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Skip to 0 minutes and 14 seconds And these neuromodulators can help direct our attention to learning. But there’s also evidence that they enhance learning itself. These effects on attentional learning have also been found when something new is encountered that hasn’t been seen before. It seems our reward system can respond to novelty in much the same way as it responds to rewards. Our attraction to novelty and uncertainty may help explain why satisfying our curiosity at the brain level can be its own reward. And why stimulating curiosity can be an effective way to engage students with their learning.


Novelty can help orient our attention, releasing neuromodulators in the brain that can increase engagement and promote learning (Schomaker and Meeter, 2015).

Novel contexts can help engage students initially with a new topic, or help encourage them to apply and practice their freshly learnt knowledge in new scenarios, which is important for consolidating their understanding, memory and transfer of that knowledge. Topics that engage curiosity have been shown to stimulate activities in the brain’s reward regions (Min Jeong et al., 2009).

Creating a hook

Take a look at this additional video. Science teacher Paul Grooby captures the attention of his students at the beginning of a lesson with a surprising demonstration. As if by magic, pouring a jug of water into different glasses produces a range of different drinks. You can tell from the look on students faces that they are completely focused, and they are curious about how the trick works.


Chose one lesson that you are going to teach next week, or an activity, and decide how you use novelty to engage students. This doesn’t need to be a magic trick! Novelty can include a new context, something unexpected, a different approach to teaching than you normally take, even changing the room around.

Share your ‘hook’ below.

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This video is from the free online course:

The Science of Learning

National STEM Learning Centre