Presence of mind: Being a conscientious learner

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Your mind is like a garden and how it grows is up to you.

Most of the time we don’t reflect on the learning process; we physically arrive for a class or seminar, workshop or tutorial and then try to focus mentally on what is being taught in that session. As a teacher (and a student), one thing I have realized is that the learning process is far more complex than this. Successful learners are not simply those that show up regularly, or even those who work the hardest. It seems to be the case that the most successful learner is the one who is most present in their moments of learning.

 

One thing I am starting to learn is that students who have the correct frame of mind during learning sequences are the ones who find the most success; they absorb more information, they develop the skills being taught quicker. I notice in the students who are in this ‘zone’ a certain calm and focus, they are not just physically listening, looking and responding, but their mind is totally dedicated to the task at hand. This presence of mind during moments of learning does not just impact on a learner’s ability to recall information, but also the speed at which they learn and apply new skills to existing or new scenarios.

There are some other thoughts I had that are directly affected by our ability to maintain a presence of mind whilst learning:

  • The attention span of the average learner is affected in a huge way by their ability to maintain presence of mind. If you are one hundred percent present during moments of learning, your ability to concentrate and pay attention, absorb information and reflect on your learning increases incrementally.
  • We can prime ourselves for learning, I think that this is the key. In the lead up to any learning, we can consciously prepare for that session by clearing our mind of distraction. Do not allow for unrelated thoughts to cloud your thoughts and begin to anticipate the new information you will be receiving.

Working in education has created a huge fascination in me for understanding how people learn. We all learn in different ways and notice different details, we also interpret information differently and can create a nuanced view of a subject purely by understanding the content of whatever it is we are learning.

The key to the whole endeavor of learning (in my opinion) is not about the quantity of learning opportunities, but the quality of the mindset that we apply to those moments of learning.

Gardens grow best with maximum exposure to the right conditions. I feel that our minds are very similar; they grow best with maximum presence of mind which in turn exposes us to the core principles and skills that we are attempting to learn. Give your mind the best chance to grow, practice staying present and see if it makes a difference in your learning.

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