Connections Continued


What I have learned through Units four and five in my Cognitive Science of Teaching and Learning Class is that emotions, motivation, and attention all can have an impact on a child’s learning and, therefore, it is essential that teachers use teaching strategies that help children learn to the best of their ability and “make the game worth playing” (Perkins, 2009, p. 9). When educators instruct students, it is important to present the information in an interesting way to help students become engaged and stay attentive as well as motivated and excited to learn about the topic. The more a student is involved in their learning, the more a child will progress in his/her learning.

The emotions a student has regarding new information can have an impact on his/her learning. When a student is excited and interesting in what is being taught, a student will be motivated to be engaged in the learning activities and discussions. Also, when a student/learner is presented with information that he/she can connect with, it helps to “make the game worth playing” because the student can recognize how the information can fit into his/her own life and past and future experiences (Perkins, 2009, p. 9). In my profession, I urge teachers to use a project approach when creating and implementing lessons and individualized activities for students. This approach is “effective in helping students understand, apply, and retain information. Other benefits include building skills like critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. Students who work on projects show increased motivation and engagement in their studies” (Edutopia, 2009). When using this method of instruction, teachers choose a central theme, which is largely based on what the students are talking about in the classroom and connects to the students’ life experiences. For example, if the students have been interested in the animals they see while outside on the playground, the teachers plan a theme about animals. The teachers begin with the topic of animals and progress to related themes based on what the students are excited to learn more about, such as the homes the animals make or live in.

“Project-based learning by definition involves big wholes that take some time to work through. But a whole game need not to be a big game” (Perkins, 2009, p. 32). The project helps students progress from learning about one main topic to teaching related activities throughout the month to provide students with more in depth activities/ideas as compared to having only weekly themes. This idea relates to Perkins (2009) statement that “the journey to the full version of the whole game amounts to a staircase of junior versions with steps that become successively more complex and demanding” (p. 42). The teachers in my program have found the project approach to be very successful because it helps to motivate students about what they are learning about as well as create the students to be very excited in the activities they are engaged in. Therefore, this helps to “make the game worth playing” because students want to participate in activities because they are interested and motivated about the topics being taught, which creates the students to be emotionally committed to learning more about the topics/ideas (Perkins, 2009, p.9).

The following is a video explaining the project approach and why it should be used in the classroom.

Motivating students and providing engaging activities are two aspects of attention and memory that influences instruction. When activities and learning tasks become more challenging and difficult, it is essential that each student is engaged and pays close attention to what is being taught so that the student can absorb and understand the concepts. “Teaching for understanding is a way of making the game worth playing” (Perkins, 2009, p. 65). If a student loses interest in the topics being discussed, the teacher will not have the student’s undivided attention because his/her mind will be elsewhere. “When we withdraw attention from an event or object, we lose consciousness of its attributes and properties” (Ahmadi, Gilakjani, & Ahmadi, 2011, p. 1366). Therefore, the student will not remember what the teacher had taught. If a student is not paying attention to the concepts being discussed, the student will not learn the information and, therefore, when asked to complete a task or activity related to the ideas the child will be unable to recall any of the information from his/her memory. The reason the student would not be able to remember any of the information is because the student never learned the information initially because he/she was not paying attention. “The ability to selectively process information (attention) and to retain information in an accessible state (working memory) are critical aspects of our cognitive capacities” (Fougnie, 2008, p.1). A student needs to be attentive during a lesson in order internalize the information in his/her memory to be used in a future activity or experience. “The whole point of education is to prepare people with skills and knowledge and understanding for use elsewhere, often very elsewhere” (Perkins, 2009, p. 114). Therefore, it is essential that teachers make learning exciting and interesting to keep each student’s attention during learning activities. When students are conscious of what they are learning, it will help ensure a child retains and remembers the information to use in similar future experiences.

Within my educational context, I see intrinsic motivation come into play when children are interested in topics being taught and truly wish to be involved and engaged in the activities presented. When the students show they have a true interest in what is being discussed, the students are more likely to progress in their thinking and abilities because they have a desire to learn. Perkins (2009) stated that “intrinsic motivation predicted greater achievement” (p. 55). In my educational context, the teachers plan activities based on what the students are interested in, which I believe is very important to the academic success of the students. In addition, “Intrinsic motivations are more effective motivators for all humans, including children” (Houde, 2006, p. 91). Therefore, it is important that teachers plan for activities that will result in excitement from the students. The more students want to be engaged in activities, the more students will actively participate and collaborate with peers to acquire new concepts and form new understandings and beliefs. In addition, it important that teachers consistently observe students during activities and acknowledge when students may not be interested in a planned activity. If students do not have an interest or are not motivated to be engaged in an activity, a teacher should alternate the activity or implement a different activity to ensure the students want to be actively involved in the learning activity. I believe it is important for teachers to recognize when to change or alter an activity to ensure the children’s learning needs and interests are being met.

I also see extrinsic motivation in my educational context come into play when students wish to earn a special reward for behavior. A teaching strategy that has proven to be successful is implementing a reward jar that is filled when a student or the whole classroom exhibits exemplary behavior. For example, if a student drew a picture for another student who was sad, the teacher would place a tangram shape into the jar and communicate to the students why a piece was being added to the jar. Teachers have the students vote on what special treat they would like when all of the tangram pieces are earned, such as a special cooking activity. Also, extrinsic motivation comes into play when students have challenging behaviors. Teachers can implement many strategies, such as positive reinforcement, redirection, and reinforcement of social emotional skills. “Motivation can vary not only in level, but also in orientation and type of motivation” (Mirabela-Constanta & Maria-Madela, 2011, p. 672). Therefore, there are times when teachers find the need to implement a sticker chart for individual students to motivate the child to work towards a specific behavioral goal. The students get excited about earning stickers and their behavior gradually improves because the students are motivated to achieve a specific goal, such as filling up a sticker chart. Over time, the student no longer needs the stickers to motivate him/her to exhibit a specific positive behavior.

The following link explains motivation and how it can influence the way a student learns in the classroom.

Teaching strategies that would best support “working on the hard parts” in relationship to my own learning environment are to consistently plan for activities and concepts that are interesting and engaging to the students as well provide activities that match a student’s ability level (Perkins, 2009,.p. 79). In my educational context, teachers plan themes based on what the students are talking about and showing interest in with fellow children. When students are provided with topics they find fascinating, it motivates the students to learn more about the subject and engage in planned activities. The teachers also ask questions to have the students reflect on what they are learning and find connections to their own lives. “By making connections between a new concept and elements of their personal experience-based consciousness, learners can bring both life and meaning to new ideas” (Sheckley & Bell, 2006, p. 48). In addition, the teachers plan small group activities that match each student’s ability level. The teachers choose specific state standards and tier the activity to progress the child to the next leveled benchmark. When students are challenged with activities that meet their needs, it creates the students to progress in their learning much more quickly in comparison to teaching in a one size fits all approach. “Level of challenge is a powerful factor in motivation” (Perkins, 2009, p. 83). When a child is engaged in an activity that matches his/her academic need and level, it helps the child feel confident in his/her ability to complete the task. Also, during small group activities, the teachers observe and assess the students as well as document the student’s performance. “The basic idea of ongoing assessment was assessment early and often, not just as topics wind down…It’s assessment designed squarely to feed into the learning process and make the learning stronger” (Perkins, 2009, p.83). Therefore, each time the teachers assess each child’s performance during an activity, he/she can plan for future activities based on how the student is progressing in the learning objective. It is important teachers provide developmentally appropriate activities to ensure the tasks are not too difficult or too easy. “To play the whole game, research has shown that students higher level needs must be met in order to motivate and engage them” (Ash, n.d., Slide 3).


Ahmadi, M., Gilakjani, A., & Ahmadi, S. (2011). The relationship between attention and consciousness. Journal of Language Teaching & Research, 2(6), 1366-1373. Retrieved from

Ash, D. (n.d.). Edu 510: The cognitive science of teaching and learning, unit 4, exploring the game and emotions [Presentation slides]. Retrieved from

Educational Portal. (2013). The importance of motivation in an educational environment. Retrieved from

Edutopia. (2009, March 2). An introduction to project-based learning [Video file]. Retrieved from

Fougnie, D. (2008). The relationship between attention and working memory. In New research on short term memory (pp. 1-45). Retrieved from

Houde, J. (2006, February). Andragogy and motivation: An examination of the principles of andragogy through two motivation theories. North Carolina State University. Retrieved from

Mirabela-Constanta, M. & Maria-Madela, A. (2011). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. An investigation of performance correlation on students. Annals of the University of Oradea, Economic Science Series, 20, (1), 671-677. Retrieved from

Ohio Resource Center. (2010, November 3). Project approach. Retrieved from

Perkins, D. (2009). Making learning whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sheckley, B. & Bell, S. (2006). Experience, consciousness, and learning: Implications for instruction. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, (110), 43-52. Retrieved from

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