Sabine Doebel is a cognitive scientist who knows a lot about the work of the human brain and shares her observations and research in her speech for TED Talks. Doebel (2019) tells about the importance of executive functions of the brain for learning and completing daily tasks, as well as the possibilities for training them. The main point of Doebel’s performance is the importance of context for the use and development of executive functions. The book Motivation and learning strategies for college success by Dembo and Seli also relate to Doebel’s findings, since the motivation studied by the authors is a context, the importance of which Doebel emphasizes.
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People in the learning process should be focused on the information and tasks that are necessary for mastering knowledge to improve their skills. Doebel (2019), in her speech, talks about the executive functions of the brain that contribute to the process of concentration and direction of a person’s actions and thoughts to a specific goal. She cites several examples of people experiencing lapse of executive function when they accidentally pour juice into cereal or miss a store on their way home. Doebel (2019) also tells about the uselessness of various exercises to improve these functions and shows an example of children who cannot switch from separation of images by color to their allocation by shapes. However, the scientist demonstrates another way of training with her findings.
Any learning or action requires motivation and a conscious desire to complete it. Doebel (2019) talks about the Marshmallow test that she conducted with some changes and demonstrates the importance of context for executive functions. The Marshmallow test is expressed in placing one marshmallow in front of the child, which he or she really wants. However, if he or she waits while the adult brings another marshmallow from another room, then he or she will receive both. Doebel (2019) also told the children that they belong to a team that was waiting for a second marshmallow or group that was not waiting. This test showed that the children most likely chose the same as their team. In conclusion, scientist says that the executive functions of children depended on context, and it is also useful for other tasks or learning. For example, receiving rewards after completing lessons can be such a context, and removing the phone is a strategy to achieve the goal. Thus, a Doebel study shows how context can be used to train the executive functions that are needed for learning.
These findings on the importance of context are in many ways similar to the motivation for learning. Dembo and Seli (2016), in the chapter “Understanding motivation,” talk about its importance for learning. In general, the context that Doebel is talking about can be completely different depending on the situation. However, her last remarks about studying Spanish or mathematics show that in this case, context is a motivation, although it is various. In one case, desire can be intensified by the example of another person, in another case, the opportunity to receive rewards. Dembo and Seli (2016) also note that factors that influence motivation are separated into three categories, namely sociocultural, internal, and classroom environment factors. The first category includes education, culture, and family, the second consists of the student’s beliefs, and the third group is teaching methods and conditions. The same factors can be interpreted in understanding the context of learning. For example, the desire to impress parents refers to sociocultural factors, while attending Spanish classes instead of self-study is a classroom environment factfactorerefore, the use of executive functions of the brain for learning is determined by motivation.
In addition, another similar point of the chapter and Doebel’s speech is the level of focus on the assignment. At the very beginning of her performance, Doebel (2019) says that she was exhausted after driving lessons because she involved a lot of executive functions of her brain. She did this because driving is a difficult skill, and also because it is important to her. Dembo and Seli (2016) also talk about the level of engagement and effort to explain motivated behavior. Doebel describes her experience by the concept of context that is more complex and important for her than any everyday activities, which led to more intensive use of executive functions. Dembo and Seli (2016) say that student engagement, as well as a desire to overcome difficulties, is part of the motivation. Therefore, scientists actuaibe the same phenomenon by using different definitions.
In conclusion, the book by Dembo and Seli and Doebel’s talk have significant similarities. The executive functions depend on the context in which they are applied, and one can note that context and motivation are the same concepts by considering them as a means for learning. A student or child who does not have the motivation to complete the task will not be able to concentrate and direct his or her thoughts and actions to achieve the goal. Therefore, although Dembo does not address the topic of motivation in her speech, she implies it by considering the importance of context.
- Dembo, M. H., & Seli, H. (2016). Understanding motivation. In Motivation and learning strategies for college success: a focus on self-regulated learning. Routledge.
- Doebel, S. (2019, May 30). How your brain’s executive function works — and how to improve it. YouTube.