Mindless vs Mindful Learning – My experience in Australia


My academic/professional training has been shaped by different elements that helped me understand how the environment where you learn enhance either mindless or mindful learning. In this post, I elaborate on the different aspects that lead to one or the other, and the reflections I’ve got from experiencing for two years the Australian Academic system.

Prior to Virginia Tech, I got a bachelor in architecture from USFQ university in Quito, Ecuador; and studied a year abroad in Juniata College, PA. In both liberal arts universities, I experienced two types of classes: the very “technical” ones, and the “social/abstract” ones. The technical ones (such as structures, calculus and statistics) were the type of classes where you would sit in auditorium with 40 other students to learn from a lecture with very limited participation/interaction. The social/abstract ones (design studio, sustainable development, NGO managements) were the ones with all the interesting discussions and a lot of participation. These experiences, led me to the construct that it is difficult to overcome mindless learning in those very technical subjects, and that social/abstract subjects are the ones that usually promote mindfulness learning.

However, it was only until I studied my masters in Australia that I was able to break that paradigm I had mistakenly built. The University of Melbourne, as any other Australian university, has a completely different approach to learning. As a student, you are required to enroll in two different classes per each subject: a lecture and a tutorial. For instance, for a “3 credits” methodological class, I enrolled in a 1-hour lecture and in 2-hours tutorial. Lectures had the classical approach where you would sit in a classroom to receive all the information/material the professor prepared to facilitate your learning. Tutorials (which were usually run by T.A.s) in the other hand, were the space where you were expected to read articles so you can contribute to the class with opinions, arguments and discussions.

This experience helped me realize how achieving mindfulness learning, no matter what the subject is, is very possible when providing the right environment to allow students contribute to the learning process.

3 Replies to “Mindless vs Mindful Learning – My experience in Australia”

  1. Wow! What an interesting way to teach! I am happy that you were able to achieve such an experience. There are certain educational systems in India that also facilitate this kind of learning. I experienced a little of that because even though the systems were in place, the facilitation of the curiosity that is needed to motivate a student, did not exist. Therefore, it turned out pretty dry…but what you describe sounds similar and so much more interesting.

  2. I think it is so important that the STEM fields begin to incorporate more mindful approaches in teaching and learning. I would have really liked to have classes like the one you describe here during my undergraduate education. I think that it would have made the information more interesting and engaged me better. I also think that doing creative exercises like these could have better prepared me for graduate school. Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed reading it.

  3. Great experience to explain the importance to combine the mindfulness and mindless learning together. Mindless learning relies on the academic environment, which is important during the primary step of learning the step. But the mindfulness learning is more essential for the student in the high educational level. Even for the researcher, scheduling the lists to explore and understand the unfamiliar section is more easy to archive.

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