Mindful learning and teaching

Mindful learning, introduced and discussed by Ellen Langer, brings a new perspective on education, teaching, and learning. She suggested the seven myths that have shaped our educational practices and environments for a long time and dove deeper into how they have negative impacts on both teaching and learning. The 7 misleading but most popular myths of learning are 1) practice basics to they become second nature; 2) focus means paying attention at one thing at a time; 3) delay gratification; 4) rote memory is necessary; 5) forgetting is bad; 6) intelligence is knowing what is out there; and 7) answers are either right or wrong.

What really appealed to me was the idea that why remembering is not always the way to learn, and even decrease retention of information. Ellen Langer said that repetition and practice without reflection and doubt, which means mindlessly learning, does not work well. Also, mindless memorization might lead to being insensitive to contexts and situation. Rather, forgetting what you have learned and how you have learned will help you improve the performance and allows to have innovative thinking and new perspectives. Let me illustrate my experience of mindful learning when I was studying history in high school. I had only relied on simple memorization and repetitive learning techniques for tests, and it worked in the short term but after the exam, every knowledge and information was just gone. At that time, there were several historical dramas being on air, and I found it helpful to learn history, even though they were partly fictional. Watching TV and talking with friends and teachers helped me not only to understand the historical contexts and contents much better and much longer but also to get interested in them. My experience also corresponds to the third myth of delayed gratification. If my learning had been only with books and lectures, I wouldn’t have had an interest in learning history.

In order to provide our children, students, and ourselves with more positive possibilities, just let negative and unnecessary memories go, and let us see the world in new ways.

4 Replies to “Mindful learning and teaching”

  1. I agree with your conclusion and I think one of the difficulties is that some people who are used to this traditional system with better performance argue that the system is working well, however, I believe it is just efficient for a few percentages of the students.

  2. Ah! History is always the most innocent victim of mindless learning. I think we take “preserving history” as literal as possible, hence the senseless memorization. I think my mindset was the same until I came across “history of ideas” as a field and I realized there can be so many intellectual stimuli in understanding how ideas have evolved through time.

  3. Great post! I really enjoy conversing about history and such with people outside of the classroom, that is when it really sticks. When we apply some kind of emotion and reflection to what we learn in class. Often we can make a connection between the past and the present, helping us to understand both better.

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