Dumont et al (2012) suggest that there are two primary 'gatekeepers' to learning: Emotion and Motivation.
The first gatekeeper, the emotional state of a student, directly affects their ability to learn. If a student is engaged in learning within an environment that promotes a positive state of emotion, they will be better able to utilise long-term recall, for example. Conversely, a poor emotional state will disrupt their ability to learn or to be able to recall information from the lesson at a later time.
While the emotional state of students can depend upon factors outside of the classroom, educators can seek to provide a learning enviroment that helps facilitate a postive experience for each student and therefore increase their ability to learn.
"Like emotion, the presence of positive motivation towards a learning task markedly increases the likelihood that students will engage in deep learning"1
Dumont et al propose that the role of the teacher should include providing the time, space and support for student reflection to determine the usefulness of learning strategies, as well as to provide positive support for those students who may have had negative learning experiences. In other words, teachers need to identify students' interests and help them to foster intrinsic motivation.
The Basic Principles of Motivation2
Students are more motivated to engage in learning when they:
Students direct their attention away from learning when they experience negative emotions.
Students free up cognitive resources for learning when they are able to influence the intensity, duration and expression of their emotions.
Students are more persistent in learning when they can manage their resources and deal with obstacles efficiently.
Students are more motivated to enage in learning and use motivation regulation strategies when they perceive the environment as favourable for learning.
1 Dumont, H., Istance, D., & Benavides, F. (2012) The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, OECD Innovative Learning Environments Project, p.4.
2 Dumont, H., Istance, D., & Benavides, F. (2010) The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, OECD Innovative Learning Environments Project, pp.91-107.