How less pressure leads to more learning

Sandy Hooda, Co-Founder of Vega Schools


In the past, classroom learning has been associated with the words boredom, burdensome, fearsome, discipline, strictness and uninspiring. Many children go through school experiencing one of more of these experiences.

During the Pandemic many children were stuck at home with less exposure to fun learning and friends. Now although schools have reopened, they need to take extra care to not pressurise children with excessive academic stress. Slow is better than fast, once children are once again adjusted and happy, they will learn better. Research supports this too, read on!

Times are changing. Some of the leading research in neuroscience and psychology says that learn best when they are happy, find their learning fun, experience less stress and have a friendly environment.

Judy Willis, a neurologist, educator and writer at Psychology Today states that ‘superior learning takes place when classroom experiences are enjoyable, and relevant to students’ lives, interests and experiences. Scans demonstrate that under stressful conditions information is blocked from entering the brain’s areas of higher cognitive memory consolidation and storage’.

Let us look at the main elements that lead to less pressure and more learning.

Less stress (and more fun) in the classroom

Willis’ work on ‘emotional atmosphere’ states that authoritarian teachers and intimidating leaders undermine learning.  Research also states that while some stress is good, students should not be pushed beyond a point where learning actually diminishes.

Children should have voice and choice

Willis further states that ‘excessive structure and lack of choice robs learners of their autonomy’. Children who have voice and choice are more likely to have higher motivation levels and greater ownership of their learning. The ‘desire to learn’ is the most important gift we can give children.

Joyful learning (SCARF Model)

The renown executive coach David Rock states that in optimal learning environments teachers should never trigger threat responses. His SCARF model states that children (and adults) perform best in conditions where status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness are maintained. These conditions create ‘joyful learning’ which leads to maximum learning.

Safety, intimacy and trust

Ed Batista, the well known executive coach states that ‘when safety, trust and intimacy are established, these qualities support the actions that lead to greater success as a group’. He further states that in these conditions ‘our ability to learn, to increase our self awareness and to change our behavior in order to achieve our goals more effectively increases dramatically’.

Given what experts are saying, some important questions for parents are:

-Does my child’s school create more fun (and less stress) in the classroom?

-Does the school enable joyful learning?

-Are teachers actively building trust, safety and intimacy?

-Is my child motivated enough to own his/her learning process?

-Are the best schools in Gurgaon, or elsewhere in the country enabling ‘less pressure and more learning’?

These questions are as applicable in the pre-nursery and nursery school as they are in kindergarten and primary school. Once the children build relationships and begin to enjoy learning they will adapt to the academic pressure in middle and senior schools more easily.

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