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