The Psychology of Learning


I want to teach my dog some new tricks. Nothing fancy, just some new behaviors that will make our lives better, such as improved interactions with other dogs or leaving paper on the ground without shredding it!  As I teach her these new behaviors, I see how motivation plays a key role in her learning.

According to the article “How Motivation Affects Learning and Behavior” in Educational Psychology (2008), “motivation is something that energizes, directs, and sustains behavior; it gets students moving, points them in a particular direction, and keeps them going.” While my student is a dog in this case, the theory still applies.  I know Belle will be motivated to learn these new behaviors with food (always) as well as positive reinforcement and consistency.

This applies to my students in the classroom as well; identifying the motivators in learning impacts how understanding is acquired or changed and knowledge and skills are retained.  I think our new initiative with the Project-Based Learning (PBL) approach will provide important motivators in my lessons by “engaging students by starting with the concrete and solving hands-on, real-world problems . . .” (Edutopia, June 9 2016).

So, I will continue to work with my dog this summer and identify what motivates her to learn.  And this summer I will also integrate the PBL approach in my lessons for the upcoming year by focusing on ‘real world problems’ to energize my students and keep them going in the right direction.  All of us can learn new tricks, right?




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