Let Your “Emotional Rudder” Steer The Way

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Eric Hoover has an interesting piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education exploring “noncognitive skills,” the subject of Paul Tough’s popular book How Children Succeed and education’s topic du jour. Hoover writes:

“Neuroscience supports the idea that so-called cognitive and noncognitive attributes are, in fact, interwoven. The age-old distinction between mind and heart, brain and body, much research suggests, may not be a useful or even accurate way to think of ourselves. Language, reasoning, and other high-level cognitive skills taught in schools ‘do not function as rational, disembodied systems, somehow influenced by but detached from emotion and the body.’

Those words appeared in a paper published in 2007 by the journal Mind, Brain, and Education and co-written by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, an assistant professor of education at Southern California who is scheduled to speak at the conference. A neuroscientist and human-development psychologist, she has studied the neural roots of learning, creativity, and morality.

In the paper, ‘We Feel, Therefore We Learn: the Relevance of Affective and Social Neuroscience to Education,’ Ms. Immordino-Yang and Antonio Damasio, a professor of neuroscience at the university, boil a complex discussion down to a simple conclusion: Logical reasoning skills and factual knowledge are only so valuable on their own. Students also need an ’emotional rudder’—an ability to transfer skills and knowledge to real-world situations—to succeed. ‘Simply having the knowledge,’ they wrote, ‘does not imply that a student will be able to use it advantageously.'” (Read more here.)

I love that idea of an “emotional rudder,” guiding us as we apply our intellectual knowledge and skills.

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