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5 Points To Transform Education

Personalized Learning Can Help Individuals Use the Power of Their Emotions

POINT 1 -  According to 20th century science the study of emotions was considered too subjective or immeasurable to be useful as a foundation for education. We did not have the technology to measure emotions concretely. Today, neuroscientists are measuring how emotions strengthen synaptic connections in the brain and are demonstrating how educated professionals have developed many more synaptic connections through education.

These advances offer valuable insight to help us understand how emotions impact learning. Advertisers have long used emotions to increase sales. Sports psychologists use emotions to enhance performance.

Our current educational models do not address emotion:

  • We still use “passive learning”. Developed for Industrial Age assemby line workers, this approach is inappropriate for today’s sophisticated knowledge workers.
  • We still use "standardized curricula". Personalized educational models help students tap into emotional resources, master emotions, and access true potential.
  • We still "ignore feelings". People are not machines. The humanistic approach aligns better to neuroscience and supports motivation, persistence and achievement.


POINT 2 - Innovation and higher-order thinking is critical to maintaining professional relevance. Innovation underpins the growth of nations and depends on an educational system that fosters achievement in all age groups and all areas of society. The Council On Competitiveness shows that we have dropped to second place in world innovation capability. The National Science Board reports a troubling decline in the number of U.S. citizens who are studying in fields that require higher-order thinking skills and innovation. Today’s challenge is to find solutions that encourage individuals to make learning “a rewarding part of everyday life.” Unfortunately, we are using yesterday’s education models which are not applicable to active-thinking knowledge workers.

These old educational models encourage passivity by supporting memorization and rule-based learning, one-size-fits-all courses, and sage-on-the-stage instruction. Industrial-age models produce passive learners who are not prepared for a constantly changing, information-seeking world.

POINT 3 - Education and business leadership must collectively push for a major paradigm shift to meet the information and decision-making needs of today's workforce. The lack of systemic change in education has created an urgent institutional crisis that must be solved.

Only 32% of all students leave high school prepared for a four-year college". (Gates Foundation, 2004)

Of those, 28% require remedial courses. Research suggests that improving thinking and innovation requires a comprehensive understanding of the psychological factors that impact learning mechanisms and processes. Not understanding these factors results in dissatisfaction, attrition, retention problems, and wasted resources. Systemic change means developing new, more relevant models that support personalized strategies to harness the psychological sources (overlooking our prejudice against emotionality) to drive active learning. Using personalization and just-in-time environments, learners can sense, synthesize, create new knowledge and act upon decisions continuously - emotions fuel this iterative process.

To develop problem-solvers and thinkers who want to become lifelong learners, we need to show them how to tap into passions and actively involve them in critical thinking, decision making, and innovation processes.

POINT 4 - In creating solutions that lead to relevant systemic change, we must deepen our knowledge of individual differences in learning. We must clearly understand why some individuals are more prepared to use their emotions to succeed. Advances in neuroscience research show how vitally important it is that we accept the dominant power of emotions on learning, memory, attention, values, and persistence to help those who are less prepared to learn. We can no longer afford the luxury of overlooking the impact of emotions and the need for personalization.

POINT 5 - Personalized instructional solutions that reliably provide targeted, scalable solutions and infrastructure can help develop more self-motivated, self-directed, and autonomous learners who intentionally and strategically harness the power of their emotions to innovate. High attrition rates demonstrate that in technologically mediated environments students will fail or drop out if emotional needs are unmet, especially those who are more dependent on instructors and social interaction. Emotion drives the learning process and is the mortar that cements new, successful learning experiences to form a foundation that leads to optimum learner performance.

Original article by Dr. Margaret Martinez. Edited and reprinted by Kelley Graham with Author permission.