Numerous research studies have shown that emotion plays a critical role in learning. Fortunately, this is intuitive: negative emotions often hurt a child’s ability to learn while positive emotions generally help. This is true in all types of learning, whether in person or online. And it has been validated that online learning in particular can be replete with the positive emotion necessary for effective learning. Emotion is not the enemy of reason, it turns out. It just depends on what type of emotion we’re talking about.

In one study, titled “Emotional Presence, Learning, and the Online Learning Environment”, the authors summarized both a variety of earlier studies, and then conducted their own study, to validate this conclusion (Cleveland-Innes, 2012). Another 2017 study noted that, “Emotion has a substantial influence on the cognitive processes in humans, including perception, attention, learning, memory, reasoning, and problem solving.” (Tyng, 2017) Emotion is especially important when it comes to attention, which is fundamentally linked to the learning process. Educator Ruth Weiss writes that, “The more that neuroscientists explore how our brains process, store, and retrieve information, the more evident is the connection between emotion and reason. Scientists have discovered that the same areas of the brain that are involved in processing emotion are also involved in processing memory.” (Weiss, 2000)

“Emotion has a substantial influence on the cognitive processes in humans, including perception, attention, learning, memory, reasoning, and problem solving.”

In online learning, personalized learning plays a role with emotion by steering a child’s learning through appropriate levels of content, which helps avoid feelings of insecurity, frustration and disappointment. Negative emotions such as anger and stress have a negative impact on a child’s ability to learn.

In a study of 62 public schools, including public charter schools, researchers in 2015 looked at the benefits of personalized learning vs. non-personalized learning (Pane, 2015). They found that for those kids taught with personalized learning, both math and reading scores improved over 2 years. Even more encouraging, the lowest-performing students made the most gains compared to their peers who were not receiving personalized learning. Among the students who saw the greatest achievement gains, the study found those students to have “learning spaces that support personalized learning strategies.”

These studies help guide and encourage the use of personalized learning strategies at home. Personalized learning helps create a comfortable environment for students, by not placing them under undo stress from content that is too challenging, and by presenting the right supporting knowledge to achieve a student’s learning goals. Online learning which employs positive, supportive, personalized learning strategies can be used to create an effective home learning environment.

Weiss again reminds us that “it’s crucial that you set up the learning situation in a manner that arouses learners’ feelings of security, well-being, and self-confidence. It’s equally important to challenge them without threats, intimidation, or pressure.”