2e - Experience - Motivational

Posted by Helen St Clair Tracy in Level 2 - How The Brain Learns
Published: 07/03/2019, 12:50am | Updated: 13/03/2019, 11:32am

Video Link: https://vimeo.com/323250212

The word motivated is generally thought of as a positive feeling, like to be driven and enthusiastic.

When motivated we are able to apply ourselves much more effectively to what we are doing.

When not motivated, it is very difficult to find the enthusiasm to try our hardest, and this makes learning for anyone much more difficult.

We are motivated when we see there is a reward, and depending on the reward, we can push ourselves to do things that are difficult, stressful and even unpleasant.

Rewards come in all shapes and sizes - here are a few examples...


  • A feeling of happiness
  • To know you will make someone else feel happy / better (which in turn makes you feel happier)
  • To further your career, so you study for exams, with the hope that it will lead to opportunities that will be more enjoyable (which in turn will make you feel happier)
  • To test your limits and push your boundaries to see what you are capable of achieving, to get a sense of achievement (which in turn will make you feel happier)

There is a clear theme! On some level, all the rewards lead to you feeling happier, even if the reward is complex, or if it is delayed and may not be obvious. Like learning about CVI to help someone. The learning takes time, and the help takes time, but knowing you are on a path to help someone you care about will in turn, make you feel happier.

We come pre-programmed to do things better if the expected outcome increases our feeling of well-being or happiness. Equally, we come pre-programmed to avoid doing things that reduce those same feelings.

Experiences don't have to be motivational to be learnable. Think of a class you liked least at school, you would have learnt something, but you would have learnt a lot more had you been motivated.

Think about the class in school you least liked, and probably least motivated you.

Why didn't you like it? Why did you lack motivation for this class in particular?

Why is a very important question, when it comes to motivation, particularly where there is a lack of motivation.

When asked why we are not motivated, the answer is often something like:

  • I don't enjoy it
  • I'm not very good at it
  • I find it boring
  • I find it difficult
  • I find it confusing
  • I find it frightening

These are all valid answers, but they don't tell us WHY?

Some children don't like certain sports, but why?Some children don't like certain sports, but why?

Let us use the example of sports, as some love sports and push themselves hard to train and improve their skills, whilst others hate sports and do all they can to avoid them.

The reasons listed above might be relevant, but to understand why, we have to go back to the previous two lessons (Lesson 2c Experience Perceivable and Lesson 2d Experience Meaningful) and consider:

  • 1) Is the experience clearly perceivable?
  • 2) Is the experience meaningful?

1. Is the experience clearly perceivable:

If we use this game of hockey as an example, here are some difficulties people have shared with us, that might explain why, for some, it less clearly perceivable to understand, that is to learn to play and enjoy:

  • There are lots of people moving in different directions very fast, this will be difficult for a person with many different visual impairments. Result - it doesn't make sense.
  • The ball is low down, and won't always be visible (as will be explained in the following level). Result - it doesn't make sense.
  • There is lots of shouting, different voices coming from different directions, which are hard to place and understand. Result - it doesn't make sense and can be frightening.
  • People with sticks are running towards you and around you, and it may not be possible to work out if they are going to hit you or not. Result - it is frightening.

Result - no, this experience is not clearly perceivable (it doesn't make sense, it can be frightening, so I don't like it and will avoid it).

2. Is the experience is meaningful?

Going back to our wall of knowledge (in Lesson 2d), learning a new sport is taught step by step, at first slowly. If the person has any of the challenges above, then the learning process will be more difficult, and the child may lack confidence.

The bricks are unsafe, and here the bricks are the memories of how to do something, that involves many different skills all working together, on a playing field that varies because of the number of different people on it.

Even if the person can clearly perceive the experience, if it lacks meaning because the rules are not understood, or the person lacks confidence for the skills of the game they are trying to play, gaining motivation will be difficult.

Result - no, this experience is not always meaningful.

To understand why a person is not motivated, does not mean they have to learn to do something they don't like. If the person is not motivated to play hockey because they can't see the ball, then that is arguably a good reason not to play hockey, but now they know why.

This theme of asking why is central to these lessons. CVI is a truly hidden disability, hidden even from the person who has it, and so we need to be detectives.

To understand a hidden disability is challenging, because it is hidden. One of the ways to learn about a person's strengths and challenges, is to look at what does and does not motivate them.

  • Where the person is motivated, consider what they are doing or enjoying, and try to work out what it is about this experience that is so positive.
  • Where a person is not motivated, consider why they are not enjoying what they are doing, and possibly resisting it.

In future lessons we will explain a great deal about cerebral visual impairments, and the challenges they create, but everyone affected is different. In addition to what we can teach you about CVI, when working with anyone affected, the best outcome will need an expert knowledge of that person, in terms of:

  • Their life to date
  • Things they love
  • Things they hate
  • Things they can do
  • Things they want to do
  • Things that are difficult
  • Things that are stressful

You will not get all the answers about CVI from any text book, class or paper. Central to understanding CVI is the individual with CVI.

Here, you need to start getting used to doing something important - thinking!

To understand the person with CVI most usefully, you need to look beyond tests or tick box exercises. Some questionnaires can be useful for guidance, and as a medical diagnostic tool, but when it comes to the support for the individual, this needs to be personal

Accessible Learning needs each experience to be motivational.


Before you move on to the next level, please check:

  • You understand what motivation is, in terms of the reward and ultimate increase in feeling of wellbeing.
  • You understand the importance of knowing the reasons why a person is and is not motivated.

Next lesson: Level 2f How the Brain Learns: Experience - Accessible Learning


Your generous donations will be put to immediate use in supporting our charity...

Donate Here

About Us

At CVI Scotland we are devoted to helping people understand cerebral visual impairments, and together working towards developing the understanding of this complex condition.