Brain Awareness increases motivation….and Problem solving does too!


“The human brain is the most complex organ in the human body and probably the most complex creation present on this universe. It is evident that, the world’s greatest man made wonders are a result of the human brain making it the most amazing feature in a human being. The human brain with its complexity acts like a storage device which holds safely a person’s most cherished memories” (Roberts, n.d.).  

Not only does the brain hold these cherished memories, but also bits and pieces of your everyday life.  The brain continually receives inputs from the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell, and then it processes these inputs accordingly.  Some things are automatic reflex, like covering your ears at a loud noise.  Some things are long-term lessons where a person has to be motivated to pay attention and transfer the new knowledge to long-term memory.  It seems that learning some basics about the brain and how it provides memory for learning helps a person to think intelligently.  One study from CfBT Education Trust (2014) indicated that 11 year olds who learned how their brains worked tended to think of themselves as more intelligent and flexible in the learning process (pp. 5).  This may have a long-term motivational effect on students because as they know more about how their brain works, they may alter their studies to increase learning effectiveness.  This is a valuable find.  Introducing a lesson on how the brain works to make memories and then having students use this knowledge to study a subject could link the two in their long-term memory for years to come.

Problem solving can also increase a student’s motivation to explore a topic, as stated by Eseryel, Ge, Ifenthaler, Law, and Miller (2014).  They state that the three basic needs for a person to be motivated are autonomy (self-regulating behavior to take control over a situation); competence (forward progression towards a goal, with feedback mechanisms) and self-efficacy (belief in self to get to the goal).  They speak of this motivation in the form of massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), but the structure needed for motivation can occur in the classroom as well.  “These motivational factors influence students’ regulation effort and reflection on their understanding of the problem and the quality of solutions (Pintrich, 2000).”  In the end, the higher the participant’s self-efficacy, the higher the engagement.  As an instructional designer, I can use this information to my advantage.  I can design a problem-solving exercise that starts with simpler problems, or problems the students have seen before.  When these are solved, the student will have more self-efficacy for finishing the exercise, and the main points of learning can begin.

The more I become educated on problem solving and motivation for learning, the more vociferous my research becomes.  Problem solving, “one’s efforts to achieve a goal for which one does not have an automatic solution” (Ertmer & Newby, 2007) has applications for everyone in everyday life, not just students and teachers.  The more invested a person can become in goals, the more motivated they become to reach those goals, and knowing how the brain functions to help obtain those goals goes a long way to attaining them quicker.


Additional articles on using problem solving in the classroom can be found here:



CfBT Education Trust. (2014). An awareness of neuroscience in education: can learning about the brain transform pupil’s motivation to learn?. Retrieved from

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspectivePerformance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4),50-71.

Eseryel, D., Law, V., Ifenthaler, D., Ge, X., & Miller, R. (2014). An Investigation of the Interrelationships between Motivation, Engagement, and Complex Problem Solving in Game-based Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 17 (1), 42–53.

Roberts, D. (n.d.). 10 interesting facts about the human brain [Blog post].  Retrieved from


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