I bet you’re thinking “Why did she use the words affect and effect side by side in the title? It makes no sense!” If this was your first thought, hang in there — I promise it’ll make sense by the time you’re done reading this article. Let me start by defining the word affect as it was used in the title. Affect (pronounced “af-ekt”; noun) is a term referring to feeling or emotion, and it plays a key role in how an organism (i.e. humans) reacts to a stimuli. Much of my doctoral research is focused on understanding the relationship between affect and food and how that relationship influences food choice. Additionally, I also study affect’s role in biases as it pertains to interdisciplinary group settings. So when I read Shankar Vendantam’s How “The Hidden Brain” Does The Thinking For Us, I couldn’t help but think about how my research relates to inclusive pedagogy.
In his article, Vendantam mentions that our brain operates in two modes: “pilot” (consciously) and “autopilot” (subconsciously). What’s fascinating is that the brain absorbs and processes information in both modes simultaneously. We don’t realize it, but our brain takes a multitude of explicit (i.e. consciously perceived) and implicit (i.e. subconsciously perceived) factors into account when cataloging information for future use. Even the positive or negative emotions we experience during an interaction with a stimuli can affect how we will respond to it (or with other stimuli we perceive as being related) in the future.
As Vendantam stated “…the mind is hard-wired to ‘form associations between people and concepts’.” From the first moments of fetal existence, everything we encounter or experience shapes how we think for the rest of our lives. In the whole nature vs. nurture debate, it’s safe to say that nurture significantly impacts one’s cognitive processing. What does this mean in the context of pedagogy? Everything. It means that each and every student is unique in how they behave and interpret the world around them. This impacts their ability to learn and interact with information as well as their fellow classmates. As an educator, it means that your teaching style as well as the manner in which you conduct yourself and your class are greatly influenced by your past experiences. It means that the individual experiences of students in your class will impact their future actions. This is why, as educators, it is vital that we are mindful of ourselves, our students, and the learning environment we establish. Care needs to be taken to ensure our courses are as inclusive as we can make them. With 10 or even 300 unique individuals in a class, maximizing inclusivity may seem like a daunting challenge. However, by focusing on learner-centered materials and teaching methods, I believe any educator can be successfully implement inclusive pedagogy.