How students feel about classes has a direct impact on how much they learn in them, and Millennial generation students expect a classroom environment that is emotionally supportive. Thus, according to a study published recently in the National Communication Association's journal, Communication Education, teachers should consider adapting their teaching style around this expectation in order to enhance students' learning.
Frequently described as requiring a steady stream of positive reinforcement, Millennials may assume that their classroom experiences will provide them with confirmation. According to the study's authors, teachers may either empathize with or become frustrated by these expectations, but in order to maximize the learning that occurs in the classroom, they should consider evolving their classroom strategies so that they not only help students to learn, but also help them to feel better about the learning experience.
"One way that teachers can accommodate their students' emotionally oriented needs and expectations, while also enhancing traditional learning outcomes, is by using confirming behaviors in the classroom," says Zachary W. Goldman, a doctoral student in the Department of Communication Studies at West Virginia University and lead author of the study. "This means communicating to students that they are valuable contributors to the classroom experience and the learning process."
The study revealed that two types of confirming behaviors are most likely to produce positive emotional responses: demonstrating interest in the student learning process and having an interactive teaching style. In response to these teacher behaviors, students' interest in a subject, and their perceptions of emotional support, both tend to increase. According to broaden-and-build theory, which formed part of the basis for the study, these positive perceptions lead students to expand their thought processes, which in turn improves their ability to stay focused and learn the course material.
"Emotions play a significant role in our everyday life, and the classroom is no exception," says Alan K. Goodboy, an Associate Professor at West Virginia University and the study's co-author. "When teachers communicate with students in a way that confirms their performance in class, it helps students feel better about their learning experiences and, ultimately, challenges them to continue improving."
Another benefit attributed to the confirming behaviors used by teachers is a reduction in the amount of energy students must expend to hide negative emotions in class. When students feel that they have not been validated, they tend to spend energy maintaining socially acceptable masks, rather than studying or learning.
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