Don’t shut me out! The Impact of Affective Filtering on the Adult Learner
El filtroafectivo y el estudianteadulto Imagine this… You read the description of a presentation on affective filtering in the College’s Teaching Learning Center and decide to attend. You walk in and find your seat. The presenter is at the front of the room, waiting to begin. When it’s time to start, she shows the title slide and introduces herself – all in Spanish! This is how the TLC presentation began for the participants as a means of starting the discussion on affective filtering. El impacto del filtro en la enseñanza y el aprendizaje
What just happened? How would you describe your reaction to the start of the session? • Surprised • “trying to figure it out” • “I’m in trouble” • Would “go with it” even though I wouldn’t retain anything • Smile and nod response You’ve just experienced an affective response that would activate your affective filter.
What is an affective filter? • An emotional or personal reaction that blocks a learner from focusing on the task at hand • When a learner’s “baggage” gets in his/her way of learning
What factors contribute to an affective filter? • Previous learning styles (over-reliance on one style that may not work best in the new situation) • Mismatch of student and teacher expectations • Low self-confidence • Prior knowledge (either lack of or inaccurate knowledge) • Sleep deprivation • Fear of embarrassment • Job, family, “LIFE” • Concern about grades or status • Bias, stereotyping • Lack of awareness of student’s own attitude • Lack of educational experience or college literacy • Power dynamics • Feeling over-prepared, resentment for required classes, false confidence
What does affective filtering mean for learning? The language pedagogy perspective • Stephen Krashen (1982) includes the “affective filter hypothesis” as part of his theory of second language acquisition • …comprehensible input can have its effect on acquisition only when affective conditions are optimal: (1) the acquirer is motivated; (2) he has self-confidence and a good self-image; and (3) his level of anxiety is low. When learners are “put on the defensive”…the affective filter is high, and comprehensible input can not “get in” (Omaggio Hadley 2001).
A psychological perspective • Affective incoherence or incongruity that sufficiently distracts a learner from the task. • When a person’s expectation of a situation differs from what actually happens, s/he is forced to resolve the conflict in a subconscious process before attention can be given to the task at hand. • When a student is experiencing an affective reaction to a situation (whether inside the classroom or resulting from something outside the class,) psychologically s/he may not be able to simply “tune it out” and pay attention.
Black et al. “The effects of anxiety on affective learning and serial position recall” • When asked to recall a series of words, either all negative or all positive, participants would typically remember the first negative words and the last positive words. Although not part of the conclusion from this study, could this have implications on how an instructor begins class and what feelings students are most likely to walk away with once class is over? • Anxious individuals performed worse on the first trial in the study. However, with repeated trials, anxiety became less of a factor.
How do we recognize affective filtering? • Facial expressions, lack of eye contact • Body language (shoulders hunched, head down, “hiding” behaviors) • General performance level • Hearing comments like “I’m starving” or “It’s freezing in here” • Leaving the classroom • Passive, disengaged • Acting out • Instructors also need to be aware of own affective filters
What can we do to help lower affective filters? • Set a tone of community and mutual respect • Provide a framework for the lesson • Outline, context • Include a warm-up exercise • Transition to the classroom • Activate schemata • Use a variety of delivery styles with a certain level of flexibility • Learning styles and beyond • Use advance organizers and guides where applicable
Give students low-risk chances to practice a skill before being graded • Provide specific feedback that “recognizes real progress and transparency in addressing errors.” (Isserlis 23) • Provide opportunities for students to offer feedback • Educate ourselves about available student services Your ideas? What action can you take for lowering the affective filters in your classes?
Additional ideas generated at the TLC session on 4/27/10: • Acknowledge the issues students are having • Use sense of humor • Use students’ names • Tell about yourself, be personable • Point out the difficult areas in the course, helps build faith in the instructor • Establish teacher credibility (share your background, experience with the course) • Tell the “why”s – why are you assigning this? • Give students some ownership in the course (syllabus input) • Have students evaluate whether the course is meeting its learning outcomes (helps them be aware of the purposes in the course and their role) • Offer explicit instruction about the role of social support or strategies for dealing with their own affective issues
Works cited • Black, Samantha J., et al. “The Effects of Anxiety on Affective Learning and Serial Position Recall.” International Journal of Neuroscience 118 (2008): 1269-85. EBSCOhost. Web. 8 Apr. 2010. • Centerbar, David B., et al. “Affective Incoherence: When Affective Concepts and Embodied Reactions Clash.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 94.4 (2008): 560-78. EBSCOhost. Web. 8 Apr. 2010. • Isserlis, Janet. “Adults in Programs for the ‘Academically Underprepared’.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 120 (2008): 19-26. EBSCOhost. Web. 8 Apr. 2010. • Krashen, Stephen. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. New York: Pergamon P, 1982. Stephen D Krashen. Web. 8 Apr. 2010. • Omaggio Hadley, Alice. Teaching Language in Context. 3rd ed. Boston: Heinle, 2001. Print.