Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, The Science of Learning. Join the course to learn more.


Students’ core beliefs about learning influence their response to challenge, and they benefit from the belief that ability comes about through effort rather than being fixed.

This can increase students’ resilience and set in motion positive cycles that increase success over time. Intervention that improves student awareness of the plasticity of the brain, and their role in constructing their own abilities, has been shown to improve their persistence in their academic studies, reducing drop-out rates (Paunesku et al., 2015) and improving self-concept and academic outcomes (Blackwell et al., 2007).

This effect is thought to operate by encouraging students to work at resisting their reward system response when this response is in relation to stimuli other than their work (e.g. texting a friend rather than revising). This is why the arrows pass in both directions between the subcortical reward system structures and the frontal cortex in our EBC learning process representations.

Engagement process in learning - showing bidirectional arrows between subcortical region and frontal cortex

The reward system can help direct the learner’s conscious attention and engage their frontal learning memory networks with a learning opportunity when this opportunity is suitably engaging, but the frontal lobes can also help inhibit the effects of the reward system if this system is being activated by a distraction.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

The Science of Learning

National STEM Learning Centre