Throughout the process of teaching foreign languages in many countries, rote study has been favoured, opting for the acquisition of knowledge through a process where the management of emotions and creativity were deemed of no significance. It was believed that the single and rote evaluation process was the most important thing; the students were seen as a passive entity and their participation in the class were virtually non-existent since the centre of the whole process was the teacher.
Today, different studies show that the emotional component plays a very important role in learning. Motivation towards the subject and even the connection between teacher and students are essential. It is necessary to understand that students can learn in different ways and that they even have different types of intelligence. Therefore, a range of tools must be used in the classroom to make learning more effective. This theory has been more widely spread and has been greatly embraced by teachers in recent years.
Different theories support the above statements. For example, the theory of multiple intelligences proposed by the American psychologist Howard Gardner as a counterweight to the paradigm of a single intelligence. This theorist believes that human life requires the development of various types of intelligence. Thus, he and his collaborators warn that intelligence is not a decisive factor to know the intelligence of a person. A good example of this idea refers to people who, despite obtaining good academic grades, have significant problems relating to other people or in managing their social life.
The theory of multiple intelligences gives us insight to carry out different activities focused on the type of intelligence that each student has. Gardner states that there are 8 types:
- Logical-mathematical intelligence: high capacity for calculation, abstraction
- Verbal linguistic intelligence: People with this type of intelligence have a special ability to read, speak, write, and listen actively.
- Spatial intelligence: They can perceive visual aspects in great detail, create mental images or paint and draw.
- Musical intelligence: present in people who compose or make music.
- Bodily-kinesthetics intelligence: those with this intelligence have great balance, flexibility, hand-eye coordination, and speed.
- Intrapersonal intelligence: defined as the set of abilities that enables us to form an image of ourselves adjusted to reality and to recognize and manage our emotional world.
- Interpersonal intelligence: People with high interpersonal intelligence have a facility for understanding the feelings and intentions of others, even if they do not reveal them openly. That allows them to help others.
- Naturalistic intelligence: those are the people capable of seeing the relationships between species and groups of objects and individuals, although they also recognize the differences or similarities between them.
According to these distinctions, the classes can be focused on the creation and use of materials aimed at each specific group of students in order to keep them motivated and active. This is one of the aspects to take into account. However, another example related to the importance of emotions and their correct management in the classroom is the theory of emotional intelligence proposed by Daniel Goleman in 1997, which states that emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize emotions – both our own and those of others – and to manage our response before them. It can be defined as the set of skills that allows a greater adaptability of the person in the face of changes. In this sense, it is important to mention that the management of emotions in the classroom is very important. An example of this is the management of negative aspects such as frustration or lack of motivation that can generate barriers difficult to break down in learning.
It is essential to achieve the balance of the students in the class. By achieving a positive, healthy, and affectionate climate, greater and better results will be obtained, since the students will respond better to both the stimuli that are presented to them in class and to the challenge of learning something new and selecting their brain activity.
Regarding the study of a foreign language, there is very solid research. The American theorist Stephen Krashen developed in 1983 a theory known as the Affective Filter. This theory insists that the student will learn more effectively if he does not feel tension or anxiety during the learning process.
THREE EMOTIONS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
It is interesting to explore the field of psychology and emotions to understand how they influence learning. The emotions mostly linked to the process of acquiring knowledge are: happiness, fear, sadness, and love.
Happiness is one of the most powerful emotions as it helps to suppress negative feelings. Happiness generates motivation and a feeling of accomplishment. A happy student is more receptive and open to the acquisition of knowledge. This feeling is directly linked to the achievement of objectives.
Fear, on the other hand, generates anxiety and this in turn causes blockages in the ability to react and respond. In the case of learning, it generates what is popularly known as “going blank” whether in class dynamics of oral expressions or listening exercises. This means that neither the linguistic nor the communicative components can develop.
Sadness causes a lack of energy; in this sense the student will be sleepy and his brain less and less active. In states of sadness, it is impossible to think and pay attention, so focusing on the class instructions may seem like an impossible task. In this case, activities should be done to increase the energy level and get the students “fired up.”
Finally, love contributes to generating a pleasant, safe, understanding and tender climate. It is at this point where the relationship between the students and the teacher plays a fundamental role, since the students will react more positively to the different challenges and requests that are raised in class and will be more easily involved in the activities. At this point it is also worth noting that the correct management of these emotions is beneficial for the teacher since the commitment, motivation and even the energy in each of the activities will increase to the extent that there is a pleasant atmosphere in class where the positive emotions prevail over the negative ones.
Fostering positive interactions and emotions in the classroom will not only promote a pleasant climate, but also eliminate negative feelings, and encourage brain activation and the willingness to learn. Closeness always favours a greater willingness for negotiation, active listening, communication, and verbal production. For this reason, it is important to bear in mind that a good student cannot be measured exclusively by the results of a memory test, or by a class with repetitive activities where the student does not show interest. Many factors have an influence on students’ learning, such as their type of intelligence, motivation and even the burdens that they bring from home, or even external situations that compromise their motivation. In any type of learning, whether face-to-face or online, it will be important to generate enough resources to facilitate a variety of experiences for the student.