The Dopamine Lollipop


As my spring quarter nears its end- I have felt the increasing stress with due dates and reading workload. The amounting stress leads me to worrying that I will not to be able to remember what I have just read, a vicious cycle that all students go through. It got me thinking how my students will handle stress in the classroom when approached by new learning experiences. In a fabulous coincidence I came across Leaps and Bounds for Teachers with John Medina (author of Brain Rules) the hour long audio interview covers his thoughts on understanding the brain truths of the learning experience of our students. Trying to tackle the overstretched ever confounding question “why it is hard for students to remember what was just taught to them?”
Identifying the two types of memory, declarative memory and autobiographical memory, it is the declarative type that impacts students. Medina gives a good explanation – but basically the definition of the declarative memory is when you declare something as verbal proposition. We process new information then it goes through an immediate memory buffer (this takes thirty seconds), if it is not stored after that (though information is only stored up to two hours) then our brain dumps the information. To avoid “dumping”, that information needs to be repeated, after that information will be placed in our working memory. However, to stimulate the working memory there needs to be another interval of repetition. By Median’s standards- students would effectively learn if lessons were set around an interval of every two hours and thirty seconds.
What struck me the most was how this makes complete sense to me as a student, future educator and person: repetition makes memory sticky. By sticky, I mean it will go into our brain and stick, making it all the easier to open up that “file drawer” to answer a question or recall something. This interval of repeating information every two hours and thirty seconds would have students retaining the lessons and guarantee they are more relaxed while learning. If they miss it the first time, they know they can catch it the seconded time around or the third. Median calls this cycle of repetition The Dopamine Lollipop.
The fear of “missing an important part” of a lesson weighs heavily on most students. This weight surmounts to stress, and we all know stress is a disease in learning. When the brain is stressed it shuts down to all learning, making it nearly impossible to have the lesson stick.
So what do we think? Will creating lessons around repeated intervals help our students learn and remember what they have learned? I know this is something I will strive for in my classroom.

Cover of "Brain Rules: 12 Principles for ...
Cover via Amazon

3 thoughts on “The Dopamine Lollipop

  1. Great entry! I like this line especially “By sticky, I mean it will go into our brain and stick, making it all the easier to open up that “file drawer” to answer a question or recall something.”

    I feel like this kind of learner. I forget how much I know until I need to open that drawer and pull the info out.

  2. This is so interesting! It makes me think about how to schedule the day in the classroom. Perhaps instead of doing every subject every day, we should do a few M, W, F with review of lessons from the morning two hours later, then we could do the other subjects Tu, Th, again with a review two hours later and then alternate which days of the week we teach the subjects the following week. I think it may be important to alternate which subjects are taught in the morning in order to accommodate “morning people” and “afternoon people.” That way a student is given more of an opportunity to succeed even if he or she is in a food coma after lunch or is half asleep in the morning. This seems more fair to me.

  3. uncommon teacher-thank you for bringing up ” morning” and “afternoon” people , i agree that changing the classroom atmosphere and bringing the lessons back around for the students who may have missed it the first time is a great idea- one i will be sure to use in my classroom.

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