSuccess in the world means that an individual can interact with his or her environment in a meaningful and helpful way. When depression or anxiety sets in, this cripples a person’s ability to share their learning with others. The knowledge is lost behind a wall of mental illness.
4. Creativity is necessary for innovationNew ideas are birthed from creativity. Creativity cannot be expressed unless the student is engaged and able to commit brainpower to applying the knowledge in an innovative way. It is like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Creativity will not be allowed to work if other needs and problems aren’t dealt with first.
5. Inspiration drives the desire to find out moreInspiration is another emotional feeling that propels students to dig deeper. When an online course inspires someone to do his or her own research, it further cements the learning process. Inspiration is rare in an individual who is emotionally unwell.
6. Positivity promotes productivity“Feel good feelings” give a student the sensation that helps promote concentration. This, in turn, leads to an increase in productivity. The more a student can get done, the more opportunity there is for more learning!
7. Depression reduces the ability to finish what you’ve startedDepression kills all feelings of confidence, inspiration, and creativity. If educators don’t monitor their student’s emotional well-being, people may drop out of courses when life events cripple them emotionally.
8. Memories can be altered with lack of sleep and/or traumaIt does not matter how organized a course is if a student is not in good shape emotionally. Memory function is reduced, as the person must use 100% of their brain to just get through the day. Fatigue is also a side effect of emotional sickness, and this impacts memory too.
9. There are layers of intelligenceThe ability to spout off facts is only one type of intelligence. In fact, people with solid emotional health can often function better in the world, even if they are not as intelligent or well educated as others. Isn’t this a form of intelligence, to be able to live in the world in a meaningful way?
10. A person’s worldview is colored by their emotional well-beingIndividual perception is a crucial component to success. If a student cannot see himself as someone who can offer the world anything, the knowledge acquired throughout their education will not reproduce itself in any tangible goals.
11. Connecting life, knowledge, and emotions makes learning more meaningfulLearning does not happen in a vacuum. A student is more likely to continue his education when he sees the concepts and values affecting his life in a meaningful way. When boredom, despair, or frustration set in, has a course succeeded in its goal to educate? It cannot always be the fault of the student. Sometimes it is a sign that a course needs to rethink its curriculum.
12. Holistic teaching can help those with learning disabilitiesMore attention needs to be paid to those students who don’t learn with the same speed or productivity as the average person. Courses that take into consideration the abilities (or disabilities) of its students, can then help tailor the course in a way that gives everyone the best chance of success.
13. Education is only useful if the student has a well-developed “voice”Courses should consider how a student will then communicate the knowledge they’ve learned in a work environment. Helping students develop their own voice will ensure that the concepts learned in the course will impact a person’s ability to make a difference. After all, this is the reason for education in the first place.
14. School doesn’t always help emotional well-beingUnfortunately, some school environments do the opposite of promoting wellbeing. Online courses don’t have to contend with a classroom full of students, but how the course is laid out (its accessibility to an instructor, materials, other students, etc.) will impact a person’s experience. You want them to walk away feeling like they “belonged” in the class. This is an important part of learning that can’t be ignored for online educators.
15. Online learning can be adapted to those with mental disordersThroughout history, those with mental illness have been isolated and ostracized because of their disability. Online learning has the ability to reach this population of people, but great care needs to be taken to help reduce frustration and hopelessness for those who join a class. Since mental disorders require a holistic approach to healing, education can be a part of that process. What a profound opportunity.
16. Emotional health can signal the effectiveness of the learning that is occurringIn some cases, online educators can evaluate the success of their courses based on the emotional health of their students. For example, an online psychology course could also have a practicum that gives the students the opportunity to do some of their own internal work. Not only are the concepts being taught, but also a student’s emotional well-being is enhanced.
17. Happiness gives people the perception of success, encouraging them to keep movingEven if a student is struggling to pass an exam, a happy and balanced mindset will give them an edge over another student who may be excelling grade wise, but miserable emotionally. The happier person will continue onward, taking more classes and doing his or her best, even if the obstacles seem overwhelming.
18. Evaluating failure with the whole person in mind helps to measure the effectiveness of a courseIf a student passes an online course but then struggles to hold down a job, has the course been successful? It brings to light the purpose of education. Teachers may argue that the course material has nothing to do with job responsibility, but what point is there in educating an individual on advanced mathematics if he can’t hold down a job? Isn’t it just as important to teach people responsibility? Educators must evaluate their courses using more than just grades.
19. Emotional well-being as part of the curriculum helps with developing interpersonal skillsEvery course should have a component in the curriculum that gives students a chance to try out their concepts and knowledge in an interpersonal setting. Knowledge should have exponential impact, growing with each person that hears and applies it.
20. Education will continue to succeed if it takes a holistic approachMore and more, people are starting to see the gaping holes in the current educational system. Online education has a unique opportunity to take the lead in the world of education by adopting a holistic approach. Without the restraints of traditional education, the potential is there for online courses to transform the way society handles the educational process.
Julie DeNeen has her bachelor's degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of New Haven. She spent several years working for a local Connecticut school at the district level, implementing new technologies to help students and teachers in the classroom. She also taught workshops to teachers about the importance of digital student management software, designed to keep students, parents, and teachers connected to the learning process.