People are usually motivated by successes, but that's not at all how they learn.
If we expect them to learn, students in school need to feel successful at times. Positive reinforcement and praise are simply a part of good teaching. When a student completes a class project, for example, and he has worked very hard on it-- I would tell him what a WONDERFUL job he's done and then I would proudly display it in the hall. The reason: If I can make the child feel like a success, he will be more motivated to learn.
Success is a state of mind. Learning is measurable.
I see three ways to learn:
By making mistakes
Through trying, focus, and hard work
By noticing and avoiding the mistakes of others
First: Learning by Making Mistakes
I tell students all the time, "It's okay to make mistakes. That's how we learn." Or I say, "That's why they put erasers on pencils." I wouldn't be giving them math homework every night if I thought they weren't going to make mistakes. Students need practice, guidance, and gentle correction to help them understand the facts and concepts being taught.
An example: Mary completes a Math practice sheet and hands it in. The teacher corrects it and marks all of the answers wrong. The teacher then calls Mary up and says, "Let's practice a few of these together and I'll show you where you went wrong." Mary discovers her mistake and she now knows how to do the math.
Second: Learning by Focus, Effort, and Hard-Work
When people read, study, focus, listen, concentrate, research, discuss, and calculate, then they're TRYING to learn. People who learn by trying make a conscious effort to pick up facts, remember things, and/or understand concepts.
The obvious example is the student who spends a great deal of time studying for a test. He reads the notes he took in class, asks study questions with friends, and asks his teacher for help with confusing concepts. He gets an A+ on his test because of his hard work.
Third: Learning by Observing the Mistakes of Others
This one is my favorites because people don't always think about this as one of the ways you learn. But sometimes you see someone else goof up and you learn by it. I'm sure you've seen someone do something that didn't work out and then said, "Gee. I'll be careful to never do THAT."
For example: Johnny and his brother go home after school one day and look for something to eat. Johnny's brother finds pizza in the fridge and it's wrapped in foil. He puts it in the microwave and it starts on fire. Even though Johnny's brother is the one who made the mistake of putting foil in the microwave, Johnny has learned a lesson as well.
As my father use to say, "Anyone can learn from their own mistakes...but a real genius learns from the mistakes of others."