Part I: Think about the new student we read about in the Introduction for this week. Use what you have read about the Learning Systems theory to explain what he is experiencing on his first day of school. Be sure to address each individual system and provide examples from the scenario. Use the introduction below to complete part 1 and the learning system to complete the assignment.
Imagine you are a 14-year-old English language learner just arriving from a small, far away country. Today is your first day of 9th grade and you only know how to say “Good morning” and “thank you” in English. You have been dropped off at your new school that is so big, it feels like a small city to you. All of the buildings look the same and you cannot make out the meaning of any of the signs. There are students zooming by in every direction. They laugh and hug each other as they race by you. They are loud and happy, and they know where they are going. An adult spots you in the chaos, gestures for your schedule, and walks you to a freezing cold classroom where you enter and find an empty seat among the group. There are twice as many students here than you are used to. You know no one else speaks your language. They probably have never even heard of your country before. One boy points at you and whispers to his friend. You have not felt so alone. And your teacher begins . . .
Part II: explain how your classroom and school environment, as well as your instruction, promotes the healthy development of your ELLs’ learning systems
These are the Learning System theory – Use the learning system to complete part 1 and 2 of the assignment
The Emotional Learning System
Learning depends on our emotional states. Teachers who understand the links between emotions and learning can help students use these feelings productively. Teaching students to express individual strengths; resolve conflicts; set personal goals; manage anger, and express emotions in socially appropriate ways can empower success in the classroom and in students’ everyday lives. Students at any grade level have a fundamental need to be accepted and validated. This includes validation of their uniqueness, individual hopes, dreams, and aspirations. When the psychological “need to be me” is met, the emotional system generates passion necessary for learning. Students’ emotions actually stimulate their brains to function at their highest capacity. This includes matters of intelligence, morality, and a sense of self. If students shut down their emotional learning systems, they find little joy in learning and developing new skills. This makes it difficult to engage in class activities. Students must feel safe emotionally before their minds can engage in cognitive learning activities. This is not a vague touchy-feely idea that proposes that teachers should be “nice to kids.” It is critical that educators understand the direct effect that emotions have on students’ ability to learn. The limbic system (the emotion center of the brain) houses the amygdala that manages fear. This part of the brain is often referred to as the primitive or reptilian brain because it was necessary for survival thousands of years ago when humans needed to defend themselves against environmental threats such as wild animals, intruders, etc. When triggered, the amygdala activates the human fight-or-flight response. Adrenaline, cortizol, and other chemicals are released into the brain, and the body prepares to defend itself or run. When in this state of fear, the brain’s attention and energy is focused on survival and is operating from the reptilian brain. However, this is not the part of the brain where cognitive, creative, and metacognitive functioning occurs. Problem-solving, complex processing, and creative thinking happen in the neocortex. This conflict of attention causes disharmony among the learning systems and results in a students’ inability to fully focus. The implications in the classroom are huge. If students feel that they might be embarrassed or ridiculed, the reptilian brain is activated, and the functioning of the neocortex (where cognition and metacognition happen) is stunted. A safe and supportive learning environment is not simply a nicety. It is a learning necessity. When teachers foster safe classroom environments that nurture students’ “need to be me,” and promote creativity, diversity, and personal interests, we are contributing to the healthy functioning of their students’ emotional systems.
Healthy Development of ELLS Learning Systems AND The Social Learning System
The need to belong is an innate feeling in all humans. Social learning is the development of skills and awareness of self, others, and the environment. These develop as a result of interactions. The brain is a socially wired and driven organ (Conyers & Wilson, 2006). In fact, friendships have direct physiological effects on our brains including the increase of the neurotransmitter oxytocin and other hormones that induce feelings of satisfaction and increase students’ ability to learn. In some ways (due to language and cultural differences), ELLs are at a disadvantage when it comes to establishing friendships and interacting socially in their new environments. Students who feel isolated and out of place have lower levels of serotonin (a hormone that contributes to the feelings of well being) that is necessary for engaged, authentic learning. School, therefore, needs to be a place where ELLs interact with their peers in an environment that is socially stimulating and supportive. Teachers should regularly implement learning activities that promote interaction and develop a sense of community and belonging. Teachers can also help ELLs overcome social anxieties by encouraging involvement in school associations and extracurricular activities.
The Cognitive Learning System
This system is the information processing system of the brain. It takes input from the outside world and all other systems, interprets that information, and guides problem-solving and decision-making. This is the system that typically gains the most attention and focuses in our schools. With the increased importance of high stakes standardized tests and the decrease of spending in education, the cognitive learning system has seemingly usurped most of the resources of our school districts. Remember, though, that these systems do not work in isolation. They are dependent upon each other in order to function to their full capacity. The cognitive system, therefore, cannot function effectively when the other systems are competing for attention. Whenever the emotional and the social systems are in turmoil, the cognitive system must spend its energy on them before it can focus on higher-order thinking required for knowledge and skill acquisition. So, establishing and maintaining that supportive learning environment comes first. Once we know students feel safe to share, err, and even mispronounce in our classes without fear of embarrassment or ridicule, we can focus on cognition. To get students’ cognitive system fully engaged, it is important to provide constant connections between the content and our students’ lives. This is because the brain processes new information in relation to information it already has stored (also know as schema). By connecting new ideas and concepts to students’ prior knowledge (especially ideas they find important), we help students to make sense of new ideas and see the relevance within their own lives. In order to do this, it’s necessary to take the time to learn about our students’ personal lives. What are their likes and dislikes; their wishes, dreams, and desires? These are all important questions that give us a starting place for building student connections to the new content we will share.
Healthy Development of ELLS Learning Systems AND The Physical Learning System
The brain’s physical learning system transforms all other learning systems’ content into action. While the other systems contemplate internally, this system executes –often externally. Information is gathered through the senses, processed, and turned into action through the body. This learning system is a great benefit to ELLs because it allows for concrete contextualization of text and other input through the senses. For example, self-correcting with manipulatives; constructing their own learning materials; developing visual arts or multimedia products; and acting out historical or social events or literature are all ways that ELLs can access the curriculum through their physical learning systems.
The Reflective Learning System
This is the most sophisticated learning system and the last to develop. Reflective learning encompasses recalling prior knowledge and past experiences while contemplating the future in the here and now. Simply put, reflective learning is the monitoring of one’s own thinking in order to solve problems; make decisions, and adjusting what one already knows. This is also called metacognition. All teachers, regardless of the subject, are teaching students how to solve problems, make decisions, understand difficult concepts, and perform intellectual tasks that they are going to confront in life. These skills all require reflective thinking. Fortunately, there are concrete ways that we can teach reflective thinking skills to our students. We can promote reflective or metacognitive thinking skills through think-aloud and by explicitly showing students how to evaluate their own work; reflect on their own thinking, and plan and employ skills and behaviors that are appropriate for specific learning goals. When we intentionally promote high order thinking in our classes we naturally teach students how to use reflective thinking skills. We will talk much more about the focus on high order thinking skills later in the course. In many ways, as teachers, we act as the reflective system of our classrooms. We plan out our goals. We monitor students’ progress. We evaluate the effectiveness of our instruction. And we correct when we know the goals have not been met.
Healthy Development of ELLS Learning Systems Sample Answer
ELLS’ learning systems
The student must be experiencing communication challenges due to language barrier or difficulties with the accent. This would make it difficult for the student to understand the lecturer as well as the other students, which could affect the student’s emotional learning system as she may feel embarrassed. Culture shock could intimidate the student, making her or him become more irritable. The everyday life can be strange and is associated with physical and emotional discomfort. The students staring at gossiping the new students most likely made the student feel lonely and intimidated. In addition, so much else going on with the student’s life, which makes the student feel confused. It is likely that the student will focus on everything else but their academics. Therefore, these experiences are likely to affect the four learning systems including the emotional, social, physical and reflective learning system (Díaz-Rico, n.d.).
In light of these experiences, one can find a smooth solution that works for them. For instance, the teacher student relationships are more informal, which makes it easy for the student to interact with the other students. Therefore, the student should talk with her tutor if the assignment or one topic seems to be challenging. The student is also encouraged to join a study group for classes that seems to be difficult. This will help the student learn better, collaborate more with the other students, which in turn improves the student social, cognitive and reflective learning system. There are adequate supports networks which could help improve the student social learning system as the student gets to interact and befriend the local students, which can help them get acquainted with their school environments (Díaz-Rico, n.d.).
Healthy Development of ELLS Learning Systems References
Díaz-Rico, L.(n.d) The cross-cultural, language, and academic development handbook. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.