How children use their emotions to learn

Aznar, A., Rienties, B. C. & Hillaire, G. (2016). How children use their emotions to learn, Retrieved from:

Emotions affect how we learn. We know that people who are able to pay attention, concentrate and have better problem solving skills are those who tend to be more competent with expressing, regulating and understanding emotions. This article discusses opportunities for learning about emotions from a young age where family interactions play a key role in the early development of emotional competence. As children grow, their learning pool expands to include influences from extended family, peers, literature and the school environment.

Once a child begins school, the need for continued development of emotional competencies becomes increasingly apparent. The article draws attention to specific challenges where knowledge of emotions would be crucial including school transition, socialisation and student teacher relationships. The degree to which students are successful in navigating around these challenges is shown to be related to their overall academic performance and it is not hard to imagine how this could be. Consider the way in which a child’s perceived level of acceptance and security at school could impact on their level of self- confidence and self – efficacy.

For example, if we consider that a child who is more skilled at understanding the emotions of others will typically show a higher level of empathy for others, such a child will also be more likely to have successful friendships and a greater sense of belonging. This provides a solid platform from which the child would be able to adapt well to their school environment and meet academic demands. The article contrasts this type of student with the profile of one who might lack the skills in the domain of understanding others emotions. A student who finds it hard to connect with their peers or experiences frequent conflict in their relationships may lack the motivation to concentrate on academic tasks. Similarly, students who are more skilled at managing and regulating their own emotions are more likely to be in a better position to cope with any stress or anxiety that may arise from the school experience and create a distraction in the classroom or the playground.

Given the potential impact of emotional knowledge and skill on a student’s ability to learn, the article concludes by asking readers to consider the utility of measuring emotional competence in students alongside traditional measures of achievement.