Crossing the Cartesian divide : an investigation into the role of emotion in science learning Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/4m90dz162

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  • Although many science educators and researchers believe that emotion is an important part of the learning process, few researchers have dealt with the topic in a systematic fashion. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of emotion in the learning process, particularly in the learning of science content. My study utilized a dimensional perspective which defined emotion in terms of arousal and valence, and drew on research from the fields of psychology and neuroscience to examine how emotion affects different aspects of cognition such as attention and memory. On the basis of these findings, I developed and tested a path model to investigate the predicted relationships among emotional arousal, valence, attention, intrinsic motivation and short- and long-term learning outcomes. I conducted the study in two phases. The first phase took place in a psychology laboratory in which participants watched either an exciting or neutral nature video, read a factual article related to the video and were tested on their learning. The second phase took place at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in which participants watched a narrated otter or sea lion presentation and took a short posttest after the show. In both phases, participants' emotional arousal, valence, attention, and motivation levels were also measured for inclusion in the model. The results indicated that emotional arousal was an important predictor of short-term learning in both experiments although its effect was fully mediated by attention at the aquarium. In addition, negative valence (displeasure) and intrinsic motivation were strong predictors of short-term learning in the laboratory experiment. At the aquarium, the narrator of the animal presentation strongly affected both attention and short-term learning—visitors who listened to a non-scripted rather than a scripted narration paid more attention and had significantly better short-term learning outcomes. In the aquarium study, emotional arousal correlated strongly with several measures of long-term learning. In particular, those who felt more arousal during the animal presentation were able to describe their experience at greater length and with more detail and complexity two to three months after their visit. My findings suggest that emotional arousal is an important component of science learning both directly and through its relationship with attention. Therefore, science educators in both informal and formal learning institutions may be able to increase both attention and learning outcomes by designing emotionally arousing learning experiences around the science content they wish to teach. In addition, the importance of narrator quality in the aquarium study suggests that narrators and teachers should be trained to deliver information in such a way that supports short- and long-term science learning.
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