As a teacher, capturing and maintaining students’ attention is crucial to effective teaching and learning. Understanding the complex relationship between hormones like dopamine and cortisol and attention can help you plan your lessons. Dopamine is associated with pleasure and reward and plays a key role in reinforcing positive behaviors and increasing immediate attention. Cortisol, on the other hand, the “stress hormone”, can strengthen or weaken concentration in the short term, depending on its concentration. Using this knowledge, teachers can create a learning environment that promotes optimal learning and memory performance and helps students stay focused and engaged in class.But what is the connection between dopamine, cortisol and attention, and how can you apply this knowledge to classroom practice to keep students motivated and focused?
Dopamine and Crotisol
Let me first introduce you to dopamine and cortisol. These are two important hormones that play an important role in learning and memory processes.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, reward and motivation. It plays a key role in the brain’s reward system, helping to reinforce behaviors that are associated with positive outcomes.When we experience something rewarding, such as receiving a compliment or achieving a goal, dopamine is released in the brain. This release of dopamine helps strengthen the neural connections associated with that behavior, thereby increasing the likelihood that we will repeat that behavior in the future.

The Yerkes-Dodson law is a well-known principle in psychology that describes the connection between arousal and performance. According to this law, performance increases with physiological or psychological excitement, but only up to a certain point. Above this optimal level of arousal, performance begins to decline.

The role of dopamine and cortisol in learning and memory is closely related to the Yerkes-Dodson law. Reward and motivation can increase arousal and improve performance to a certain level.However, when arousal levels become too high, learning and memory processes can be disrupted. In fact, excessive excitement can lead to lack of concentration, anxiety and stress, which can affect cognitive performance.

Likewise, cortisol can also increase arousal and increase performance to a certain level. However, if cortisol levels are too high or prolonged, it can lead to impairments in learning and memory processes, as mentioned above.

Therefore, the Yerkes-Dodson law suggests that there is an optimal level of arousal that promotes learning and memory processes.This optimal level can vary depending on the person and the task. To promote optimal learning and memory performance, it is important to manage stress and maintain a healthy wake-wake balance.

A lack of enthusiasm can lead to boredom and disinterest, while too much excitement can lead to anxiety and stress.
What does this mean for attention?
The connection between dopamine, cortisol and the Yerkes-Dodson law can also be applied to different types of attention: immediate, short-term and long-term attention.

Immediate attention is the act of capturing a student’s attention at a specific moment. Our attention is immediately drawn to a loud noise on the street.In the classroom, it can be a sign, sound, saying, or other stimulus that draws students’ attention to a specific person or topic in the classroom.

The short-term focus goes even further. This may refer to the ability to sustain attention for a short period of time, usually a few minutes, or for the entire lesson.

Long-term attention refers to the ability to sustain attention over a long period of time, usually hours, days, or weeks.

Now that your attention has been divided into three different time periods, how can you connect different triggers to think more consciously about engaging your attention?
Frame Triggers
The way a moment, activity, lesson, or unit is presented to children can promote student engagement.The gymnastics session could be better designed as a street dance or parkour session to avoid over-involving some students, particularly children with social anxiety related to gymnastics. This allows attention to be held longer.

However, when you lean over during a lecture and whisper the “best advice” for completing an assignment, you are implying that this good advice is secret, unique, and important, which means that students are less likely to use it , their tasks are much greater. Work. The whisper immediately grabs the student’s attention and the “primary cue” can help with short-term concentration for the next 10 minutes of practice.

Framing Trigger allows teachers to present their next learning event, whether immediate, short-term or long-term, in a unique way to further engage students.

Reward Trigger
Probably the most talked about trigger, but may not always be used effectively. Intrinsic reward is closely related to dopamine. When students engage in rewarding activities, such as solving a difficult problem, learning a new skill, or completing a task, dopamine is released in the brain. This reinforces the behavior and strengthens the neural connections associated with the task, making us more likely to repeat the behavior in the future: long-term attention.

When students feel like they are making progress and achieving their goals, they are more likely to stay motivated and engaged.Therefore, clearly displaying progress and achievements in the classroom can ensure long-term engagement.

Short-term concentration can also be encouraged. Immediate feedback and recognition for successes and excellent behavior can help reinforce feelings of accomplishment, leading to increased dopamine release and increased engagement in children!
Knowledge Triggers
​Why do so many children love spelling tests? Because it’s familiar and routine. Familiarity can promote engagement by reducing cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.When we encounter new or unfamiliar situations, our brain releases cortisol in response to the perceived stress associated with that situation.

However, when we encounter familiar situations, our brain releases less cortisol, which can promote a feeling of comfort and relaxation. This can reduce anxiety and increase engagement as students are less distracted by stress and can better focus on the task at hand.

Familiarity can also provide a sense of predictability and control, which can be reassuring and encouraging for students. When students know classroom expectations and procedures, they are more likely to feel a sense of control and autonomy, which can increase their engagement and motivation.

However, it is important to remember that familiarity alone may not be enough to sustain engagement and motivation over time. While reducing cortisol levels through familiarity can help create a comfortable and supportive learning environment, it is important to also create opportunities for novelty and challenge, which leads to another trigger…
Triggers Disturbances
Although familiarity can be useful, Repetition can lead to boredom. and banal.There is room for disruption and novelty in the classroom. As mentioned above, dopamine is associated with pleasure, motivation, and reward. When we encounter new or surprising stimuli, such as a new activity or a difficult problem, dopamine is released in the brain. This can create a feeling of excitement and engagement as students are motivated to explore and learn more.

Disturbance and novelty can also increase cortisol levels and excitement because they bring with them a level of uncertainty and stress.In small doses, this can be helpful, as moderate stress can help increase alertness and attention. However, when stress becomes unbearable, it can impact attention and motivation, leading to feelings of anxiety and distraction.

To deal with the potential stress of current events and disruptions, it is important to balance this with familiarity and predictability. Providing a clear and consistent structure to the learning environment can help reduce stress and provide a sense of control and security. This can help students deal with the stress of new things and interruptions while benefiting from increased dopamine levels and increased engagement.

Positive stress, also called eustress, is a type of stress that occurs in response to positive or emotional events, such as a difficult task or an upcoming competition.
Stress Triggers
As mentioned in the previous title, positive stress can promote engagement through its effect on dopamine and cortisol. While stress is often associated with negative emotions and consequences, it is important to remember that not all stress is bad. In fact, some level of stress can be beneficial because it promotes alertness, attention, and motivation.

Positive stress, also called eustress, is a type of stress that occurs in response to positive or exciting events, such as a difficult task or an upcoming competition.Simple examples include a time limit for activities or a target number of answers to questions. It is important that the child associates these challenges with positive outcomes. If a failed attempt to overcome a challenge has negative consequences, a positive stressful environment is not created.

When we actually experience positive stress, our brain releases dopamine, which can produce feelings of excitement and engagement. It can motivate us to work hard and stay focused as we strive to achieve our goals and reap the rewards of our efforts.At the same time, positive stress also leads to the release of cortisol as the brain recognizes that it needs to remain alert and focused in the face of a difficult task. However, in small doses, cortisol can actually be beneficial as it can help increase alertness and concentration, preparing the body for the challenge ahead.

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