What is arousal?
The term arousal relates to how awake or alert or how tired you are. Across a typical day it is very normal for arousal to fluctuate. Students, and teachers, need to constantly adjust their arousal levels throughout day and matching their arousal to the task and environment.
It can be helpful to think of arousal like steps, or a ladder. At the bottom there is sleep. At the top there is highly alert, agitated and stressed. Somewhere in the middle there is alert and wakeful. When arousal is too high or low, it is more difficult for individuals to access learning or to be successful at work.
Matching arousal with the environment and task
When considering arousal, it is important to note that there is no perfect level of arousal for every situation. In some environments, for example a library or cinema, it is expected that you would be quiet. However, in other environments, for example a sporting match or playground, it is expected that you would be much louder and engaged. Each environment has its own expectations and demands.
Tasks also require different levels of arousal. If you’re trying to get a baby to sleep, you will lower your level of arousal to help them sleep. You might sing a lullaby but you typically wouldn’t start blaring loud music at them. When playing a game of football, arousal levels need to be much higher to stay focussed and to keep up with the speed of the game.
Throughout the day, week and month every individual needs to adjust their level of arousal to match the environment and task. Some individuals, particularly those with sensory differences, find this harder to do than others. They may need more support to reach optimal arousal.